When my mother and I only have 36 hours down in Birmingham, Alabama, we mean serious business in the food department -- especially after a three hour drive! Having spent a less than glamorous afternoon in the car two Tuesdays ago, I craved a top-notch dinner that did not require a fine dining vibe. Luckily, Bottega Restaurant understands this distinctive request. By pairing a white tablecloth option and trendy café side-by-side -- both providing excellent cocktails and plates -- diners can choose the atmosphere they desire more. In our case, it was Bottega Café. We were very pleased.
We met the Rosenthals, my mother's childhood friends, and immediately ordered cocktails after finding a table. The spot was packed to the brim with beautiful couples and groups of all ages.
The four of us munched on marinated olives (with dainty lemon twists) and homemade, extra crispy potato chips with charred onion dip. I enjoyed the smokiness of a classic Southern starter. The drinks were fabulous too, especially Bottega's famous "Orange Thing" (first photograph), served up in a martini glass. The sweetness of orang liquor and orange juice dangerously distracts you from realizing it's a strong vodka martini!
Not that you should be surprised, but I was craving pasta. So, naturally, I ordered the garganelli with crawfish, mushrooms, squash, white wine, and basil. Sweet and savory, light yet filling. I would order it again and again.
The others ordered crab cakes. Why? Because it was Tuesday. These heaping, sizzling cakes are only served once a week -- now deemed "Crabcake Day" at Bottega Cafe -- so my fellow guests generously shared a few bites with me. I now understand why the demand is so high!
I wish every day were Crabcake Day. . .