Category Archives: Restaurants

GianMarco’s: Restaurant Showcase

BY MADOLINE MARKHAM

Giani Respinto (left) owns Edgewood’s GianMarco’s with his brother, Marco, and father, Giovanni (right). Photo by Madoline Markham.

There’s a reason you have to call GianMarco’s at least two weeks in advance to get a dinner reservation and that it filled up for Valentine’s Day around the first of the year.

The white tablecloth restaurant, hidden among Edgewood homes on Broadway, is known for its lively, energetic atmosphere as well as its upscale authentic yet innovative cuisine.

“It’s Italian-based, but it’s not your typical Italian restaurant,” owner Giani Respinto said. “We do Asian dishes. We do whatever we feel like doing. You can have spaghetti or lasagna, or you can have olive oil-poached sea bass.”

The menu is always evolving but is always guaranteed to have some favorites such as pan-roasted grouper, lunch pizzas and fettucine alfredo with gulf shrimp.
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Sam’s Super Samwiches: Restaurant Showcase

By MADOLINE MARKHAM

Sam’s owner Sammy Graphos wears a Birmingham-Southern shirt in support of HHS graduates he knows who now go to school there. He serves hot dogs, breakfast, and other “samwiches” from his 40-year-old restaurant on 18th Street daily. Photos by Madoline Markham.

Inside the narrow alley-shaped storefront of Sam’s on 18th Street is a wall that marks four decades of business. Plaques commemorate owner Sammy Graphos’ award-winning hot dogs and hamburgers as well as his and wife Sue’s involvement in the MS Walk. Photos of Graphos’ grandchildren and customers’ Christmas card photos are updated each year. There are signed photos of Bear Bryant and Mason the tornado dog, whom customer Dr. Bill Lamb rescued after the April 2011 tornados.

Forty-five-year Homewood resident Graphos, 70, has been working behind the grill at Sam’s Super Samwiches for 43 years. The first three years he co-owned the restaurant with his brother Pete, then called Sneaky Pete’s, before selling out that franchise.

Graphos now serves the kids of the kids who grew up eating his hot dogs “regular” (sauce, sauerkraut, mustard and onions) or “special” (with spiced ground beef) and his fresh-made hamburger patties, also topped with sauce.

Hot dog restaurants like Pete’s, Gus’ and Lyric all coined a similar sauce when they opened in the mid-1900s, but Graphos said his is the best.

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DoDiYos: Restaurant Showcase

By KATIE STEWART

Connie Kanakis, who co-owns DoDiYos with George Sarris, in front of the restaurant’s 45-seat bar. Photo by Katie Stewart.

Walking in to DoDiYos, you can’t help but feel like a part of the family. The smells wafting from the kitchen are reminiscent of scents from your own home cooking. Sitting down at your table, it’s impossible not to realize the legacy of the Greek families behind the restaurant.

“Their recipes are still cooked in this kitchen,” said Connie Kanakis, one partner of DoDiYos. “We wanted to honor them and their generations of taste. What better way to do that then naming the restaurant after them?”

Three items on the Mediterranean menu in particular memorialize the family of partner George Sarris.

Sarris’ mother, whose name translates to Dorothy in English, is the “Do” of the restaurant name. She was famous for her chicken with orzo made with onions, garlic, olive oil and tomatoes, as well as some herbs. The dish is still made the same way at the restaurant. Continue reading

Homewood Gourmet: Restaurant Showcase

By MADOLINE MARKHAM

Homewood Gourmet

Homewood Gourmet owners Chris and Laura Zapalowski. Photo by Madoline Markham.

Homewood Gourmet serves the kind of food a really good home cook with lots of spare time would make—with the added flair of a chef. Its homemade sandwiches, salads, desserts and dinners taste gourmet but not so gourmet that you couldn’t bring their food to a party and pretend you had made it yourself. It’s real food that tastes good.

“We try to make as much as we can,” said chef Chris Zapalowski, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife and fellow chef, Laura. The couple bought it from longtime chef and owner Franklin Biggs last year.

You can stop by the storefront right off Highway 31 near TCBY for a Fried Green Tomato Sandwich and seasonal soup or, our favorite, a Baby Blue Salad; there’s a good reason Southern Living published the recipe for baby greens with honey-balsamic vinaigrette, blue cheese, spicy pecans, oranges and strawberries. Continue reading

Wild Rock Grill: Restaurant Showcase

By MADOLINE MARKHAM

Wild Rock Grill

The Cajun Beef Sandwich was our waitress’ recommendation for lunch at Wild Rock Grill. Photo by Madoline Markham.

Wild Rock Grill in Wildwood reopened this summer as a different version of its former persona, Locos Grill and Pub. It’s still a restaurant and bar, serving greasy food until late at night and orders of wings and burgers on game days. But it now offers a meat and three lunch menu perfect for a fast Southern sit-down meal any day of the week, including Sundays.

“I can have your lunch served in five minutes,” manager Ethel Ellison said.

Meats on the lunch menu are Italian Fried Chicken, a pork chop, baked tilapia, chicken breast and Pepper Steak N’ Gravy. The side selection includes mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, rice, macaroni ‘n cheese, carrots, turnip greens, okra, steamed veggies, Wild Rock’s signature rosemary roasted potatoes, potato salad, coleslaw and a side salad. You can get one meat and two veggies or four veggies for $7.99 including a drink and bread.

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Nabeel’s Café: Restaurant Showcase

By MIA BASS

Nabeels-Cafe

Nabeel’s owner John Krontiras. Photo by Madoline Markham.

With its house-made Greek dressing, gyros and other signature dishes, Nabeel’s is, without a doubt, a Mediterranean staple. And with the care for customers marked by the name plates on the booths commemorating regulars and its central, walkable location, it is, without a doubt, Homewood. The only point of confusion is that it is owned by not a Mr. Nabeel but by John Krontiras, who bought the restaurant from Nabeel Shunnarah 19 years ago.

This restaurant is a melting pot of Krontiras’ Greek heritage, his wife, Ottavia’s, Italian heritage and a nod to original owner Shunnarah’s Lebanese upbringing. The original menu under Krontiras consisted of only two items: The Camelrider (the original sandwich coined by Shunnarah) and the Greek Salad, using only the finest fresh feta cheese and olives.

An integral part of the Homewood community, Nabeel’s supports functions for local organizations like the Exceptional Foundation, Homewood Police Department and Homewood Senior Center. Continue reading

Hamburger Heaven: Restaurant Showcase

By MIA BASS

Hamburger Heaven

Hamburger Heaven manager Aisha Bacchus and owner Kirk Roberts. Photo by Mia Bass

Hamburger Heaven’s walls are coated in Alabama and Auburn paintings, photos of famous celebrities and even Homewood High School and Parks and Rec teams. Like the rest of the city, owner Kirk Roberts just loves Homewood.

Paula Deen even stopped by to check out the cheeseburger last year. “I didn’t believe it when my manager told me she [Paula Deen] was in the dining room,” Roberts said, “But there she was. She said she heard we had some good food and we brought out a few milkshakes after she finished the cheeseburger.”

Their special sauce is what sets the burger apart, so what’s the secret? “It’s really just a mixture of ketchup and mustard with a little Worcestershire thrown in,” Roberts said. The sauce can be ordered online so you can use it to grill at home. Continue reading