DDC

Digbeth Dining Club, Stars of 2019

For those who don’t know, Digbeth Dining Club is a weekly dining club in Digbeth. The clue is in the name, really. It’s the best street food (official) in the coolest suburb (official) in the country. And it’s ace. Really ace. I’ve covered off my favourite venders in the last couple of years (Buddha Belly and Flying Cows, if you really must know) and I’ll always have love for them, but it’s time to look at the newer venders I’ve tried this last year and a bit.

Fat Snags

Sossig’s, as the kids these days torture me with, but not just any sossig, but, for fucksake, a proper sausage (and breathe) made by Lashford & Sons to the Snagmeisters own personal spec. The obsession doesn’t stop there, the brioche buns come from a local baker whilst all of the sauces, bar the godly Pips hot sauce, are made inhouse. This is the hotdog of all hotdogs.

Dicks Smokehouse

It took me a while to try Richard’s food, but now I’m a fully-fledged convert. He know’s what he is doing; the meat is never oversmoked, always retains texture, and is paired-up with the right levels of acidity. This style of cooking is a difficult one to master, but they do it very well here. My Dad was very impressed, which is better than anything I have ever managed.

Only Jerkin’

Need help finding Only Jerkin’? Head straight to the biggest queue, wait, and then order some of the finest nuggets of chicken known to man. The key to eating here is to go big on the spice; you want plenty of the jerk gravy and as many of the sauces as you can muster. It’s these bits that really make Only Jerkin’ come alive.

Kebab Cartel

So edgy are the boys from Kebab Cartel that one of them held their stag party in Kiev. Mentalists. Back in Blighty I’ve become a big fan of the food; high quality meat, cooked slowly on a fuck-off rotating grill, carefully constructed to resemble something like you’d eat at 2am from a rat infested kebab shop, but is layered with big and bold flavours more akin to the better restaurants. I’ve also dropped two down my front in the last six months.

Beef on The Block

Everyone loves steak and chips, right? Unless you’re a cow. Or worse, a vegetarian. Those sassy ladies from Beef On The Block know this, sourcing quality cuts of bavette from the ever fantastic butchers, Aubrey Allen. The results are up there with the better steak restaurants in the city; tender meat with a lovely charred crust, chips, and a killer chimmichurri. Cooking all this to order only makes it more impressive.

(Photo by @thehangryblonde)

Yardbirds

Fried chicken between a bun. Fried chicken on a waffle. Fried chicken with buffalo sauce. Fried chicken. Glorious fried chicken. Clucking lovely fried chicken. You get the idea. Fried chicken. Crunchy coating, tender meat fried chicken.

Carcass

Not necessarily a DDC regular, but one that gets instant recognition thanks to one of the very best dishes I ate this year. A pork belly bun with delicate ribbons of fat cut through by a lively chimmichurri sauce and roquito peppers. Really outstanding. I always keep one eye open for them when they are back visiting.

Jade Rabbit

Big, brash, and in your face, and that’s just the owner, John. I’ve eaten a lot of Jade Rabbit this year because it always performs. Packed full of seasoning and spice, anything you order will be packed with loads of flavour.

Greidy’s

It was one of the founders of DDC who told me about Greidy’s. He said something about how good they are, to which I nodded, before coming back the following day to take my hangover out in full force. It’s good. Really good in fact. The sauces punch and burn in all the places and that chicken is fried with military precison.

Urban Cheesecake

It’s dessert time, folks. And this is one big happy ending you can have without lying about your whereabouts and visting the local massage parlour. A chunky slab of the sweet stuff adorned with unadulterated chocolately heaven. I like the caramac one, if only for it reminded me of those decades long ago when I was innocent and kind.

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Digbeth Dining Club, Birmingham 

I remember the first time I went to Digbeth Dining Club. It was a dreary day, cold and overcast, when summer promised much and delivered very little. We sat on the few benches outside, shivering and exposed to the elements, supping on beer and wondering what the hype was about. I remember very little about the food, other than a Cambodian pork dish from Canoodle that was ordered at the counter and hand delivered to our bench by the chap who made it. That was great; vibrant, clean, and a reason in itself to return on a more cheery evening. If someone would have told me on that evening that Digbeth Dining Club would go on to shape the casual restaurant scene in Birmingham over the next five years I would have spat my pint out of that massive gob of mine.

And yet, it has. Without DDC (herewith known as) we would have no The Meat Shack, no Original Patty Men, and no Indian Streatery to visit. Imagine that. No, actually don’t, it will give you nightmares. And we wouldn’t as a city be able to lay claim to the Britain’s ‘best of the best’, it’s best burger, and now, more recently, Europe’s best. I’ve gone a lot recently because now feels as good a time as ever to tell you about a few of my favourite traders. In the effort of a full disclaimer, I should point out that I personally know both of the founders. James has got me a beer in the past and Jack hasn’t. Neither will give me a DDC Gold Card and both would never dream of giving me, El Blaggo, anything for free. Take this at face value all you want, but all of the dishes have come out of my own pocket.

Hot off the European victory, Baked in Brick seems a good place to start. In the last fourteen months Mr Brick has pretty much cleaned up; British Street Food Awards Best Main Dish 2016, with Best of the Best the same year. This year he came second overall in the same awards, getting him to Berlin where he won the big one. I’ve written about Baked in Brick at length before, but it’s safe to say that his food is about as good as street food gets, whether that be his chicken tikka wrap or beef shin calzone. If you happen to be there when the red mini is, eat the food – it will not disappoint.

This year’s other victor is Flying Cows, winner of Best Burger at the UK street food finals. The burger here is a virtue to farming; the Dexter beef coming direct from his father’s farm. It’s loosely packed and ferociously seared so that the aged cow is the star, whichever burger is ordered. In a city that has made demigods out of burger traders who started off at DDC, Flying Cows is destined to be the next patty shaped success story.

I have mad love for Bourneville Waffle Company in a way that could invoke a restraining order. The warm waffles could be topped with brownie pieces, or addictive bits of fudge made with biscuit paste. It all works. Newer to me is Street Chef, who makes chips out of halloumi. I am fan of anyone that can combine chips and cheese without resorting to poutine. What really makes him stand out is the mushroom ketchup it is served with that brims with heat and attitude. I would like a bottle, please.

The folk of Birmingham would lynch me if I never mentioned Low’n’Slow, so here we are. Andy is a true maestro of flames and frankly shits all over any of the city’s permanent fixtures that serve smoked meat. His chilli brisket burger is a good place to start, which has layer-upon-layer of flavour sandwiched between buns. More recently I had a plate of pork off him that I took to Twitter to say was world class. World. Class. Working muscles end up as tangles of sweet meat and more expensive cuts fired to an accurate medium rare. Low’n’Slow is revered across the city for a singular reason; the man can really cook.

Buddha Belly has a former Masterchef contestant at the helm, firing off the kind of authentic food that gives Siamais nightmares about them opening a restaurant of their own. Have the yellow curry with chicken. Eat the yellow curry with chicken. Order another and Thank me afterwards. And Canoodle is still going strong, all those years after that pork dish stole my attention. We recently had Korean fried chicken and, more impressively, their signature beef rendang that melted to a sweet nothing.


There are others, some I’ve tried and some I haven’t yet. You see I went to the last DDC with the intention of having a Libertine Burger and ended up with tacos from Low’n’Slow. This happens all the time. I’m not so much a creature of habit, but a creature that hates disappointment. If I know it’s good I’ll return time again. I’ll get to Libertine eventually.

The point is that DDC feels more important than ever. They are attracting the very best week on week, providing the foundations for these vendors to expand or look to permanent fixtures of their own. It’s inevitable that the next crop of success stories will come from some of the above, and all deserve it. To the DDC class of 2017 keep up the good work. I salute everyone of you.

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