The first time, it was an accident. Donnie’s was closed and we found ourselves driving back up the Boulevard looking for a place to eat before one of us took off on a long plane trip.We saw Baumhower’s and were not sure if this was a new restaurant or merely a new location for the Baumhower’s Wings that had previously been across the street. Turns out, it’s the latter. The statewide chain run by a former Alabama (and professional) football player had just found new (and better) digs across the street.
The chain is familiar to many who have been in Alabama for a while. It was started by Bama All-American defensive lineman Bob Baumhower, and is a favorite of many folks in Tuscaloosa, where the chain started in 1981 (and presumably is popular in the other cities where there are locations).
We so enjoyed our initial lunch there that it’s quickly become a favorite spot for us despite being out on the Boulevard, which you know is quite a stretch for us. We heard a rumor that there’s a new one opening in the RSA building on South Union Street, to which those of us who frequent the Statehouse and its environs can only breath a deep sigh of relief. There’s no telling how the proximity of 99 cent lunch beers to the Alabama Legislature will improve our fair state!
First, the obvious – Baumhower’s is a sports-themed restaurant. You already know what this means – tons of memorabilia all over the walls, mixing sports and generations and genres to create an overall sports-orgy-type atmosphere. The place has wooden walls and a generally warm decor, generally emitting a “friend’s-hunting-lodge” feel. It is, of course, covered floor to ceiling in enormous flat screen TVs, blaring either sports or that “play at your seat” trivia game you can sometimes find in bars. The phrase “warm decor” somewhat accounts for the fact that a table we recently sat at sported an angry Charles Barkley (in a Sixers jersey) glaring at us at eye level, as if daring us to eat the food and risk his wrath. While we love Sir Charles and the picture is pretty cool, this was not the most appetizing thing we had ever encountered.
As you might expect of a sports bar anywhere (much less, Alabama), the menu is packed with things we don’t eat (burgers, chicken fingers, etc.) and things we probably shouldn’t eat (all of the appetizers are fried except for the salsas – both “Southern” and regular, which are served with a truly stunning chips-to-salsa ratio). And the place is most famous for wings, which everyone we know insists are quite tasty and reasonably priced.
However, there are also some really great options for the fish-and-vegetable crowd. The veggie plate is a great deal for $5.99 and it’s nice that they actually say on the menu which of their vegetables have meat in them. The baseline of the food quality depends on what day you catch them. Some days you’d step over stomp on your own distant relative for their smoked Gouda grits; other days they’re merely good enough to be hotel buffet-worthy. The “Carribean Grilled Fish Plate” is really good, for $8.99 at lunch. Sadly, it used to be only $5 when they were offering a “Diet Riot” menu, but that’s evidently been discontinued. Still, the seasoning on the fish is damn good, and the black beans and rice are great. Also, even if they are not operating from their outstanding February-only Mardi Gras special menu, there are beignets for dessert, which is pretty awesome.
All in all, the atmosphere is casual and friendly, and Baumhower’s offers (most days) responsive and attentive service. They’re slammed during lunch hours and (we’d assume) during big sporting events, but it’s worth it to go in even during peak hours and partake of the cheap beer and affordable and tasty menu. It’s not all healthy, but there is enough variety for anyone to come away happy, whether they are swilling dollar beer and playing trivia, or having a 4-veggie plate and watching the game. We’ll definitely be back.