Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Fun and Food in Birmingham Alabama

Following our breakfast experience at Big Bad Breakfast, it was time for some fun!  David II and Amy had a family fun venue in mind so off we went!

This is the entrance to TopGolf.  TopGolf is headquartered in Dallas Texas.  As we discovered, the concept involves the combination of a bar, music and dining experience with a driving range. 

This is a view of Birmingham’s TopGolf facility as you approach it from the parking lot along one side of the entrance.  As you can see, it’s a huge 3-level structure.  At this point Laurie and I just expected that this was just a massive driving range…and nothing else.  Wrong!

In most US TopGolf locations, including this one, customers line up at the counter to pay for a spot on the driving range.  Rates are by the hour.  Each climate controlled ‘hitting bay’ can accommodate 1 – 6 players.  A member of your party has to buy a $5.00 membership that allows tracking of your group’s results, allows you to add time at the bay and even (shudder) can share your experience on social media. 

The hitting bay ‘rental rates’ at Birmingham are $25.00 from opening until noon, $35.00 from noon to 5 PM and $45.00 from 5 PM until closing.  You and your group can hit an unlimited number of balls during your time in the bay…   

On the surface, the cost of a couple of hours of family entertainment is less than the price of most movies these days… But most movie theaters only offer popcorn, candy and other high priced snacks.  They don’t have full service restaurants and fully equipped bars to supplement their cash flow.  FYI…TopGolf does have a plethora of snacks available.  This TopGolf location also offers private event and meeting spaces, free Wi Fi and over 200 HGTV’s. 

This is the ‘course’ or driving range.  There are a number of games you can play but basically the goal is to hit your ball as close to the middle of those netted targets as you can to get points.  The technology is pretty amazing.  You enter the names of the players in the computer screen in your bay and then you hit your golf balls in order.  Even with 50 or more ‘golfers’ hitting from their bay at the same time, the computer accurately records the results each time you hit a ball!

While the original concept was developed by a couple doctors from Alabama, the actual TopGolf technology was developed by twin brothers in Watford England between 1996 and 2001.

The upstairs terrace and a second full service bar provided us with a nice place to wait for a hitting bay to open up… The terrace even boasts a fire pit.

This isn’t the greatest photo of our little group… Shooting from dark to light isn’t a strength of mine.  In any case, bottom line we had a great time.  Not only is TopGolf fun, the best part is that this old man, aka Papa, actually won 2 matches out of 3! 

Our only complaint was the service.  Servers are assigned to a number of bays and they take orders and serve players snacks, food and drinks.  I appreciate good service, but our server’s constant requests for additional orders bordered on harassment. 

As of September of this year, there were 41 TopGolf locations in the USA and 3 in Great Britain.  5 more US locations will open this fall and at least 3 more will open in 2019.  In 2019, they will also premier sites in Australia and Mexico.

TopGolf Birmingham is located at 1111 24th Street North.  Phone: 205-847-5757.  This location’s website is at

After all that effort at TopGolf, we decided grab a light lunch or snacks before Laurie and I drove back to East Tennessee and Amy, David II and Emmett Lee flew off to Omaha.  We chose El Barrio Restaurante y Bar for our final destination on this short Alabama adventure…

The interior of El Barrio is loaded with distressed wood, touches of iron work plus creative lighting, all against an over the top wall of colorful Mexican street art.  There also is a large concrete bar…something that you don’t see every day!   

Since I was going to be driving for about 4 hours, I stayed away from the alcohol…but the ladies had a “Barrio Rita” and we all shared Salsa ($2.75), Queso Fundido ($6.50) and Guacamole ($7.00) with a couple baskets of tortilla chips.  The Queso Fundido didn’t have enough ‘bite’ for my taste but it was OK.  The guacamole lovers at the table thought that it was pretty good.

Two quesadilla orders hit the table.  Laurie went for the Shrimp Quesadilla. ($14.00) She thought that it was OK…nothing special.  

Tacos were the other key item on our table.  This was Emmett’s order of Tacos Al Carbon. ($12.50) Assembling your own tacos is a bit different too although that's what we do at home.  The marinated sirloin steak was served with lettuce, onions and a spicy chipotle sauce.  They were pretty good…

The menu at El Barrio isn’t typical of most “Mexican” restaurants in the USA.  Selection is adequate and creative but somewhat limited.  Don’t expect burritos, chimichanga’s, enchiladas, etc.  There are 4 different taco offerings, 4 quesadillas, 2 tostadas, snacks, salads, soup and “Big Plates” as well as specials Monday – Thursday nights.

We felt that service was just ‘so-so’ and despite the d├ęcor, the restaurant felt a little grungy to us.  We didn’t sample enough of the menu to draw any meaningful conclusions regarding the food.

El Barrio Restaurante y Bar is located at 2211 2nd Avenue North in Birmingham Alabama.  Phone: 205-868-3737.  El Barrio is closed on Sunday and Monday.  Website:

…and so ended our family adventures in Birmingham Alabama!  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. … am not quite sure how to tackle another AB Winter like this, friend David … anyway … hush, hush … baby … anyway, your post is awesome as always … Much love, cat.

  2. BTW - I loved my chicken quesadilla at El Barrio. Top Golf is always fun, but that server was much worse than normal there. She was somehow annoyingly around to ask for orders yet not around when we needed refills. Fun day though!