What to Eat When You’re in The South
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Sometimes, we forget that the Bay Area is like a little jewel: rare, special and not all that cool to people who don’t particularly care that it’s rare and special. So let’s take a look at that most important of American traditions (eating) in the heartland of the Glorious South. Here’s what you can eat in Birmingham, Alabama.
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I pity you if you’ve never had a Publix sandwich. At first look, you might think “it’s just a normal deli sandwich”. Well, you’re wrong and stupid and probably impotent. I don’t have specific reasons why these are such great sandwiches, you’ll just have to trust. Ask anyone from the South, they are a thing of beauty. Publix, as a whole, is a phenomenal supermarket with quality products and pretty much the nicest employees on Earth. Once you’ve walked in and smelled that fried chicken, you’ll start to mourn the Safeways that populate the California coast.
Ok, to be fair, it’s really easy to do this in SF. You basically just pile together a bunch of boiled potatoes, corn, andouille sausage, and seafood topped with Old Bay seasoning (newspaper tablesetting optional but preferred). But there’s something about eating this spicy, smoky melange with your messy hands while looking at tree-filled foothills and swatting at gnats. If you go to a restaurant to eat this, you are a fool. And if you try to find real Cajun sausage in California, good luck.
Between the joy of a freshly glazed Krispie Kreme donut and the proliferation of bakeries serving things like caramel cream cake and crack pie (look it up, trust me), dentists here are busy. There are no less than 3 different cakes, 18 cupcakes, a tray of chocolates, a tin of brownies and 4 tubs of ice cream in my mother’s kitchen. And we’re Chinese. Here’s a fun anecdote for you. I stopped in for a day pass at a Gold’s Gym in Pelham, a suburb of Birmingham. I was really feeling a smoothie afterwards so I looked up a nearby location. Luckily, there happened to be a “Bahama Buck’s” by a weight loss center directly next to the gym. I ordered a strawberry banana smoothie and instagramed a gym selfie because obviously, I am a terrible person. When I looked up, the cashier handed me a pink smoothie topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. I drove home and gave it to my sister.
There is, however, some really excellent food in the South too. I took my family to Cafe Dupont one night, where we had things like rabbit sous vide on a bed of pea shoots, chicken paillard with sweetbreads, and roasted quail on cornbread stuffing. This kind of restaurant would do amazingly well in San Francisco, but at probably double the price. My bill at the end of the night (with two appetizers, two cocktails, a glass of wine, four entrees and dessert) with tax and tip came out to just about $200. Combined with the excellent and friendly service, super relaxed ambiance, and amazingly delicious food…it was a nice time.
Any Fast Food Possible
If that’s not your style though, don’t worry. The rest of America is a fast food wonderland. You will never run out of places to find a burger or chicken wings or burrito or BBQ down here. Alabama is the only state where I will eat Chik-fil-a. I know, I know. We’ve already established that I am a shit person. But dude, those chicken sandwiches are fucking delicious. Don’t even lie and tell me you don’t think that. I don’t know if it’s the environment or the preparers or just the relativity of quality, but fast food just tastes better in the South. Don’t even get me started on my brief foray to a Waffle House at 2am in Dallas, TX during a layover.