In recent times the West midlands has started to go through something of a renaissance when it comes to food and you have to look no further than Birmingham to get a feel for what is really going on. The restaurants are starting to change and there are new and interesting places popping up on the high street like Rub smokehouse, Buffalo and Rye (review incoming) and grand centrals food court, but it’s on the side streets of the city that the real noise is being made. Just a 15 minute walk from New street station is the district of Digbeth, the birth place of the ever popular and ever growing Digbeth Dining Club which is a perfect representation of how peoples attitude towards food is evolving in the area.
No longer are people satisfied by the monthly chippy tea or rashly palming Justeat to get the nearest greasy pile of whatever thrown at you through your door, people want more. We as a country are starting to realise the power of street food and what it can do to elevate your meal times to a whole new level. We are no longer happy with what we would expect to see and that drives us to want to try new things like craft beers, foreign twists on traditional favourites and every possible level of edible ingenuity we can get our hands on. Digbeth Dining Club delivers all of these things and still leaves room to push on even further. Good job then that this food revolution has reached my doorstep in sleepy Staffordshire.
Codsall is very close to my heart as I had a family connection in the village during my childhood, going there is always an incredibly nostalgic event for me but today was not just a trip down memory lane. It was my first time at the dining club here as it has popped up several times this year already but upon walking over to the stalls, the atmosphere was as good as I imagine the first day was. There was a real buzz of anticipation around the place and I think it stands to reason it has done so well and been able to return so many times because people really do love this kind of thing now. We quickly scanned the stalls which included some mouth watering, internationally diverse food styles such as Philippine, Greek, American and Mexican.
As you can imagine making a decision and committing to something is always an issue at these kind of events but being recently initiated into the world of smoking meat I was drawn to the bright red stall of big daddies diner. Hot dogs that offer something for everybody whether that is a straight forward dog in the Slim Jim or something a little more ambitious such as the Edna. Naturally I ordered the Edna, two Slim Jim dogs on a soft white roll topped with Brewdog Hardcore IPA chili and topped with cheese and crispy onions. First off I will say the sausages themselves were really quite good, with a prominent smoked flavour and a sturdy skin that has just enough bite to make it last a little bit longer, as it’s very tempting to not savour any of it and just savage the whole thing. The chili that is smothered across the top of the sausages in all its velvety glory, is a smooth and subtly spiced beef chili that is mild enough to appeal to all but can be perked up with a touch of hot sauce. The chili would almost be a star if it was available on its own but paired with the smoke of the Slim Jim sausages it just creates such a cavalcade of complex flavours it would be sad to split them up. I don’t really feel the addition of the IPA stands out in any apparent way but it is a quirky selling point and I like it, it is a good chili and would stand up against the best of them. Big thumbs up from me and good value at £6.00.
Next up was The Flying Cows and their decadent selection of burgers. Anybody who even half knows me instantly makes the connection between me and a good burger, which is fine by me as the battle of the burgers was genuinely a huge achievement at the time and even helped me get the a job! It did spark a passion within me for burgers as a medium of culinary creativity, the opportunities are endless between the halves of a bun, but a good burger relies on the quality of its content and not the volume. Too many places think that a gourmet burger just means piling too many excessive,expensive or odd ingredients between a half arsed burger bun is acceptable, when really all you need is to think about the sum of its parts a little more carefully and keep it simple. It feels like The Flying Cows gets me when I ate their ‘Barry knows best’ option from their menu. I will walk you through levels here… A brioche bun, a scattering of red onions and crispy greens, a steak burger topped with melted blue cheese, a few thin slices of chorizo lashed with mayo and finished with the other half of the brioche. What an absolute champion of a burger this was. Everything just worked and you could tell these guys cared about the food that was being passed to the customers through the sheer quality of the burger itself. It was a firm and juicy patty that bordered on creamy in its texture and bonded so well with the toppings. The richness of the blue cheese paired up with the warm paprika hug of the chorizo make this a definitive burger experience. Possibly even the best one I have had this year to be fair and at £6 I can say it is great value for money. This would probably be north of £15 with sides and fries in a restaurant. Just awesome.
These were my two major highlights but it goes without saying that you can only eat and drink so much in a single visit and it is clear that every single vendor that had turned up was bringing their ‘A’ game and that they really cared about their produce. Honourable mentions have the go to ‘Shake that ting’ for a decent banana milkshake and ‘Street Souvlaki’ for making the place smell incredible with their Greek BBQ, although the Greek platter looked great with it’s mixture of pork, chicken and halloumi, I would say it maybe didnt look the best value of the day at £8 but there were a lot of moving parts to the dish and I was told it was super tasty and my friend did enjoy it. Broughs brewery from Wolverhampton had two cask ales available on their bar but we only tried the golden ale. It was quite a generic ale in terms of its flavour profile but it would have been easy to drink in the warm weather had I been in it for the long haul. I just hope next time I can get round a little bit more and try some of the other delights that are delivered to the village in such exciting fashion.
To close out I have to give a huge nod to the organisers of this and Digbeth Dining Club for bringing something different to our local area, making amazing street food something we can get almost at will rather than it only being something we experience at borough market. Up until recently street food in the West Midlands started and finished at a jacket potato covered in tinned beans or a boiled hot dog in a 30p white roll. Thanks to these wonderful people I can honestly say the axis of gastronomic monotony has officially been broken. Settle for Greggs no more my friends. Go to Codsall Dining Club and join the revolution!