Openings

Bama's Southern Kitchen opens in Brookline

Written by Bob Batz Jr. on

05042014ribs

Today's find: Bama's Southern Kitchen. 

We were headed to Brookline for street tacos and we spotted a new place we hadn't heard about.

Actually, we smelled it. 

So we parked and walked up Brookline Boulevard to at least peek inside.

Even my 6-year-old, who really loves Las Palmas tacos, said, "That smells good." 

So we went into the little eatery, which, we found out, just opened on Friday.

The smoker that's perfuming the whole neighborhood is out back. 

Named for Alabama, the little five-tables-and-a-counter storefront makes beef and pork ribs, barbecued chicken, fried chicken and burgers and fish sandwiches, served with sides such as mac 'n' cheese, greens, fresh-cut fries, potato salad and more.

We were all over it. 

So were a lot of people, including a couple of firefighters from Pittsburgh Engine Co. 26 (old Engine House 57), just up the block, between Las Palmas Mexican grocery and taco stand and Pitaland Mediterranean Bakery and Cafe and across the street from Scoop's ice cream. I told them, they are the best-situated fire station in the city. They did not disagree. 

Formerly a diner, Bama's has been very nicely redone in a cool shade of green, with pretty pendant lights dressing up the drop ceiling, and an open kitchen in one corner.  

The place has a palpably pleasant vibe that has a little to do with the free popcorn from a machine by the front door, signs on the wall with sayings such as "LIVE LAUGH LOVE," and a soulful soundtrack playing over basketball on a big-screen TV. 

But mostly it's the warm and friendly people who work there, from our server, who doted on us like a mom, to the owner, whom I believe is her son.

He lives in Brookline, but wasn't as big a fan of the neighborhood's food charms as I am.

"I couldn't take any more pizza and gyros," he said. "I needed some home."

Now, instead of heading to the East end of town for barbecue and soul food, he can eat right here. 

People are going to be coming from all directions to this place.

"You're killing it," said one customer who wandered in just to tell him that. This guy said the mustard sauce reminded him of that of Boykin's, the legendary, long-gone BBQ landmark with restaurants in the Hill District, Homewood and Homestead. That's high praise, indeed. 

I got the mustard sauce on my combo, above -- three big "bones" (beef ribs), two wings, a cornbread muffin and two small sides for $12. I had to get greens. And I had to get the sweet potato casserole, which arrived topped with miniature marshmallows that the first-grader beside me deftly plucked.

His mom ordered the same combo but with the spicy sauce and with red beans and rice. 

The kid ordered from the kids menu, for $6, a burger, hand-cut fries and green beans, which were real green beans. 

Everything was superb. I especially loved the greens, perfectly cooked and seasoned, and the subtly spicy sweet potatoes. There was so much smoky meat on those bones that we had two of those left to take home, along with three of the four excellent fried wings. 

So we didn't at all mind that they were out of the peach and apple cobbler. 

The owner did come over and offer the kid a free homemade cookie. 

This place is going to kill it.

We loved watching others passers-by looking in, and stopping in to have a look around and pick up takeout menus. 

A woman the crew identified as their first customer already is a regular. 

After chatting with everyone, she walked out with a big bag of takeout for her Sunday supper, exclaiming, "Thank you for cooking for me!" 

The three people who came in after her did so because they live nearby and "We can smell it from our house," one said.

"It's tacos and barbecue," one guy said with a smile, "tacos and barbecue." 

I gave a longer description to the couple on the street who asked me, "What kind of food do they have?" 

I snapped them going in on the phone photo below, then strolled, stuffed, next-door to Pitaland, where my son grabbed a plastic tub of pastel Jordan almonds and picked out a bag of of za'atar (spice-topped) pita, to go with some frozen favas and a container of shish barak, a Lebanese dish of meat dumplings in yogurt sauce that we'd never tried.

Out in front of the engine house, the firefighters were tossing a football. And there was a long line at the taco stand. 

It was a beautiful spring Sunday afternoon in Brookline. 

Tacos and barbecue.

Tacos and barbecue and shish barak

Bama's Southern Kitchen, at 600 Brookline Blvd., is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mon.-Weds., 11 a.m. to 10  p.m. Thurs.-Sat., and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sun. The phone is 412-668-3459.


05042014Bamas

Bob Batz Jr. photos

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