By BETH EDDINGS
A vibrantly backlit Birmingham skyline at dusk lines a wall at Michael’s Restaurant. The image reveals the heart of the steakhouse and bar: it’s a local, family-owned business full of history.
Michael Matsos opened Michael’s Sirloin Room in 1958. Its Southside location quickly became a hot spot for both quality food and the famous sports figures and Hollywood entertainers it served.
“Outside of Birmingham, you’re not going to know the name Michael’s,” said General Manager Eric Murphy. “It’s affiliated with Birmingham. It’s affiliated with Alabama football. Bear Bryant hung out at the original Michael’s, and Bob Hope hung out there with him. It was not uncommon to see a big name person when you came into Michael’s.”
Michaels’ son, Charles, remembers having dinner in a conference room with Coach Bear Bryant, Johnny Majors, Keith Jackson, and all the SEC officials right after Tennessee-Alabama game when he was in ninth grade. His father and Bryant were close friends.
And indeed Michael Matsos was a restaurateur legend in the city. In addition to Michael’s, he bought the original Golden Rule and grew it into a chain of 20 before selling it. He owned the fifth Holiday Inn in the chain and the Hyatt in Birmingham. Renowned restaurateur Frank Stitt was Matsos’ beverage director at the Hyatt, and George Sarris worked for him as well.
“He was my mentor and my best friend,” Charles Matsos said. “We saw each other every day for 22 years. God blessed me a lot to be able to work for him for that long.”
Through a series of moves, Michael’s found itself in its current Riverchase Galleria location in 2007. The Homewood location opened in the Aloft Hotel in SOHO in 2009. Michael Matsos owned the restaurant until he passed away in January; his son, Charles, now owns and runs the Homewood location.
Still, according to Murphy, the Homewood patrons mean the most to the restaurant. Regulars at the bar are on a first name basis with one another and the wait staff like a Homewood Cheers.
On a weekday afternoon the restaurant is busy with businessmen and police officers from the station across the street. They share laughs and conversation over hearty-sized cheeseburgers and large helpings of fries, or something off of their meat-and-three style lunch options.
It’s the steaks for which the restaurant has long been known.
“A lot of people like to come in and eat at Michael’s because of the history,” said Karrie York, event and catering director for Michael’s and Rosewood Hall. “When people come in, they want a good steak, potatoes and a vegetable—your basic meat and veggies. I think that’s one thing that we have going for us. We stick to the traditional Michael’s. We have changed a bunch of things on the menu, but a lot of the original stuff is still there.”
Any item can be special ordered, even if you don’t see it on the menu. This style of customer service is what makes Michael’s a unique place to dine in comparison to the large chain options.
Steaks like their famous Steer Butt steak marinated in a secret recipe are sure to please any meat lover, especially Dad on Father’s Day. Their steak is still prepared the same way it was in 1958 under Matsos’ leadership.
1903 29th Avenue South
Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.