Photo by Brittney Harrison.
Brad and Kim Riegel peruse the menu at Billy’s.
Situated at the corner of Cahaba Road and Fairway Drive in historic English Village is a Mountain Brook tradition: Billy’s Sports Grill. Known for large grilled burgers, hand-cut onion rings and simple salads, this is the place where friends meet for no-nonsense food in an easy atmosphere.
Billy’s has been the kind of place where you could pop in for uncomplicated food and good times since original owner Billy McConnell started it as a corner grocery store and small sandwich shop in 1979. Restaurateur (and CPA) Terry Humphryes bought the restaurant about seven years ago with the aim of taking the best of the business–like that signature chicken sandwich and famous white sauce–and improving upon the finer points. An updating of the classic restaurant means that the regulars still feel right at home while new customers are attracted to come inside. It is not unusual for Billy’s to be the first stop former residents make when they come back through Birmingham.
Marketing & Special Events Director Leigh Ann Callaway smiles when she says their tagline: “Feed Your Goat.” It is a funny phrase but it sums up the atmosphere of the place. The theme continues with the Billy’s dancing goat icon on the menu indicating specialties: fried olives, the southwestern wrap, Santa Fe salad and hand-cut filets, to name just a few.
“It’s funny, but Billy’s changes who it is several times a day,” Callaway said. Lunch time finds tons of young professionals, getting their ESPN fix before heading back to the office. Oversized flat-screen televisions on almost every wall make it the perfect place to watch sporting events of any kind.
“Early afternoon, we’ll see groups of women meet up for sweet tea or a glass of wine, after a tennis match,” Callaway said. “They can relax here. In fact, we have one customer who stops in every day for a single glass of wine at 4 p.m. I can practically set my watch by her arrival.” All bottles of wine are half-priced all day on Wine’d Down Wednesdays.
It should be noted that families with kids are equally at home at Billy’s. With a no-smoking-before-10 p.m. rule, everyone can get their BLT or cheddar bacon fries needs fulfilled. The Greek salad, with feta and pepperoncini peppers, as well as the traditional Caesar are big hits at dinner. Customers can add grilled chicken or fresh salmon to either selection. Continuing the evolution, Billy’s turns into a live-music joint several nights a week, attracting an entirely different group of customers.
The success of the English Village location helped make expansion possible to nearby Liberty Park. This location also plays host to casual lunchtime get-togethers and frenzied sports viewing parties. But, located just out the back door of Mountain Brook High School, students are also likely to stop by for a quick Billy’s Chicken Club or fresh Chef Salad.
Manager Kyle Buntin will be the first to tell you that it is the quality of the food that every customer can agree upon. “All of our food is cooked to order with no pre-packaged frozen products,” he said. “If it takes a little longer to get those onion rings out, it’s because we make each order when the customer places it. We’re also pretty proud of our award-winning wings, which have taken first place at the annual Kick’n Chick’n Wing Fest.”
Now that Billy’s is the exclusive restaurant inside the Barber Motorsports Complex, they are guaranteed to earn even more fans. In fact, the Billy’s catering team handles such high-profile events as the Honda Indy Grand Prix race.
It sounds like Terry Humphryes and his group have put together their own winning team: fresh simple food enjoyed in a comfortable atmosphere.
Christiana Roussel lives in Crestline and enjoys all things food-related. Follow her culinary musings online at ChristianasKitchen.com or on Facebook or Twitter (Christiana40).