Fife’s Restaurant — Birmingham, Alabama

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Fife’s Restaurant, 2321 4th Ave. North, Birmingham, 205-254-9167, Facebook
Hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday thru Saturday

Fife’s is a Birmingham institution. The restaurant has been serving up soul food since 1956, and for good reason: the food tastes like it was prepared with love — like your granny cooked it. The fried chicken, the squash croquettes — there’s no need to try to imitate. You’re not going to get close. And the community knows that as well — there’s almost always a steady stream of cars parked outside the restaurant, from breakfast to nighttime.

So when a co-worker recently announced he was going to Fife’s and was willing to pick up lunch, I decided to take him up on the offer. Why not start the blog on a high note? I’d never tried the restaurant’s mac and cheese before, but it had to be good, right? Precedent and all.

Ten minutes later, my colleague came back with lunch (for four people, so Fife’s shovels the food out quickly) and man oh man, did the mac and cheese look good. It was baked to perfection and there was a huge chunk of crust on top — my favorite part. Oh, and did I mention the portion? Fife’s gives you a hearty scoop of the cheesy noodles — so much that it overflows the portion of the take-out container meant for sides. It was a bit dry, but I attributed that to the fact it’s a take-out meal.

But was it any good?

The quick answer is … no. It was flavorless, bland and lacked seasoning. It tasted like how Britney Spears’ and Iggy Azalea’s “Pretty Girls” sounds: Before you listen to the song you want it to be terrific, like “Toxic” terrific, but by the end  you’ve already kind of forgotten you listened to the thing to begin with. It’s the same with this mac and cheese. It’s blah and forgettable.

So should you go to Fife’s? Absolutely. The price point is good — a meat-and-three dish is under $10 — and most of the dishes are down-home heaven. But skip the mac. Absolutely skip the mac.

Final score: 3.5 (out of 10)

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