Restaurant Week Success

Celebrating the Success of Restaurant Week 2023

Article By Abby Parks

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Restaurant Week 2023 may have come to a close (a very successful one, might I add), but the flavors sampled by eager participants have lingered on. As Christa Morphis, the board chairman for Main Street Anniston put it, referencing the Halibut Marsala she ate at Coldwater Brewpub last Thursday, “It was absolutely delicious. I had planned to share a couple of bites with a friend but I ate it too fast. The wild mushroom sauce was perfect. I’m still thinking about it!”  Christa was not the only one singing the praises of the 8 downtown Anniston, Alabama restaurants that took part in the celebration of local cuisine. We at Calhoun County Insight wanted to take a look back at its success, as well as look forward to its continuation.

@CHOPCHEFJR aka Jr Dell has been an Executive Chef at a couple of the restaurants folks visited and was a past participant in both Chopped 2021 and 2022. He assisted Karla Eden, the Executive Director at Main Street Anniston with organizing Chopped 2023, which unfortunately was canceled due to heat advisories in our area. 

“Had it not been for the extreme heat we would have squared off at the new park at 11th and Noble.  Stay tuned for Chopped 2024 with Anniston Restaurant Week 2024 next year!”

J.R. went on to add that he’d eaten at seven of the restaurants previously, but Gina’s BBQ was new for him, as well as his circle of friends that accompanied him. “Gina’s has that unmistakable homemade quality to it. The scramble burger with coleslaw is perfectly simple. Great food just has to be consistent. I ate all four!”

He wasn’t the only one touting Gina’s amazing Scramble Burger. Besides Ted Tedder (a huge supporter of Restaurant Week 2023 who helped create its special web page) exclaiming his delight over it, Christa Morphis also sang praises of the scramble burger, wishing she’d ordered more than one. “I just absolutely love it! You need to get three at least. The love that was put into it made it special!”

Another favorite restaurant to visit among many (like myself) was Besitos Mexican Kitchen, which featured a unique special every day of Restaurant Week on its menu. I had their Thursday special Chilaquiles Divorsiados–in layman’s terms, “divorced” chilaquiles. This massive dish had me exclaiming, “Que delicioso!!!” The platter of fried tortilla chips topped with Mexican crema sauce, queso fresco, fried eggs, and one side salsa verde (green sauce) vs. the other salsa roja (red sauce), was split down the middle (in true Alabaman divorce style) with fiery strips of tender steak. 

Christa, a regular at Besitos, expressed her passion for breakfast, opting for their Migas breakfast with chorizo made in-house. Kristen Bobo of Simply Alabama Marketing shared, “Besitos has an amazing Mexican Street Corn bowl and Aguas Frescas (an absolutely refreshing drink!).”

I’m friends with the co-owner Ariel Vicars and loved catching up with her. In following up with her on her feelings on Restaurant Week 2023, she said, “Restaurant Week was fantastic! It was wonderful to see so many people coming out and supporting all the local restaurants that downtown has to offer. Our community really showed up and showed out with all their support.”

Karla Eden, who worked tirelessly to coordinate the first annual Anniston Restaurant Week was particularly impressed with an unusual dish she tried at Effina’s Downtown.  “I was pleasantly surprised when I tried the grilled kangaroo from Effina’s! My husband is a local Executive Chef and though I don’t work in the field these days, I too experienced the culinary world (as a pastry chef). Because of this, I try to be adventurous and taste new foods when the opportunity presents itself. Being a tad on the picky side when it comes to meat, I can honestly say that the kangaroo was one of the most tender pieces of meat I’ve tried and it was seasoned to perfection. Cooked precisely as ordered and extremely flavorful, Effina’s Downtown knocked it out of the park!”

Full Bellie Deli was another fan favorite. “Our friends at Full Bellie Deli make the best sandwiches in the state of Alabama! They are the absolute sweetest people you’ll meet in Anniston,” was the feedback from Kristen Bobo and her husband Chris of Keller Williams Realty. And I, for one, was sold on their Tuesday lunch special of Chicken and Dumplings with Garlic Bread. I can’t wait to try one of their open-faced hot sandwiches on my next visit.

Another favorite of mine was the Chargrilled 14oz Ribeye topped with Bourbon-Peppercorn Cream Sauce atop mashed potatoes with a vegetable medley I tried from Coldwater Mountain Brewpub. The star of the meal was the grilled medium rare ribeye steak. The generous amount of elevated gourmet sauce was refined, making it the perfect complement, not overpowering the seared smoky essence of the steak in any way. The brightly-colored squash, zucchini, tomato, red pepper, and onions, sauteed in a white wine butter garlic sauce, were beyond flavorsome, as well as the smooth whipped garlic potatoes, including the pale red skins for added texture.

Food was not the only thing being celebrated at Restaurant Week 2023. Community interaction, spirit, and support were all factors that played into the success of the event. J.R. Dell said, “Learning about the ownership of Besitos or the history of some of the owners of these restaurants was fascinating to me on social media.  I hope more restaurants big and small will participate next year and I might find some new local businesses to support.”

Christa Morphis also summed it up aptly: “I personally think Downtown Anniston has all the best restaurants in Calhoun County. The owners care about their food, it’s more personal, and I love that! I see Anniston for its rich character and history. I love our area!”

So what’s the consensus on Anniston’s Restaurant Week 2023? To quote Siskel and Ebert (God rest their souls), I’d say, “Two thumbs up…WAY UP!”

Kristen not only visited multiple participating restaurants but also shot a lot of wonderful photos of the event and the food specials. “We loved being a part of the Downtown Anniston Restaurant Week. I think it was wonderful how it showcased all we have to offer in not only Anniston but Calhoun County as well! We were able to visit most of the participating restaurants and honestly, I can’t pick a favorite dish because they were all so amazing. I’m looking forward to next year.”

Ted Tedder of Daybreak Media/Calhoun County Insight was enthusiastic about its future. “Restaurant Week 2023 was a huge success and I think it will really grow over the years to come. Aside from the epic food I enjoyed all week, I really loved meeting the people behind the plates–Full Bellie Deli, Classic on Noble, Gina’s BBQ, The Peerless…all the staff and owners were wonderful. All the dishes were wonderful!”

If you missed out on Restaurant Week 2023, you’re in luck. The restaurants are all still there, constantly cooking up their tasty menu items (and specials on occasion) for the pleasure of their honored guests–YOU! So don’t forget to eat local, try something new, and celebrate all the great food that’s available in downtown Anniston Alabama!

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