Our Visit to Real & Rosemary

We ventured out to a new (to us) restaurant this weekend. It’s called Real & Rosemary and it opened about a year ago in the Homewood area of Birmingham, AL. Their tagline is “Real Food, Good Company.” The owners had a real purpose in the restaurant’s creation and design. You can read all about it on their website, and look over the menu. Once we read the history and saw the menu, we knew we had to try it, especially since there seemed to be a really nice selection of creative vegetable sides. We were definitely not disappointed! Here’s what we had:

We couldn’t resist a couple of starters to share, and we went for two southern classics–sweet potato wedges and fried green tomatoes. What we soon discovered is that all the recipes have either an herbal or other flavor component that turns them from ordinary to surprisingly delicious.

The sweet potato wedges came in a generous portion, and were roasted to a deep mahogany, but weren’t overcooked or soggy. The best part was they were roasted in rosemary-infused oil and served with a lemongrass dipping sauce. The combination of the sweetness of the sweet potato, the subtle earthiness of the rosemary, and the tangy, floral lemongrass sauce made for a stunning combination.

The fried green tomatoes were also perfectly cooked–browned and crisp–with a drizzle of chipotle mayo. They were some of the best we’ve had as far as flavor and texture. Fried green tomatoes can often be too thick, under-crisped, and suffer from a coating that slithers off when you cut into them. Not these. Crunchy, tart and delicious.

Chris went dark and veered from our recent vegetarian ways, and ordered the BLT with yellow pepper slaw. The sandwich also came with fried green tomatoes on top. The bread was toasted and slightly sweet, and there was a good balance of bacon, tomato and mayo. The slaw was vinegar-based and had the right balance of tart and sweet. A good accompaniment to the richness of the sandwich.

Lisa ordered a vegetable plate with four of the sides, so we could try almost everything. She got the brussels sprouts with butternut squash (shaved brussels in a cold, slaw-like salad), the charred carrots with thyme, the zucchini with avocado pesto (spiralized squash served like a cold pasta salad), and the corn polenta cake. The highlights for us were definitely the carrots (again, root vegetables done right) and the corn polenta cake. The polenta cake was thick, crisp on the outside, and unapologetically full of sharp cheddar. Lisa wanted to order another one for dessert!

Instead, we opted for the signature dessert on the menu, the ice cream sandwich. Their desserts come from a place across the street called Pastry Art Bake Shop. If this ice cream sandwich is any indication of their offerings, we will have to make a trip to their shop next. We got the ice cream sandwich to share, so our server cut it in half to serve to us on individual plates. The presentation alone sold us, but once we took a bite–wow! The cookie was a lemon rosemary sugar cookie, which we think may have been made with brown butter given the flavor and color. The flavors were subtle but distinctive, and the sandwich was filled with a fabulous Mexican vanilla ice cream. This dessert was one of those that you just can’t forget–the flavor, texture and overall effect was so balanced and perfect. We agreed we could have easily polished off a whole one (or more!) each, but the amount we had was perfectly satisfying and capped off a memorable meal.

This place makes you believe that going out to eat CAN be as good as you hoped it would be. To be honest, we tend to enjoy eating at home more often, since restaurants seem to always promise more than they deliver. Bravo, Real & Rosemary!

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