I hate doing food writeups four weeks after the fact, but I’ll do the best I can off of my memory.
I had two pretty good finds in Birmingham. One was an accidental find, a local outpost of a growing barbecue chain – yes, a chain – called Jim and Nick’s. It looks as if they started in Alabama, so at least I was close to the First Location. First meal I had there was a pulled pork sandwich, possibly the second-best pulled pork I’ve ever had (sorry, still loyal to Eli’s in Dunedin, FL). The pork was perfectly smoked, moist, with a clear but not overwhelming smoke flavor (sorry – again – but I’m not good enough to tell you the type of wood). My number-one criterion for pulled pork is how much sauce it needs to be edible. Zero is the ideal figure. On a scale of zero to ten, Eli’s pulled pork gets a zero, and Jim and Nick’s gets a one. For a side, I went with the baked beans, which had good flavor but about four times as much black pepper as they needed.
My second meal was a bit disappointing – a big green salad with pulled pork on it. I think the problem was that I got it to go, so the pork continued to cook in its little plastic container, and ended up a little dry by the time I got it on to my salad. Serves me right for thinking healthy.
The other solid find was breakfast at Bogue’s, a slightly run-down local joint that does traditional southern breakfasts and meat-and-three lunches. They’re known for their “sweet rolls,” which are pecan rolls without the pecans, or maybe cinnamon rolls without the cinnamon: a sweet brioche-like dough wrapped around and drizzled with a sugar-butter combination. They are, oddly enough, rather sweet, so while they’re delicious, the one I ate made for a weird lead-in to a savory meal. My eggs-bacon-biscuits breakfast was solid-average, maybe one grade above for the biscuits (good texture, not buttery enough in flavor).
Moving along to Jacksonville, I was only there for one meal, and decided to hit a downtown spot called Chew that seemed to promise an upscale take on comfort food. I ordered the duck confit, which had obviously been roasted to try to flavor and crisp the exterior, but in the process dried out the meat. The one hit of the meal, for me, was the cassoulet of white beans, thickly-sliced bits of bacon, onions, and shaved fennel. I’d write more, but their website is down today, their phone number just rings and rings, and given how sparse the crowd was on a Saturday night, I’m wondering if they’re still in business.