Highlands Bar and Grill
Highland's Bar and Grill (originally Highlands: A Bar and Grill) is a noted fine restaurant located at 2011 11th Avenue South in the Spanish Stores in Five Points South. It is the flagship restaurant of nationally-renowned chef Frank Stitt, who also owns Bottega Restaurant and Cafe, and Chez Fonfon. Highlands's menu, which is updated daily, features fresh, regionally-sourced ingredients prepared according to French haute cuisine methods.
Stitt raised capital for his own restaurant by teaching cooking classes. Eventually, with financial support from his mother, who mortgaged her home, Stitt opened Highlands on November 22, 1982. Esquire food critic John Mariani included the newcomer on his list of the Best New Restaurants in America, saying that Highlands had "coaxed" affluent suburbanites from their country clubs, "to come downtown and eat well for a change." Another early notice remarked on the "original artwork, pastel colors, and a tile and marble bar", but limited its description of the cuisine to "smoked salmon on pumpernickel or grilled cornish hen."
The restaurant has been credited with raising the profile of every segment of Birmingham's food culture; improving the range and quality of farm produce, elevating the standards of restaurant service, and educating the public to expect superior quality. Stitt-trained chefs have graduated to own a number of well-loved restaurants across the city, and his cookbooks have been local best-sellers.
Stitt has assembled a staff of long-term employees who are often referred to as a "family". These have included chef de cuisine Zack Redes, sous chef Jason Neely, grill master James Bramlett, pastry chef Dolester Miles, general manager David Parker, dining room manager Ryan Ford, beverage director Matt Gilpin, sommelier Sean Meyer, bartender Chris Conner, and servers Goren "Red Dog" Avery, Patrick Noling, Su Rostami and Clarence Young. Many former Highlands employees have gone on to spread Stitts' influence to another generation of acclaimed restaurants, including Clif and Maureen Holt, Chris Hastings, Chris Newsome, Brian Somershield, Mauricio Papapietro, and Feizal Valli.
For ten straight years, from 2009 through 2018, Highlands was named as one of five finalists for the James Beard Foundation's "Most Outstanding Restaurant" award, which it finally won on May 7, 2018. Stitt himself was named one of the best chefs in the Southeast by the Beard Foundation in 2001. Dolester Miles, who was nominated five times for the foundation's national award for "Most Outstanding Pastry Chef", also won the award in 2018.
Highlands' dining room was closed in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID pandemic. It was the last of Stitt's restaurants to re-open, resuming regular service in 2023.
- "Birmingham Has It All!" (November 1984) American Squaredance", p. 21
- Rodewald, James (October 2002) "A Star Fell on Alabama." Gourmet Magazine
- Apple, Jr, R. W. (March 6, 2002) "Dining In, Dining Out." The New York Times
- York, Jake (December 30, 2004) "Frank and Pardis Stitt" interview. Southern Foodways Alliance.
- Walsh, Jan (c. 2008) "Culinary Masterpiece: Highlands Bar and Grill transcends time and exceeds expectations." Birmingham magazine
- Sifton, Sam (October 18, 2013) "Sweet Home Cooking Alabama" The New York Times
- Carlton, Bob (May 6, 2014) "Highlands Bar and Grill's Frank Stitt: 'This just sort of makes me want to go back and to try harder'." The Birmingham News
- Carlton, Bob (May 4, 2015) "Highlands Bar and Grill: 7 things to know about Birmingham's James Beard-nominated restaurant." The Birmingham News
- Carlton, Bob (April 28, 2017) "Highlands Bar and Grill and the story of Frank and Red Dog, a friendship that has lasted 35 years." The Birmingham News
- Carlton, Bob (May 7, 2018) "For Frank Stitt and the Highlands Bar and Grill team, it was worth the wait." The Birmingham News
- Velasco, Eric (September 14, 2018) "How the nation's best restaurant came to be in Birmingham." The Birmingham News
- Highlands Bar and Grill website