Foods to Try in Birmingham, England

Birmingham Balti at Shababs in Birmingham

Courtesy of Shababs

Birmingham has a thriving restaurant scene, which seems to become more and more hip with each passing year. The city is known for its global cuisine, particularly Birmingham balti, a Pakistani curry conceived in the city. Many of the Black Country's most famous dishes—like a Brummie bacon cake and Birmingham soup—aren't found in restaurants anymore. Instead, the city has embraced a mix of traditional dishes like a full English breakfast and more modern options in a street food format. Whether you're looking to taste classic offerings or just to try some of Birmingham's best meals, here are some bucket list foods to enjoy while in town.

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Sunday Roast

Traditional Sunday Roast

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A Sunday roast, usually eaten for lunch with family and friends, is a classic British meal, celebrated in pubs and restaurants around Birmingham. It typically includes a piece of roasted meat along with vegetables, potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and gravy. Many pubs tailor the roasts to cater to vegetarians and vegans, offering a nut or mushroom version. There are plenty of great Sunday roasts to enjoy around Birmingham, but for something traditional head to The Old Joint Stock Pub, a historic Victorian pub in the heart of Birmingham. A more modern option can be found at The Button Factory, located in the Jewellery Quarter.

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Pork Scratchings

small bowl of salted pork scratchings with a pint of beer
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Pork scratchings supposedly originated in Birmingham and the surrounding Midlands in the 1800s and today the crunchy snacks are still popular, especially in pubs. Scratchings, made by frying the pork skin from a pig's shank, are crispy and satisfying (and definitely not vegetarian). While you might find pork scratchings on various menus around town, the best way to try the indulgent bite is from Black Country Snacks, which offers them in a variety of flavors.

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Full English Breakfast

A traditional full English breakfast

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Build up your strength with a full English breakfast when traveling to Birmingham. The hefty morning meal includes eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, beans, hash browns, toast, and mushrooms or tomatoes. Basically, it's massive. Luckily, many modern restaurants have conceived lighter or vegetarian versions that won't give you a heart attack. Birmingham's favorite full English, in meat, vegetarian, or vegan form, can be found at JuJu’s Café, a casual spot that is budget-friendly. The Ivy Temple Row is another good option, with a hearty full English that will get you ready for the day ahead.

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Shrewsbury Cake

Named for the nearby town of Shrewsbury, a Shrewsbury cake has been a popular treat in Birmingham for more than 500 years. The dessert is not so much a cake as it is a cookie, made from sugar, flour, egg, butter, and lemon zest, as well as occasionally dried fruit. They may seem a bit basic to American cookie lovers, but the joy is in the simplicity. Many people bake their own but you can also find the cakes in a few bakeries in Birmingham. Take a quick day trip to Shrewsbury for the real thing, where Darwins sells both traditional and diabetic-friendly versions of the cookies.

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Birmingham Balti

Birmingham Balti curry at Shababs in Birmingham

Courtesy of Shababs

Venture to the "Balti Triangle" to taste Birmingham balti, a Pakistani curry that's made using the balti method of cooking. It comes with a variety of proteins and vegetables, including lamb, chicken, and eggplant, and a traditional balti is made by cooking the meat off the bone. There are a lot of places to try the dish around Birmingham, and you really can't go wrong at any of them. Some of the most popular include Shababs, Adil’s, and Shahi Nan Kebab House.

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Plate of grilled chicken with some rice and a salad

Courtesy of Istanbul Restaurant

England loves a good kebab, and Birmingham is no different. The city is filled with great Middle Eastern restaurants, with some of the best coming from serving up Lebanese and Turkish cuisine. Taste the authentic dish at Damascus Legend, named one of the best places for a kebab in all of Britain, while Istanbul Restaurant offers the Turkish versions of kebabs, as well as doner and meze. For a quick, budget-friendly meal, head to Pit Stop, which stays open until 4 a.m.

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Street Food

Food at Digbeth Dining Club in Birmingham

Courtesy of Digbeth Dining Club

Birmingham's street food scene is up and coming, with lots of new offerings popping up every year. To find the best, head to one of the street food collectives, like Digbeth Dining Club, which has numerous sites around town. There you'll find dozens of stalls selling dishes from around the world, as well as desserts and treats. Some of the most popular street food vendors have done so well that they've opened actual restaurants, including Original Patty Men. For delicious Indian dishes, try The Indian Streatery, a family-run spot with all female chefs.

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Savory Duck and Peas

Three bacon-wrapped meatballs on mashed potatoes with gravy and peas

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Savory duck and peas is an old-fashioned English dish, especially around Birmingham. Savory duck is a meatball made from ground meat, offal, breadcrumbs and onions, and wrapped in bacon. They are normally served with mashed potatoes and peas, along with a dousing of gravy. Generally, they're made with pork, but you can find chefs who create more modern interpretations of the traditional meal. Despite the old-school vibe, the dish can be found at restaurants throughout Birmingham, including The Bull.

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Groaty Pudding

Don't shy away from groaty pudding, a classic Black Country dish. It's a beef and onion stew that is typically thickened with the addition of groats (usually oats). The stew, sometimes known as groaty dick, is hearty and filling. It's traditional to eat groaty pudding on Guy Fawkes Night around Birmingham, and you'll usually find that it's homemade rather than in a restaurant, so make friends with a local to give it a try.

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Traditional pikelets with jam

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Somewhere between a crumpet and a pancake you'll find pikelets, a common Birmingham dish. They are flat thanks to the lack of yeast and are usually eaten as a snack (as opposed to breakfast). You're probably more likely to find American-style pancakes at restaurants around Birmingham, but diehard foodies can day trip to nearby Derby to visit Derby Pyclets & Oatcakes, which sells the true version of this Black Country treat.

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Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea with scones, cakes, jam and cream

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Pull up a chair for a traditional English afternoon tea, which typically consists of scones with jam and clotted cream, finger sandwiches and small pastries along with you actual tea. Like most destinations around the U.K., Birmingham has lots of options for an afternoon tea, whether you want something high-end or something inexpensive and casual. One of the most chic is at the The Edgbaston, a boutique hotel with a well-known cocktail bar. Their take on afternoon tea is whimsical and delicious (and perfect for Instagram).

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A pizza at Rudy's Pizzeria in Birmingham

Courtesy of Rudy's Pizzeria

It might sound strange to recommend pizza in Birmingham, but the city has lots of really good pies to offer. Rudy's Neapolitan Pizza is the most popular, serving up authentic pizza with a variety of toppings. In the Jewellery Quarter, Otto Pizzeria is beloved for wood fire pizzas, which showcase locally-sourced toppings. The Stable, adjacent to Birmingham New Street Station, is another favorite, especially with vegetarians and vegans. Their selection of plant-based, non-dairy pies taste just as good as the rest of the menu.