One of the biggest increases in my standard of living in the last few years comes from the fact that we recently went from zero Ethiopian restaurants in the whole state of Alabama to two in Birmingham. Both are outstanding. There’s Red Sea on Green Springs and Ghion Cultural Hall at the Pizitz Food Hall downtown. Red Sea is more comfortable as it’s set up like a standard restaurant of the kind Americans will find familiar. At Ghion, you sit around a basket in what I’m sure is the more traditional style, but especially with kids, it lends itself to dripping and slopping.
Food-wise, I prefer Ghion. The vegetarian plate for one is big enough to feed two, and that means dinner on date night can come in at under $20 for both people. It’s a refreshing departure from the more expensive fare to be found at the Pizitz, and my nine-year-old said he “almost died from the deliciousness” the first time he ate there.
Red Sea has greater variety, though, and is, therefore, the safer option. There’s hummus, baba ghanouj, falafel, Mediterranean salads, and a kids’ menu with chicken nuggets. You can get sambusas, which are little pockets of meat or beans that are absolutely delicious. I don’t think they have sambusas at Ghion–they don’t have them on the menu for the Atlanta location. Red Sea also has the advantage of being attached to a halal supermarket.
Both are run by fantastic and personable people who take a real interest in their customers. I won’t even try to spell their names, but they give both places very nice personal touches. If you’re interested in dining as more than just a meal but as a broader social activity, both places are excellent. I’d give a slight advantage to Ghion in a head-to-head competition, but I’d prefer either to a lot of other places in Birmingham. I’ll be back to both, and frequently.
Ikko Japanese Ramen and Sushi recently opened in Five Points, which is nice to see given the number of places in Five Points that have closed recently (Starbucks, for example, and the Mexican place next to the Methodist Church). I got the beef ramen and enjoyed it; Shannon liked her vegetarian ramen. Jacob and David each got (and enjoyed) sushi, while Taylor Grace really liked her teriyaki noodles. It was a $70 night out for the four of us, so while we’ll definitely be back I doubt we’ll be able to go too often.
For meals, anyway. They have bubble tea, which we didn’t get on our visit but which, I expect, will be an occasional treat. We might get something for the kids, too.