Tip top grill: good food, great views

This was posted on exodusmagazine.com on October 22, 2013*

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Fall is officially upon us. As temperatures drop, scarves make their reappearance, and leaves begin to change, satisfy your craving for a great meal with a view at the Tip Top Grill.

Located in Bluff Park just six miles from Samford University, this old gas-station-turned-restaurant has been attracting locals for years. And it’s easy to see why – the food is very reasonably priced, with hot dogs at just $1.65 and cheeseburgers only $2.25.

But we all know that a good restaurant is not just about the food – it’s about the atmosphere. While the inside of Tip Top Grill is eccentric, as it is decorated in a retro style, it’s really the outside view that keeps locals coming back.

TipTopGrill3The restaurant sits on the edge of a mountain, overlooking a golf course, tons of trees and of course, the city skyline of Birmingham.

Caban Irbine, a new employee at Tip Top, can’t recall a time when he didn’t come to the restaurant on a regular basis. “I’ve been here as long as I can remember,” Irbine said.

Another new employee, Joey Digiorgio, commented that there are many regulars that come in every day for a cup of coffee – which is only $0.95. The same people have been coming in for years.

“It’s a Tip Top thing,” Digiorgio said.

Whether stopping for a hearty meal or a light snack, you’ll surely find something for the right price at Tip Top Grill. While the locals recommend either the hotdogs or the cheeseburgers, Tip Top serves a legendary breakfast as well.

With such competitive prices accompanied by amazing views, you can’t go wrong with a taste from Tip Top!

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A coffee shop famous for its cookies

This was posted on exodusmagazine.com on October 8, 2013*

Known for their famous “break-up” cookies, Church Street Coffee & Books is quickly becoming a popular coffee shop in Crestline Village. With a loft upstairs, a patio outside, ample seating inside and a host of desserts and drinks, it’s hard to find a time of day when regular customers aren’t visiting with the staff. At Church Street, there’s no such thing as “just a customer.” Instead, everyone is treated like family.

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Cal Morris, a Samford University graduate and co-owner of Church Street, said, “We attract a lot of different people [with] different age groups and backgrounds.” During the short interview, he stopped several times to say hello to regular customers, calling them each by name.

Morris and his wife, Heather, along with their close friend, Carrie Rollwagen, opened Church Street a little more than two years ago. Previously, the establishment had been a Starbucks. Morris worked there for eight years and when they closed, he and Rollwagen decided it was the perfect time to go after their dream of having a coffee shop that not only sold great desserts and drinks but also maintained a passion for books.

Morris said that he and his partner have no plans of opening new shops elsewhere. “Honestly, I think we are living our dream. Our dream is here,” Morris said. “I want to become the O’Henry’s of this area.”

Looking ahead for fall, new products including a gluten-free granola and trailmix called Mango Monkey Mix will make an appearance. The shop’s pumpkin bread is delicious, but you can’t go wrong with the famous chocolate chip break-up cookies either. Their catchy name comes from an actual break-up story.

Before Heather Morris switched the recipe a little bit, a friend who was a baker had made and delivered the cookies to her boyfriend before breaking up with him. Although the cookie probably holds bad memories for him, it’s clear that the break-up cookie story has a silver lining, as it’s Church Street’s most popular item.

From cookies to book clubs, Church Street Coffee & Books has built up quite a loyal following. The dream to remain small and be a welcoming place for the community is one Morris is living out. “We believe in community and art,” Morris said.

Whether you go to study, grab a cookie, or join one of Church Street’s book clubs, you’ll be sure to find both a welcoming atmosphere and friendly faces at this local hang-out.