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79 Things to Love About Alabama: The incomparable Baby Doe’s

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The Matchless Mine was a crowd-pleaser

Before there was the Highlands Bar and Grill, Amore, Seasons 52, Satterfield’s, Hot & Hot, 218 Bistro, and a whole host of other culinary treasures in the Magic City, there was the incomparable Baby Doe’s Matchless Mine, a restaurant that in many ways set the stage for Birmingham as a “nice restaurant town,” especially for young people: It was The Club for the young and middle class.

Baby Doe’s was an interesting place, for sure. It was ostensibly a chain, but it was a small one, featuring just seven-to-13 restaurants at any one time. All were located in mining and steel towns, and all were boom town-themed.

Obviously, back when the identity of the ‘Ham was still so closely interwoven with its steel town past, and the city was not an international hub of medicine and gourmands, the 550-seat Baby Doe’s was a hit.

Yes, you read that correctly: overlooking the Birmingham skyline, Baby Doe’s sat an incredible 550 people for dinner service.

Half-upscale, half-schlock, and more than a little creepy in several respects, Baby Doe’s was perhaps most famous among RBR’s older readers as a haunt for college kids and prom-goers throughout the state in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It was très classe to pull up in a limo, a magnum of champagne on ice, and then treat your tipsy date to a more-more-than-decent prime rib.

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Baby Doe’s menu

Was it overpriced? You bet. It was very easy to spend $200-plus on dinner service for two, even three decades ago. Was it cheesy? None more cheddary. But, the food was very good for what it was, and the menu was simple and timeless.

It was a grown-up-in-training restaurant, as well: Much like many New Orleans staples, Baby Doe’s would serve a nice glass of wine to anyone who could afford it and who could act like a discrete adult (hey, it was a different era). But, of most importance was the romantic evening atmosphere set by the magnificent skyline view; to this day there’s nothing quite like it.

Sadly, Baby Doe’s Matchless Mine is no more, at least in Birmingham. Following the blizzard of 1993, the Baby Doe’s roof was destroyed. The restaurant shuttered the doors for good rather than repair and renovate. That is a shame.

So, pour one out for Baby Doe’s. If you have a BDMM story, tell us in the comments. #TheseKids have no idea what they missed out on.

And, Lili, if you’re reading this, the offer still stands for dinner :)

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