Alabama restaurant named one of America’s best by Esquire

Helen, a contemporary Southern grill in Birmingham, was named one of the best new restaurants in America by Esquire.

The magazine’s list, published Thursday, highlights 40 restaurants across the country that epitomize “the transportive power of food” and “the soul-stirring nature of hospitality.”

Helen, a downtown eatery led by a husband-and-wife team, Rob and Emily McDaniel, is the only Alabama restaurant chosen by Esquire’s food writers. Helen opened in August 2020 at 2013 Second Ave. North, in the historic Berry Project buildings.

“Helen was a real woman who wore pearls and had a grill inside her house,” Joshua David Stein writes in his description for Esquire. “Her facility with coals lives on in her grandson Rob McDaniel’s restaurant: Witness the twenty-two-ounce, dry-aged Kansas City strip, drizzled with beef-and-herb-infused duck fat, and the fennely porchetta with a crackling skin. The chef describes the place as not a steakhouse. ‘But,’

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Horn Barbecue, Shawarmaji and more Bay Area restaurants made the list

Out of 40 businesses throughout the country, five restaurants from San Francisco and the East Bay were recognized. Jordanian restaurant Shawarmaji in Oakland was among the celebrated. Chef-owner Mohammad Abutaha told SFGATE that after the initial shock of learning that his restaurant made the list, he felt an immense sense of gratitude.

“That’s something I never thought would happen,” Abutaha said. “It’s one of those things that you want to achieve but the chances are slim, and you don’t really think about it. It was a surprise.”

The lamb shwarma at Shawarmaji in Oakland. 

The lamb shwarma at Shawarmaji in Oakland. 

Bashar F. on Yelp

The recognition also reaffirmed that the work Abutaha has put into Shawarmaji has been worthwhile. Shawarmaji began as a pop-up at Forage Kitchen before moving into 2123 Franklin St. last November. And since opening a brick and mortar, Abutaha has kept busy roasting chicken and lamb on revolving spits for the many

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