You can find some of the best ethnic food in Birmingham along Green Springs Highway in Homewood. Come along with me for a food tour.
1. Mr. Chen’s Authentic Chinese Cooking / Hometown Supermarket
Find Mr. Chen’s Authentic Chinese Cooking inside Hometown Supermarket at 808 Green Springs Highway. The restaurant features daily chef specials alongside the full menu, including Chinese dishes you know and love, plus a whole lot more.
While you’re at Mr. Chen’s, browse the large supermarket that houses the restaurant. The primarily Asian market also serves other ethnic communities in Birmingham, including those of Mediterranean, African and Indian descent.
Perusing the meat section, you’ll find roasted ducks and standard cuts of meat, as well as cuts you won’t see at your typical American supermarket (think snails, beef honeycomb tripe, duck’s and pig’s feet). In the seafood section, the fish monger piles whole fish on ice.
Hometown Supermarket is also a little slice of global snack food heaven in Birmingham. I passed on the green tea KitKats, but I love the hard tea candies I picked up.
If you’re looking for a creative gift, check out the decorative soup bowls, soup spoons, teapots and more for sale at Hometown Supermarket. I couldn’t resist buying two small soy sauce dishes for takeout sushi nights.
The store carries so many different types of flour beyond wheat: cassava, yam, oat, rice and ground nut flour. If you’re cooking any sort of ethnic recipe, I’m willing to bet you’ll find every ingredient on your list, from litchi to lemongrass, at Hometown Supermarket.
College students on the ramen diet should head to Hometown Supermarket for a whole aisle of instant noodle options.
2. Chop Suey Inn
Right across the highway from Hometown Supermarket is Chop Suey Inn at 813 Green Springs Hwy #160. Order up traditional faves, including General Tso’s chicken, Mongolian beef, sesame chicken, wontons, pork, beef, shrimp and scallops.
Update: one reader reached out to let me know the egg rolls at Chop Suey Inn are where it’s at.
“Don’t sell Chop Suey Inn short! They have the best, freshest egg rolls in Birmingham.”Jason Burnett via Facebook
Now, on to the next stop…
Before I dive into the trio of ethnic food havens within Green Springs Center at 430 Green Springs Highway, here’s my disclaimer. I love eating Mexican at Acapulco just was much as I love the mashup of American and Mediterranean comfort food at The Purple Onion, a Birmingham classic. Italian-American at Alfredo’s? Gimme.
However, for the sake of this article, I’m focusing on places that pull back the veil of American culture just a bit further. For ethnic communities in the Birmingham area, these places are a taste of home.
3. Mediterranean Food Market
Yesterday was my first trip to Mediterranean Food Market in Green Springs Center, but I will frequent this Birmingham treasure from now on. Small, neat, efficiently stocked and easy to navigate, this market is infinitely approachable for an ethnic food newbie.
Mediterranean Food Market specializes in Halal meat. Just as Kosher food adheres to Jewish law, Halal food adheres to Islamic law.
The produce section of Mediterranean Food Market is a refrigerated room off the main market floor. If you’re an avid Bham Now reader, you know Hilary Meares was so impressed with the grilled cactus at her latest restaurant adventure that she wondered where she could buy fresh cactus in Birmingham. Jackpot!
The spice section is a cook’s dream. Need an out-of-the-box hostess gift? Go for the Turkish delight.
Before I move on to our next ethnic food stop, can I just say, holy moly. This Sangak bread is 3 feet long!
4. Seoul Restaurant
Craving authentic Korean barbecue and cuisine in Birmingham? Seoul Restaurant in Green Springs Center is your spot. They’re pretty straightforward in their marketing tactics, too. Before you walk in the door, you know they use organic eggs, no MSG and olive oil for cooking oil.
5. Phở Quê Hương
I have loved the Vietnamese fare at Phở Quê Hương in Green Springs Center for a long, long time. The broth in the noodle bowls is my ultimate comfort food.
Order Cafe Sua Da, Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk, at the beginning of your meal. I drink it at the end, but the individual drip-style servings take a while.
Side note: there’s a little shoe place next door where you can find some real deals if you’re willing to dig.
6. Los Valedores
Los Valedores food trailer is technically on Oxford Road, but it’s close enough to the corner of Green Springs that I’m making an exception. You can’t beat a $2 taco for a light, quick lunch. My lunch choice yesterday, El Pastor taco, rocked those authentic Mexican flavors, and the soft corn tortillas earned an A-plus.
7. La Perla Nayarita
La Perla Nayarita, located at 150 Green Springs Highway, serves authentic Hispanic fare, including ceviche and other seafood specialties. When it comes to ethnic food on this stretch of road, La Perla Nayarita is your gateway to Latin cuisine, literally.
As a stand-alone restaurant situated close to the highway, it’s much more visible than the next three stops on our list. If you can find La Perla Nayarita, then you can easily navigate your way to numbers 8, 9 and 10, located far back from the road in the strip mall behind it.
8. Brito’s Supermarket
Brito’s is your local Hispanic market at 118 Green Springs Highway, including baked goods and a hot bar. Grab a quick lunch, or buy ingredients for Mexican night at home. Fresh tortillas from Brito’s will take your home cooking to the next level.
9. Sabor Latino!
If your ethnic food hankering is of a Peruvian nature, head to Sabor Latino! at 112 Green Springs Highway for arroz con mariscos. As the exclamation mark suggests, Sabor Latino! offers a super festive, family-friendly atmosphere.
10. La Nueva Michoacana
Time for something sweet. La Nueva Michoacana at 104 Green Springs Highway is a fast food Mexican restaurant featuring homemade ice cream and frozen pops.
Get ready for the last stop on our ethnic food tour: Green Springs Plaza for Lebanese, Mediterranean and Ethiopian eats.
11. George’s Lebanese Restaurant
In airy, muted tones of peach and turquoise, the laidback interior of George’s Lebanese Restaurant at 44 Green Springs Highway makes you feel miles away from the hot strip mall pavement outside. The shwarma wraps are popular, according to online review sites. I popped in for a piece of real-deal baklava chock full of walnuts.
Update: I got a reader tip about the hummus and tabouli at George’s. Looks like I need to head back for lunch.
“You missed the best hummus and tabouli in town when you went to George’s! You have to go back!!”Jan O. Smith via Facebook
12. Red Sea Ethiopian and Mediterranean / Halal Supermarket International
Last but not least (in fact it was my dinner last night) is Red Sea Ethiopian and Mediterranean at 22 Green Springs Highway. This restaurant connects to Halal Supermarket International, yet another spot where home chefs can pick up authentic ethnic ingredients.
I went for the Ethiopian side of the menu. The friendly clerk at the counter helped me narrow down my choices based on meat preference and spice level. (When trying a new ethnic food, it’s always nice to get expert advice.) I chose a dish of spicy lamb tips and vegetables, served with injera. I got it to go, much to my spouse’s delight. It was plenty for two.
Injera, an Ethiopian bread, reminds me a bit of giant, super-airy pancakes. They are great for sopping up all those delicious slow-simmered juices. For breakfast the next day, I used leftover injera to make a cheesy scrambled egg wrap (highly recommended).
A tip on tipping: Red Sea Ethiopian and Mediterranean automatically adds a small gratuity to your order. This appears to bother some, according to online review sites, but it didn’t bother me. (I’m going to tip anyway, so I don’t mind if I add it or they do.) Not all countries have the same tipping practices, so I say embrace this as part of the cultural experience of eating amazing ethnic food on Green Springs Highway.