Servers delivered everything with easygoing bonhomie: A neighboring table’s order of the beef fat candle (shaped like a tea light, it melts into a sofrito-topped broth) was served with the cheerful direction that “the only thing you don’t eat is the wick.”
If OvenBird’s seasonal menu, with its big but nuanced flavors and locally procured ingredients, illustrates how far Birmingham has come as a dining town, it also nods to the city’s past. The restaurant’s cast-iron hearth, which Hastings designed with a local metallurgist, is a homage to Birmingham’s long history as a center of iron and steel production.
It has also given Hastings the freedom to blend other cultures “in a logical way with the American South,” he said. “Building a fire every day puts you in a little box, but it allows you to expand your thinking.”
OvenBird, 2810 Third Avenue South; ovenbirdrestaurant.com. Dinner for two, without drinks or tip, about $90.