Friday, February 21, 2020

SoHo Standard "Superior Cuisine. Superior Class"

The expansion of the SoHo area is never ending. Upgrades, openings and restructuring are apparent whenever you visit the area. We recently visited the new SoHo Standard Kitchen & Bar and were pleasantly surprised by the menu, the concept and all they had to offer. 

Atmosphere: SoHo Standard is a contemporary/casual little spot with an upscale flair. The clientele seemed to be a slightly "white tablecloth" crowd for lack of a better term. There are ample amounts of tables including bistro tables. There is a well-stocked bar inside with a wide selection of spirits to suit just about every taste. This is a very quaint atmosphere. There is also a very spacious outdoor area with bar stools and outdoor string lights, perfect for a spring night of socializing.  

The Staff: Our server was outstanding. He was patient with us as we studied the menu. Everything sounded REALLY good. He was friendly and very accommodating. All of the staff members around us appeared to be personable.

What we had: All of their menu items are described as one word. We had the "DIP" appetizer: a melted mozzarella and goat cheese blended dip, with smoked tomatoes and pistachio pesto. There were also cloves of garlic blended in to this warm, cheesy concoction.  It's served with bread for dipping. Next time I get this dish I'm getting everyone their own. Definitely don't want to share this next time, LOL! The first entree' was the "CRAB": Gulf crab cakes on a mound of creamed collards and shrimp maque choux. 

This dish was bursting with flavor. The crab cakes are definitely a winner. Entree' number two: The "STEAK": Cuts of filet, cooked (medium) of course, accompanied by gnocchi mac & cheese, verde, and instead of the okra, I got a serving of their perfectly cooked and seasoned collards. Cutting into this filet was like cutting into butter. The tenderness was magnificent. One of the best meals I've ever had. 

Overall: SoHo Standard can easily turn into one of those places that I'd highly recommend to out-of-towners, clients and couples looking for a perfect date night spot. Enjoyed it!! 

For more information about SoHo Standard, please visit

Thanks for reading & sharing! 
The Birmingham Restaurant Raider™

Friday, January 31, 2020

Tre Luna "Contemporary Dining At It's Best"

Travel down Stadium Trace Parkway and you'll run into a "new-ish" retail plaza called Brock's Gap in the Hoover area. One of the highlights of the area is the Tre Luna Bar & Kitchen. I've heard fantastic things about it so I decided to sneak in with a co-conspirator & raid the place. 

Atmosphere: The environment here is quite appealing. The lighting was perfect for this Italian themed eatery. The space is definitely adequate enough to handle a large hungry crowds without making each table feel crowded. The noise level was not bad even with the moderate crowd on this particular night. They also have an incredible outdoor area that is well lit with overhead string lights, bistro tables and a wide open area to accommodate parties, meetings or social groups. 

The Staff: After having arrived at our reservation time, we were greeted by the friendly hostess and quickly seated. Our server, Jessica, greeted our table with enthusiasm. She was very knowledgeable about the menu and convinced us to have their daily specials. 

Beef Carpaccio

What we had: We started out with a shareable appetizer, the Beef Carpaccio: paper thin sliced beef, topped with capers, horseradish sauce and shaved Parmesan reggiano. My dinner mate opted for the "Fish Of The Day" feature which was a perfectly grilled grouper. This fish was accompanied by a serving of roasted potatoes & romanesco broccoli. If you've never had romanesco before, it's pretty much what happens if a stalk of broccoli and a stalk of cauliflower got married and had baby vegetables. It was crisp, delicious and all topped with a light butter sauce. (click images for larger view)
Grilled Grouper

My entree consisted of another daily special, which was the "Squid Ink Seafood Pasta": a generous bed of perfectly cooked pasta dyed with squid ink, topped and surrounded by roasted cherry tomato halves, jumbo shrimp, jumbo scallops and calamari. The flavor of this dish was amazing. The serving size was pretty large so at least half of it went home. I also had a half dozen Bombolini (Italian donuts) for dessert. These came with chocolate & whiskey caramel dipping sauces.

Squid Ink Seafood Pasta

Overall: Tre Luna got it right. The atmosphere combined with the food & service puts them on my list of favorite places. 

Fore more information or to view the menu, please visit

The Birmingham Restaurant Raider©
"Anonymously Raiding A Restaurant Near You" 

Monday, January 6, 2020

"Support The Roverchase Foundation Contest"

Hey Birmingham! 

A new year is a great time to start new habits such as charitable giving. To celebrate the beginning of our 11th year, we'd like to start a new tradition. We will periodically partner with a local charity to boost donations with a delicious incentive.

During the month of February, make a donation of $50.00 or more to The Roverchase Foundation by February 29, 2020 and be automatically entered to win a $100.00 gift card to Highlands Bar & Grill

All donations will benefit The Roverchase Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals with medical disabilities obtain life changing, professionally trained service dogs.
Donate by visiting Click the DONATE button at the top of the page. 

According to the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, service dogs can assist with lots of critical tasks including the following: 

Service Dogs Basic Tasks

  • Answers when someone’s at the door by pulling a lever.
  • Brings or retrieves stuff to its owner, such as the mail, medicine bottles or any other items.
  • Barks, summons or alerts someone in the other room, for the owner who cannot get to them.
  • Helps his owner get around, or get up from his seat, or climb the stairs at the home or in public establishments.
  • Be his owner’s steady support, in case he experiences an imbalance while doing activities.
  • Carries medicine and other provisions for his owner in a specialized back pack.

Service Dogs Tasks During Emergencies

  • Brings the phone to his owner to call 911 or a relative.
  • Knows how to bark at a speaker phone to signal for emergency.
  • Interrupts or tags its owner during a trigger or psychiatric occurrence.
  • Alerts other people when its owner is in distress.
  • Leads other people to its owner, who could already be down on the floor after an episode or a suicide attempt, especially in cases of depression and mood disorders.
  • Alert its owner in cases of fire or burglary attempts.
For more information about the Roverchase Foundation, contact them at

*Contest ends 02/29/2020 at midnight. Winner will be announced 03/03/2020 after a random drawing. This contest is solely sponsored by The Birmingham Restaurant Raider. Highlands Bar & Grill is not affiliated with this contest. 

Happy New Year!

Times flies when you’re having fun!
In October of 2019, we celebrated a milestone, the 10th anniversary of the Birmingham Restaurant Raider brand.  
Here's a little history. In October 2009, the concept of “The Birmingham Restaurant Raider” was developed. The inspiration to begin this fun & exciting journey came from a friend who owned one of the largest pop-up supper clubs in Atlanta. He gave me one good piece of advice, “be original”.
At the time of conception, I did an extensive search to see if there were any independent food review sites in Birmingham. Other than the Birmingham News and a handful of notable local magazines, there was definitely an opening for this type of media. I started out by publishing content using Constant Contact, a mainstream email marketing tool that allows information to be delivered with a polished look to a large number of email recipients. After several months of this, a decision was made to transition the content to a blog.
Fast forward to 2019, the city now has a large amount of new food blogs and other social media platforms that focus on Birmingham's outstanding cuisine.
Anonymity has allowed me to go out and see what it’s like to experience dining out as an “Average Joe” and report these findings to consumers and food enthusiasts.
The Birmingham Restaurant Raider has also allowed me countless opportunities over the years to attend local and regional festivals, offer media and in-kind sponsorships, partner with national brands  and even have a hand in the planning and development phases of many events including wine paring dinners. 
I've had the extreme pleasure of developing long term relationships with restaurant owners and independent chefs as a business consultant “free of charge”. This is always a welcomed gift to the business owners who are looking to implement marketing campaigns or simply fill tables. I’ve been blessed to have a career in business for many years so I figured I’d pay it forward. 
Overall it’s been a great pleasure interacting  with social media followers and blog readers locally and worldwide.
This full time hobby has led to the development of a great brand, business relationships and meeting some of the GREATEST people to ever have a beer or a meal with!
Thanks SO much for reading and being around just as we've crossed the 10th “Raider-Versary”! 
We look forward to reviewing new spots and promoting more giveaways! 
Let's eat our way through this 11th year!
Bon Appetit!
The Birmingham Restaurant Raider
Est. 2009

“Anonymously Raiding A Restaurant Near You”

Friday, August 30, 2019

Nino's Italian Restaurant "The End of An Era"

My first experience dining at Nino's Italian Restaurant several years ago was incredibly memorable. Mostly for 2 reasons; the overwhelming smell of garlic and Walter Caron. 

After being in business for 10 years, the famous local eatery has decided to close it's doors. As an Italian food lover, it's been one of the most amazing food adventures I've had during my decade of writing as the Restaurant Raider. Everything from "greet to eat" is / was always a pleasant experience there. 

During my recent visit, I reflected on the review I did on Nino's back in 2011. To walk in and not see Walter definitely gave me an empty feeling. His personality was HUGE and he filled the walls of the restaurant with a great big burst of life. His passing several months ago definitely left a void in the restaurant's atmosphere and I'm sure in the Caron family. 

Side Salad

We stopped by this week to get one last experience at Nino's prior to the official closing date of August 31, 2019. It was beautiful to witness a packed house full of people eager to have one last dinner at this community landmark.
Cheese Bread Appetizer

What we had: We started out with a couple of side salads with house made creamy Italian dressing, topped with shredded cheese. No meal is complete without a shared order of their famous warm cheese bread with a side of their delicious, authentic marinara sauce.
Garlic Bread

It was hard to pick my last meal, but I ended up with the Chicken Parmigiana: breaded chicken breast topped with tomato sauce and melted Mozzarella cheese. My dinner mate had a huge serving of their Gnocchi with chicken topped with an incredible pesto sauce.

Chicken Parmigiana, Spaghetti w/ Marinara Sauce
Nino's was and will forever be one of those places that had the total package: the menu, the atmosphere and the personalities that make up a great dining experience.
Gnocci w/ Chicken topped with Pesto Sauce

Thanks to the Nino's family for the great service over the years and as they say in Italy,
The Birmingham Restaurant Raider
"Anonymously Raiding A Restaurant Near You" 
Est. 2009

Friday, March 15, 2019

Exploring The City With Birmingham Taste Tours

Launched in September 2018, Birmingham Taste Tours founder Annie Reynolds brings the food tourism trend to The Magic City.

The food tourism trend has begun in the metro Birmingham area. 
Walking food tours have been a source of entertainment and education for locals
and tourists alike for years in other cities. Previously voted one of  Zagat’s 30 Top Food Cities , Birmingham was the only one not utilizing walking food tours as an economic stimulator and (let’s face it) a really fun way to eat the city. Birmingham Taste Tours currently offers a walking food tours.  
The Downtown Tour: a 3 hour guided walking, food, drink, and historical tour of the Downtown neighborhood. Customers will sample 4 to 5 eclectic tastings from our most authentic, locally owned restaurants.
They will hear about Birmingham's  culinary history and culture and the people who helped shape it.

The Downtown Brunch Tour: On the Saturday brunch tour you will visit at least 3 restaurants and our local food hall to sample many traditional southern brunch items. You’ll be given the opportunity to indulge in classic brunch cocktails as well.   

The tour will consist of a discuss about the ongoing revitalization of Birmingham and specific new developments that are currently underway. Learn about Downtown’s history and its expected growth in the coming years.

This 3-hour tour will take you within a 1.5-mile walk of some of the popular streets of Downtown, where you will find locally owned shops and weekend neighborhood markets as well. The goal is to leave the food tour participants with the impression that Downtown is no longer just a weekday destination.

 It's Nice To Have You In Pepper Place Tour:
Enjoy this newly appointed Entertainment District and bustling Farmer’s Market on this 2 1/2 hr walking tour. Guests will enter several local eateries and sample both food and beverage tastings along the way. You will also hear from local farmers and artisans at the market and be able to purchase directly from the vendors. $10 worth of market tokens will be included in your tour ticket to use as you wish. You will hear the history of Pepper Place, taste what it has to offer, and see the neighborhood’s new and exciting growth!

The goal is for the tourist to feel comfortable adventuring throughout the city while getting a taste of local cuisine. Quite simply, it is a way for a tourist to become a local in 3 hrs.
Locals will hear fun stories of Birmingham they may not have heard before and have the opportunity to eat at several of their favorite restaurants in one day.
At Birmingham Taste Tours, guests get more than just a meal. They get a memory.
For more information about tours, please visit their website at and also look for them on Instagram, Facebook and

If your restaurant/business would like more information about becoming a partner, shoot an email to

Thanks for reading & sharing! 
The Birmingham Restaurant Raider
"Anonymously Raiding A Restaurant Near You"

Monday, March 4, 2019

Food Excellence 101 at Jefferson State's Bistro ProVare

Incredible chefs often begin their careers standing on a stool next to their grannies & gramps or mom & dad. If you had the opportunity to watch your parents or grand parents make their famous recipes, consider yourself fortunate. In may other cases, becoming a chef starts with a 5- star top rated culinary school. Jefferson State's Culinary & Hospitality program is exactly that. 
Accompanied by two friends, I recently made a visit to the campus bistro  to check out this semesters lunch assignments to see if they made the grade. 

Atmosphere: The Shelby campus bistro seats roughly 40 people and also has a slightly curved counter with bistro chairs. There is an open kitchen and also a brick oven on site. It definitely has the feel of a contemporary cafe. The tables are set with an upscale place setting. 

The Meal(s): A variety basket of breads including triangular Parmesan crisps was delivered to curb our hunger. We each tried a different dish from the appetizer menu. I tried the Crispy Shrimp Spring Rolls with a dipping sauce hinted with Asian flavors. These light & crispy spring rolls were incredible. One lunch mate had the Vegetable Soup. This scratch made soup was made up of cabbage, tomatoes, beans, peppers and topped with delicious cornbread crumbles. Our other lunch mate had the traditional Cesar salad: Romaine lettuce, house made croutons, shredded Parmesan with a creamy Caesar dressing.

Our entree's consisted of the Slow Cooked Jerk Pork: A succulent, hearty pork dish atop red beans and rice & cilantro slaw. This was a very good Caribbean dish. I finished every morsel.

 My other lunch mates had the Pan Seared Scallops: Large, perfectly cooked scallops accompanied by fingerling potatoes, fried Brussels sprouts and creamed leeks.

 The other entree' we tried was the Steak Tacos: Delicious, cuts of perfectly seasoned steak in a soft pita shell, topped with citrus slaw, jack cheese and avocado aioli with a heaping helping of french fried potatoes.  Another amazing dish! Overall, everything was absolutely perfect.

Overall Experience: This was a great experience. The student chefs did a phenomenal job with everything from presentation to the meal prep & plating. We will definitely be visiting again!
*The menu changes often*

For more information or to make a reservation this semester at Jefferson State's Bistro ProVare, visit their website at

Bistro ProVare at Jeff State
4600 Valleydale Road
Birmingham, Alabama 35242
(205) 983-5214

Thanks for reading & sharing! 
The Birmingham Restaurant Raider
"Anonymously Raiding A Restaurant Near You"


Friday, February 8, 2019

Comfort Food At Jo Jo's On Broadway

I'm willing to bet that we definitely have MORE chilly weather coming to the Birmingham area. One day it's spring... one day it's winter. You just never know. One thing that IS consistent is the reputation for Jo Jo's On Broadway
The last several years have been good to this establishment. From the Homewood locals, to the metro Birminghamians, everyone I've mentioned Jo Jo's to had nothing but positive things to say. We took the time to head over for dinner recently and this is the 411. 

Atmosphere: Entirely not what I expected. I was expecting an uptight, snooty environment and they were just the opposite. We are greeted with genuine smiles and warmth. It's not a huge space, but just the right size so that patrons don't feel like just a "table number". 

Staff: Amazing! An attentive staff is a winner in my book. Our server, Lauren was on point during the entire visit. 

What we had: I had the Jo Jo Burger: A fresh ground Black Angus patty cooked to order w/ Jo Jo sauce, lettuce, tomato, pickle, & red onion on a butter brioche bun. I added a side of fries. The burger was cooked medium and was very flavorful and pleasing. The fried were incredibly well seasoned. 
My dinner mate had a generous helping of their homemade chili with a hot-off- the- griddle grilled cheese sandwich. Just the right meal for a chilly night. 

Overall Experience: This was a great stop for us. The service and the food combined with location were all great. I look forward to the next visit

For more information about Jo Jo's on Broadway or to find out about their "daily specials" visit their website at

Jo Jo's On Broadway
903 Broadway Suite 105 
Homewood AL 35209
(205) 877-8058 

Thanks for reading & sharing! 
The Birmingham Restaurant Raider
Est. 2009
"Anonymously Raiding A Restaurant Near You"

Friday, January 25, 2019

Review: Saltgrass Steak House 280

Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good steak, but an even greater steak is better. Highway 280 in Birmingham has some of the best steak restaurants in the area. I feel it's my duty to try them all because of course, the people want to know all about them. 
I ventured over to the new Saltgrass Steak House in Birmingham. I typically don't do steak for lunch, but I had a craving after several of my twitter followers recommended this spot. 

Atmosphere: Saltgrass has the feel of an "out west" steak house. They have definitely erased every reminder of The Tilted Kilt, which previously occupied this location. There is Texas themed decor throughout the building. They have lots of booth seating and a cool bar set up. It's a spacious restaurant and definitely a great place for date nights or family dinners. 

Staff: The staff was friendly. My server Joel was eager to provide great service and was very knowledgeable about the Saltgrass menu options. Everyone I came in contact with was great. No complaints.

What I had: To start off, each table is delivered a warm, delicious loaf of their famous beer bread. It was really good, so I only ate half in order not to fill up. I followed up with a traditional garden salad with balsamic dressing.  For the main course, I had the Gulf Coast Steak & Shrimp with a side of sauteed Brussels sprouts . I opted for the 6 oz steak (medium) with grilled shrimp.  This is the kind of steak where sauce is not needed. The flavor was very good. They don't skimp on the shrimp! The Brussels sprouts were A-MA-ZING! ( I don't know why I rejected these as a kid). 
I also decided to have huge a slice of their amazing cheesecake to go. 
(sorry, no pics) 
*click photos for larger (mouth watering) view

Overall Experience: Overall, I feel that Saltgrass is a great addition to the Birmingham area and I am hopeful that they will definitely attract steak lovers from all across the region. I saw several other things on the menu that I'm anxious to try so a return visit is definitely on the books. The staff was super! 

For more information on Saltgrass Steak House Birmingham, visit their website at

Saltgrass Steak House - Birmingham
14 Perimeter Park S.
(205) 967-1181

Be sure to sign up for their emails for updates and deals. 

*Ask your server about AAA and AARP discounts.

Thanks so much for reading & sharing! 

The Birmingham Restaurant Raider
Est. 2009

Celebrating 10 years as a trailblazing Dining Experience Examiner

Monday, December 10, 2018

Grille 29 Doing Brunch In Style!

As a kid, Saturday morning breakfast was always treasured. We'd typically wake up earlier than the adults just to grab a bowl of our favorite cereal and binge watch cartoons for what seemed like hours. 
Fast forward to adult hood, breakfast is usually eaten "on-the-go" if at all. 
That's why whenever I get a chance, I treat myself to a nice hearty, warm breakfast or brunch. 

Grille 29  in Birmingham offers the chance to create new Saturday morning memories with their awesome brunch menu. 
On a recent Saturday morning meet-up with a friend, we decided to give Grille 29 a try. 
After making a reservation via OpenTable, we arrived during brunch hours and settled into our cozy booth. 

Atmosphere: This is a very nice restaurant. The space is large enough to accommodate crowds of any size. I don't think space or crowding is an issue here when it comes to comfort. The waiting area up front is spacious. They have booth and table seating. There were a couple of large groups near us, but not too uncomfortably close. They also have a large bar with lots of seating. 

Staff: The staff was incredibly friendly. The hostess was very pleasant and accommodating. Our server, Aaron was incredible. He was knowledgeable of the menu and the brunch favorites. I would request him again. 

What we had: I had the Grand Marnier French Toast: Brioche bread dipped in an orange batter and topped with Grand Marnier anglaise and powdered sugar, served with fresh fruit and I added a side of perfectly cooked bacon. This was extremely good. The fruit was delicious. I ate every morsel. 

My brunch mate had the Chicken and Waffles: Crispy chicken over buttermilk waffles with a pecan butter sauce. This is typically served with fresh fruit also. However, she decided to have a serving of fresh sliced tomatoes. I had a nibble of her chicken and it is legit!
Since mimosa's  are only .29 cents between 10 & 11 during brunch, we definitely took advantage of the special pricing. 

They also serve other breakfast/brunch favorites such as steak & eggs, lobster & shrimp frittata (breakfast pie), shrimp & grits and many more! 

Overall experience: They serve an amazing brunch with customize-able options. The service along with the staff and the mimosa pricing makes this place a winner in my book. 
Have you been to Grille 29? Let us know about your experience. 

For more information, visit them at
Follow them on social media: 
Facebook @Grille29Bham
Instagram @grille29_bham/
Twitter @Grille29_Bham

Thanks for supporting The Birmingham Restaurant Raider! 
Est. 2009