I am a big fan of Upromise, the program that lets me use my registered debit/credit card at participating merchants and earn a percentage of my purchase for the kids’ college tuition. It’s a little thrill to me to buy something that I would have purchased anyway, then receive a notice showing a subsequent benefit to my Upromise account, which is growing without any conscious effort on my part (I also make a conscious effort to save for college, but find it much less enjoyable than this unconscious one).
There are some great dining options to Upromise participants in Birmingham. There is a participating Upromise restaurant for a meal with the family, work colleagues, date night, or catching up with girlfriends.These are just a few of my favorites:
Dale’s Southern Grill – Vestavia, Riverchase, Hwy 280
I’ve introduced Dale’s to several people and no one has been disappointed. It’s what I would call an upscale meat-and-three, meaning they have a killer vegetable selection but also have wonderful entrees like pecan-crusted chicken or pan-seared tilapia. I particularly love Dale’s for casual business lunches because they have good service and there is something on the menu to suit everyone in your party. For the same reason, it’s also a good choice when for sit-down dining with both kids and grandparents. You won’t find a senior who doesn’t like Dale’s. Choose the bran muffin for your bread (that’s not the reason seniors like Dale’s, but it’s probably a plus) and it’s like having a dessert to follow your meal. Bonus: Dale’s has frozen entrees and sides ready to-go for dinner.
Dairy Queen – Cahaba Heights, Pelham, Hwy 280
Scrumpdillyicious DQ needs no introduction, since you had to have gone there for treats when you were a kid. Sure, you can get burgers lots of places, but can you also have this range of ice cream choices? Dairy Queen is still fun after a practice or ballgame for the kids and the grown-ups. Did you know they have a Blizzard made with Tag-a-longs, the Girl Scout cookie with the peanut butter that’s also coated in chocolate? (You can continue hoarding the Girl Scout cookies you hid in the freezer for another time). My personal favorite for the drive-through is the Peanut Buster Bar, essentially the peanut buster parfait on a stick. Imagine, a portable ice cream parfait! It’s vanilla ice cream with layers of fudge and big, salty peanuts – no tiny peanut crumbs here – all dipped in a chocolate shell. It’s a wonder the little stick can hold it all.
Harry’s Place – Riverchase
I recommend Harry’s for when you need a big ol’ sloppy cheeseburger that requires a knife just so you can cut it into manageable sections. What’s left of the plate is covered with crinkly fries. They have other items on the menu but I’ve never been able to keep my resolve to try something else after standing in line and watching all those burgers being delivered to the tables. Harry’s proximity to the corporate offices nearby keeps it filled with diners sporting employer ID badges during lunch.
La Dolce Vita – Riverchase
Here’s a Upromise fine dining date night spot. Only true locals know about this place, located in the same Riverchase strip mall as Harry’s. It’s easy to rack up rewards at a white table cloth restaurant, and La Dolce Vita manages to be elegant and yet not too prissy.
iCantina – Martin Biscuit Building and Cahaba Valley Road
The downtown location is the ultimate spot to meet after work. I love a place that also offers people watching, and iCantina has some shiny, happy people of all ages. Strings of lights across the patio give a festive glow to the young kids, first-daters, and settled couples. Everyone, even the dogs who have come out to sit outside with their owners, seems in no hurry to see an evening end. Guacamole, cold beverages, and a percentage of your purchase is rewarded in the kids’ Upromise account? Unbeatable. People watching not included in tab.
Bellini’s – Cahaba Valley Road
This is a great date night destination or fun spot for a Girls’ Night Out. The cozy interior suggests quiet conversations around the perimeter or laugh-and-toast moments at the tables in the center. There is also a patio for dining al fresco. Now they are open for lunch with gourmet pizzas, salads and pasta dishes. A take your time kind of place where you can focus on you companions and good food.