About two hours south of The Shoals is Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city. It is a city built on railroad industries and iron and steel production. Birmingham has been called “The Iron City” and “The Magic City,” and it has a contentious past as a central player in our nation’s civil rights struggle. But today’s Birmingham has much to offer in the way of history, art, food, culture, and nightlife.
One of our favorite spots is The Garage, run by our long-time friend Kay Woehle. Kay’s father, architect Fritz Woehle, bought the building that houses The Garage in the 1970s. Back then, the former garage (pictured in the old, bent black and white photos shown here) was being repurposed as storage space.
Fritz converted part of the building into a design space and leased the remaining space to other artists and small business owners. The Garage—known for years as The Garage Café—was opened in one of these spaces by Jimmy Watson in the mid-1990s. After Jimmy passed away earlier this year, the Woehle family took over management of the bar.
The bar itself has a wonderful, eclectic feel. But, it’s the wisteria-canopied courtyard that sets the place apart from its peers. The space has an atmosphere that is unlike any other I’ve seen. There are antiques strewn about—ceramics, metal, reclaimed architectural pieces—all courtesy of Fritz. Garden and Gun described The Garage as “an elegant ruin.” It all feels as though you’ve discovered an ancient pyramid or tomb, chiseled your way inside, and found a long-abandoned estate sale.
The Garage has been listed as one of Esquire magazine’s Best Bars in America and is one of the 100 Best Bars in the South from Southern Living. But, awards and accolades haven’t changed the vibe. It remains unpretentious and cash only.
Find The Garage in Birmingham’s Highland Park neighborhood, on 10th Terrace South, and tell Kay that we say, “Hello.”
P.S.: This post is part our new travel series; look for side trips (and side bars) on your way to and from The Factory—and from here to there. With this series, you’ll find some history, a bit of folk art, good diners, great bars and splendid adventures. Pack your bag, plan your road trip, and come for a visit. xoNatalie
*Vintage photos courtesy of the Woehle family