Wade on Birmingham

Birmingham’s Best Eats: Gilchrist and the old South rarity, tomato aspic


Tomato aspic, Gilchrist Drug Co.

Tomato aspic at the Gilchrist Drug Co. Photo by Wade Kwon.

By John-Bryan Hopkins

“Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother
wouldn’t recognize as food.” — Michael Pollan

Where do great-great-grandmothers eat? I remembered this charming corner soda shop/café in Mountain Brook, Gilchrist Drug Co. Very old-fashioned, old South and “grandmother-y.”

Birmingham's Best EatsThe place is usually teeming with children, mothers and, most importantly, older elegant Southern ladies. After reviewing the limited counter menu, I saw it: a phrase completely foreign to my culinary vernacular, tomato aspic. I had to order it.

These grande dames talked among themselves with perfectly coiffed hair, slow drawl and manners which made paper napkins appear to be fine linens. Every plate at their table was interesting. For example: a half-grapefruit-size scoop of deep red gelatin atop a piece of butter lettuce, served with a side of mayonnaise and several packs of saltines.

My plate arrived, and it was love at first bite. The aspic, served at room temperature, has a rich roasted tomato flavor with a hint of celery and anise spice. The mayo’s buttery texture and the saltine’s crunch made each bite even better.

Aspic, once a common side dish and main lunch item in the South, is now rare. Too bad. If good eating is about flavor, aspic is indeed a taste of times not forgotten.

Gilchrist Drug Co., Mountain Brook

Gilchrist Drug Co. is Mountain Brook’s oldest business,
in its original location since 1928.
Photo by John-Bryan Hopkins.

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Gilchrist Drug Co.

  • 2805 Cahaba Road, Mountain Brook [map]
  • (205) 871-2181
  • Hours: 8 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Monday-Saturday

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John-Bryan HopkinsBirmingham’s John-Bryan Hopkins loves talking about food facts, their origins and, most of all, what food means to us. His site/blog is Foodimentary (@Foodimentary).

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Hungry for more? Check out the menu of Birmingham’s Best Eats!

4 Yips for “Birmingham’s Best Eats: Gilchrist and the old South rarity, tomato aspic”

  1. Morty
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010, 12:27 am

    I couldn’t count the number of times I drove all the way from Warrior for the sole purpose of getting limeade at Gilchrist. It kills me that I didn’t figure out that place was there until 1992 or so…

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    Wednesday, August 4, 2010, 6:38 am

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  3. Wade
    Wednesday, August 4, 2010, 5:25 pm

    Morty: I still haven’t been. So I should get the tomato aspic with a limeade?

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    Sunday, August 22, 2010, 12:04 pm

    […] Best Eats: Pie crazy – tomato tart, blueberry pieMore in the 2008 Ultimate Summer Movie GuideBirmingham’s Best Eats: Gilchrist and the old South rarity, tomato aspicPrepare for the Ultimate Summer Movie […]

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