Let’s review some of the universal signs of a man joint:
- roll of paper towels on the tables instead of napkins
- tiny neglected bathrooms
- talkative guy or croaky-voiced octogenarian at the register
- memorabilia on the walls
- hopelessly outdated furniture and eclectic fixtures
- cement floors
Obviously there are many other indications, but a combination of three or more of these features places you in a distinct man cave. Going a step further, let’s identify the manly meal caves of Birmingham.
Any barbeque place. Barbeque pits are the original man caves and remain so no matter how we try to civilize them. Sports paraphernalia, old car tags, and photos of deceased football coaches are de rigueur at any barbeque spot. The closest we have come to sanitizing and civilizing a barbeque joint is Jim N Nick’s, but that is just an illusion. You can order a dainty salad, but you will still smell like a smoked chicken for days. (Need I remind you of the neon sign above the BBQ pit at Dreamland on 10th Ave? Let’s just say it deals with flatulence, a sure hit with males.)
Delis. American Deli is a classic with anything but actual cold cuts. Pilliterri’s in Bluff Park is a great old man cave of a place. You’re dining in a butcher shop on wooden tables with no consideration for interior design whatsoever. In fact, it’s a signature feature of man caves to serve you a meal in the middle of some other purpose, like selling steak sauce or washing your car.
Burger Joints. Not any place that would offer bleu cheese or avocado as a topping, but those that favor bacon and grilled onions. Burger joints are actually a close second to barbeque pits, often sharing the same distinctive features (namely, a patina of grease and smoke). The Depot in Helena, Tip Top Grill in Bluff Park, and Chris Z’s in Lakeview are good examples. Sol’s on Morris Avenue is a manly spot – though there are plenty of ladies there for lunch – and On Tap in Lakeview is another with surprising variety. Didn’t the name tell you it was a man cave?
Any 24/7 or short order restaurant is predominately man-dining. Waffle House and Krystal appeal to men almost anytime, while we only crave these when all other options are closed. Do you know a woman who doesn’t harbor doubts about a 24 hour restaurant, such as when they ever have a chance to thoroughly wash down and clean up? Who else checks Health Department scores?
Are there Manly Coffee Shops? Yes. Visit Primavera in Cahaba Heights any time and you’ll find men outnumber women 3:1 despite Primavera having a sleek design aesthetic and only raw sugar and Truvia for sweetener. Maybe it’s the coffee roaster in the corner that adds the brawn to the place, sort of like an electric bull in a roadhouse.
Finally, men dominate the big portion restaurants. Ranelli’s Deli on Southside is a long running manly meal spot, especially with the Richman’s Poboy. Order a weekly special and get a second helping free when you dine in. How can you beat that?
If you want to see men in their native habitat, visit a manly meal spot. You’ll find some of the best food in town.