My Birmingham: Jessica Merlin and Scott Doty

jessica-and-scott-merlinJessica Merlin, a physician at UAB, and Scott Doty, an industrial designer who designs kitchen gadgets, electronics, and other housewares, met in 2001 and got married in 2007. They share a love for thrift shopping and collecting—especially mid-century modern furniture—along with traveling, hiking and exercising in general. They also run the popular website www.whattoeatinbirmingham,  and though they’re moving to Pittsburgh for Jessica’s work at the end of July and putting their blog in the capable hands of Erin Shaw Street, they took a moment to look back over some of their favorites in Birmingham.

Here is Birmingham according to to Merlin and Doty.

What says “Birmingham” best: You moved here from Manhattan. After coming to Birmingham, what was your favorite Birmingham sight—a particular landscape, neighborhood, sculpture/symbol, etc.—that said to you, “We’re not in New York anymore”?   

Right after we moved here, our washing machine died. We went to a big box store to shop for a new one and ended up spending an hour talking to the salesman. Not about laundry machines, but about our recent move, my new job, and of course, Birmingham. This type of genuine interest in making personal connections regardless of where you are or what you are doing really stands out to us about living in Birmingham. It’s something that’s helped us build our blog—we’ve developed relationships with chefs, restaurant owners, front of house staff, back of house staff, you name it.

Best farmers market: Writing about food for your website,, is one of your passions. A lot of it’s about restaurants, but you’ve written about other food-related discoveries as well. What’s one of your favorite farmers markets?

We met Kristen Farmer Hall, owner of Feast and Forest and Baking Bandits, before we moved to Birmingham. Especially early on, she was our guide to all things cool in Birmingham. Our first weekend here, she took us to Pepper Place. We met folks there that first day who became our friends. And over the years not only have we seen Pepper Place grow, but we have seen friends including Kristen start out with small booths at Pepper Place on their way to having pop-ups and brick and mortar stores. For all these reasons, Pepper Place has always been a special place to us.

The iconic Birmingham dish: What’s your favorite iconic Birmingham dish—the one everyone must try at least once?

The cumin ribs at Great Wall. We’ve blogged about Great Wall’s fantastic Schezuan cuisine, including this dish. We recently ate our way through the Chinatown area of Flushing, Queens and had a chance to try the well-known cumin lamb at Xi’an Famous Foods. Great Wall’s cumin ribs, which are pork, reminded us so much of this dish. And in a rib town, we love eating these authentic Chinese ribs. It’s a good example of Birmingham’s outstanding ethnically diverse food scene and a great thing for those who have never had authentic Chinese dishes to start with.

Where to buy kitchen supplies: What’s your favorite place to shop for kitchen supplies? 

Since Mr. Foodie (Scott) designs kitchen gadgets professionally, even though we don’t cook as much as we would like since we are always out blogging, we have a ton of cool kitchen gadget samples in our house all the time.

As far as brick and mortar stores: Bresco Restaurant Supply in the Lakeview area. Mr. Foodie finds the industrial simplicity of professional tools to be really inspiring.

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