We’ve taken to rotating who gets to pick where we eat after church on Sundays, and during my wife’s recent weeklong trip I let each kid pick where we ate dinner one night. Here are some highlights.
Brat Brot. I wasn’t expecting much on my first visit–I figured it’d be another overpriced hipster joint with insane markups and the kind of “atmosphere” you expect from places where people go to conspicuously overpay for beer and bar food. I was surprised and impressed, though. The food is excellent–I can’t really imagine anything tasting bad dipped in beer cheese–and when we visited on a Sunday the prices were surprisingly good. They were serving breakfast and brunch stuff, and the $5 biscuits & gravy were an affordable and delicious meal. We also went for a friend’s birthday once, and the bocce court, ping pong table, and comfortable chairs in the beer garden make it a fun place to go with family and friends. I didn’t go to watch a game during the World Cup, and I think that was probably a mistake. Fortunately, the Women’s World Cup is only two years away–and we can be pretty sure the Americans will be in the finals (or close to them).
Whataburger. I haven’t been very often–the only time I can really remember was during a trip to San Antonio in 2015–and the nearest location isn’t exactly convenient. It’s an incredible fast food burger, though, and I can see how it has earned so many devotees. I’m not really sure I understand the allure of the spicy ketchup. Our older son wanted to go because he saw a billboard advertising salted caramel milkshakes, and I was pleased that he and his younger brother were OK with just getting water to go with our burgers and fries. We’d had milkshakes just a few days before, and we’re really trying to cut back on everyone’s sugar intake in light of more and more research on just how bad for you sugar is. I’ve heard that “don’t drink calories” is a good rule of thumb, and it’s one I try to live by unless it’s a special occasion. I suspect we’ll someday return to Whataburger and get salted caramel milkshakes for a special occasion, but I’m guessing my definition of a special occasion (a birthday, a holiday, celebrating a milestone) and the kids’ definition of a special occasion (“the sun rose this morning; we should celebrate!”) are going to be hard to reconcile.
On Spicy Ketchup, you might find this TED Talk by Malcolm Gladwell interesting. There are a lot of different kinds of spaghetti sauce and a lot of different kinds of mustard. Ketchup tends to be pretty uniform with Whataburger being the only place I’ve been to that sells “spicy” ketchup.
Hamburger Heaven. It’s a Birmingham spot with several locations. Our oldest has adopted Hamburger Heaven as his favorite restaurant thanks, we think, to the milkshakes. And the milkshakes are darned good, as are the burgers and fries. Hamburger Heaven has its own special sauce that, as far as I can tell, is thinner, vinegary-er spicy ketchup. I got a peanut butter shake, our younger got a cherry shake–he let me have a sip, and it was delicious–and our older got cookies & cream. Our daughter got sweet tea and a “bacon sandwich” she constructed by ordering a bacon cheeseburger and then removing the patty and the cheese. These are sloppy and satisfying, but given the option, I would go to Whataburger or Milo’s instead. Also, a caveat: the Oxmoor location closes at 4:00 PM.
Habanero’s Mexican Grill. This is another local chain, and I’m surprised the Yelp Rating isn’t higher. Yes, it’s standard chain Mexican, but it’s delicious. I got a shredded chicken quesadilla on our last visit and thoroughly enjoyed it. The salsa is excellent, and the kids are pretty happy as long as they get cheese dip. If you’re looking for more authentic Mexican fare this probably isn’t the place for you, but if you just want a plate of beans, meat, cheese, and tortillas in various ratios, Habanero’s really hits the spot.
I’m not a food expert, though I admire people who are. My favorite book on the subject, as it happens, is by one of my favorite economists. If you too want to get better and figuring out what to eat when, where, and how, look no further than Tyler Cowen’s An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies.