Veranda on Highland is an elegant restaurant located in the heart of downtown Birmingham in a restored antebellum Greek revival mansion. Both the restaurants’ executive chef, Tom Robey, and dining room manager, Stanley Reynolds, are alums of Commander’s Palace, a New Orleans dining institution. Robey and Reynolds’ deep Louisiana roots influence Veranda at every turn, from the classic Cajun menu to the impeccable southern hospitality.
Our party of six—Chaplin family plus one—sampled Veranda’s fare during their Sunday Jazz Brunch service. We were seated in a private dining room that resembled a chapel due to the immense stained glass windows. As we perused the menu, we nibbled on sweet southern cornbread and banana bread and were serenaded by the jazz musicians.
When it comes to brunch, The Astronomer and I prefer dessert-y dishes like French toast with maple syrup. We had a hard time choosing what to order because Veranda’s brunch menu heavily favors savory items. Think eggs, eggs and more eggs. At the recommendation of The Astronomer’s parents, we started off with the 1-1-1 ($7)—a selection of three soups.
This morning’s trio included Jambalaya, turtle soup and butternut squash curry soup. Everyone at the table loved the sweet-as-pie butternut squash. It was so sticky sweet that I swore I tasted marshmallows! The Jambalaya and turtle were pleasant, but not traffic-stopping like the butternut curry number.
My entree, slowly braised Muscovy duck on a malt flour waffle ($15), was magnificent. The waffles were light and airy, while the duck was tender and dotted with tart dried cherries. The toasted pecan sugar cane syrup tasted killer atop both the waffle and duck and brought the dish’s two distinct elements together harmoniously.
I asked for an extra portion of the syrup to assure that every bite was doused with sugary awesomeness. Next stop, Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. It’s pretty clear that poultry + waffles + syrup = delectable.
Since I ordered the menu’s lone sweet item and eggs are far from The Astronomer’s cup of tea, he settled on the crabmeat and Brie stuffed potato Pirogues ($12). We were expecting something along the lines of pierogies or boiled dumplings, but instead we received a plate of potato wedges topped with a green onion sour cream and spun vegetables. Our collective thoughts were, “Huh?”
It turns out that Pirogues are small, flat-bottomed boats associated with the Cajuns of the Louisiana marsh. The potato wedges appeared to be culinary interpretations of these historic vessels. Strange, but true. Taste-wise, The Astronomer was disappointed. The Pirogues were bland and awkward to eat.
Although I’d like to keep Birmingham a secret, their culinary scene is gaining nationwide notoriety. Check out this write up from the New York Times—Birmingham Has a Lot on Its Plates These Days. Shhh.
Veranda on Highland
2220 Highland Ave South
Birmingham, AL 35205