When I recently visited Birmingham to check out the food scene, the local experts pointed me to the central business district, the heart of downtown. One of the restaurants they named was Café Dupont. But as I walked around, I was dubious: I counted seven empty storefronts on the block north of the restaurant. Then I went inside Chris Dupont's French-Southern spot. When I got a taste of his perfectly fried, fat Apalachicola oysters and his okra with horseradish-spiked beurre blanc, I was happy I hadn't just given up. Dupont will open a bakery nearby this month and a beer bar next year.
The biggest surprise was the Jones Valley Urban Farm. Customers can buy fresh produce there four nights a week or grow their own vegetables on individual plots. Fans include local hero Frank Stitt of Highlands Bar and Grill.
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At Hot and Hot Fish Club, just off of the 5 Points South neighborhood, star chef Chris Hastings excels at, yes, fish, like hickory-grilled sardines. His wife, Idie, plays host, and their son James helps clear tables.