Huntsville, Alabama’s most populous city, attracts people from all over the country and the world because of its military base, Redstone Arsenal, and its emphasis on space exploration. Huntsville’s culinary scene reflects a wide range of dining preferences that go far beyond the expected Southern comfort foods. From a sublime, chef-prepared, special occasion dinner to the world’s best hushpuppies, eating is one of the best reasons to visit the Rocket City.
Many of these restaurants are featured with my personal recommendations, in my book, 100 Things To Do In Huntsville and North Alabama Before You Die, which is available on my website ThereGoesConnie.
The South, and Alabama in particular, is known for fried foods, barbecue, cornbread, grits, and calorie-laden desserts.
- Blue Plate Café on Governors Drive fulfills its slogan “tastes like grandma’s cooking” with three meals a day Monday through Saturday. Lunch and dinner serve up meat and threes, while the breakfast menu offers all the popular favorites including country ham.
- Old Greenbrier Restaurant on Old Highway 20 in Madison is well known for catfish, barbecue, and hushpuppies. Their patented Hush Puppy King produces lightly salted balls of cornmeal and onions by the multiple dozens throughout the lunch hour that are, in my opinion, the very best.
- Other eateries known for American comfort foods that have loyal customers are Rolo’s Café on Airport Road, G’s Country Kitchen on Oakwood Avenue, Toybox Bistro on Jordan Lane, and Walton’s Southern Table on Whitesburg Drive.
- Other notable barbecue restaurants to consider are Lawler’s Barbecue, Jim & Nick’s, Moe’s Original BarBQue, and Ted’s Bar-B-Q.
Well Known Chefs and Restaurant Owners
Chef James Boyce brought his skills to Huntsville in 2008, when he opened Cotton Row Restaurant on Courthouse Square in historic downtown. He followed that with Commerce Kitchen at the end of the same block, Pane e Vino Pizzeria in the Huntsville Museum of Art, and Grille on Main in the Providence Village. Pane e Vino Pizzeria serves pizza, pasta, and beverages on a large patio overlooking Big Spring International Park. Cotton Row primarily serves dinner, while Commerce Kitchen and Grille on Main offer lunch, dinner, and brunch on weekends. Special occasions, such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Eve feature three-course offerings that are extremely popular. Reservations are highly recommended.
I have experienced Mother’s Day at Cotton Row and Christmas Eve at both Commerce Kitchen and Grille on Main. All were exceptional occasions in some of the best restaurants in the state.
The Mells Deliver the Goods
Matt and Stephanie Mell own eight restaurants and bars in Huntsville. Among them are Mazzara’s, Purveyor, and Sea Salt Urban Oyster Bar.
- Mazzara’s Vinoteca is in the historic Humphrey-Rodgers House in downtown Huntsville.
- Purveyor is near the courthouse on Jefferson Street, and Sea Salt Urban Oyster Bar is on Clinton Avenue. The Italian dishes coming from Mazzara’s kitchen are authentic and divine, and I loved trying Purveyor during a recent Huntsville Restaurant Week. The service and menu were very special.
Chef/Owner Tom Brown is a relative newcomer to the Huntsville restaurant scene, but he has quickly made an indelible mark.
- Tom Brown’s Restaurant in Madison and his newly opened version on South Parkway share the same menu, but the décor at each one is an amazing demonstration of his wife’s vision and his daughter’s artwork. I lost count of the number of stunning chandeliers in both locations. One of my favorite entrees is Redfish topped with Crawfish Julie, but I’m also a big fan of the Mean Green Egg Rolls which are a popular appetizer made with pulled pork and collard greens. Steaks are also menu standouts.
Huntsville demographics reveal a wide range of nationalities. The connection to Germany is obvious. Wernher Von Braun and his team of rocket scientists helped put Huntsville on the map in the 1950s.
- Ol’ Heidelberg on University Drive has been in business since 1972. Some of our grandchildren, who generally only want chicken fingers and fries, give two thumbs up to Ol’ Heidelberg’s Chicken Schnitzel.
- Hildegard’s German Cuisine has been at the corner of Bob Wallace Avenue and Whitesburg Drive for almost 20 years. A teenage granddaughter recently requested this place for her birthday dinner and is learning to make German potato salad because of enjoying it at Hildegard’s.
Looking for Chips and Salsa?
Mexican restaurants are abundant in North Alabama. Two of the most popular in Huntsville are Rosie’s Cantina and Phil Sandoval’s Mexican Restaurante.
- Rosie’s Mexican Cantina serves homemade salsa, chips, and tortillas. The Sopapillas, Fried Ice Cream, and Tres Leches end many birthday celebrations at Rosie’s. Rosie’s has locations on University Drive and on South Memorial Parkway.
- Phil Sandoval’s Restaurante is located on University Drive and prides itself on authentic Mexican cuisine. Soft and crispy tacos and nachos can also be ordered.
Cook Your Own
A popular new restaurant with an Asian flair allows diners to cook their own meat at a grill built into the table.
- Stone Age Korean BBQ offers an All-You-Can-Eat chance for diners to experience the full menu. For a set price based on age, diners have up to two hours to enjoy a wide variety of meats and sides. This is a first come first serve eatery that does not take reservations.
Another popular Asian eatery is Phuket located in the Village of Providence, which offers Thai cuisine and sushi. P.F. Chang’s is a Chinese chain restaurant in Bridge Street Town Centre, great for noodles, rice, their famous lettuce wraps, and much more.
Huntsville has its first authentic British pub and restaurant offering English and Irish specialties. You’ll find it on the northside of Courthouse Square in downtown.
- The Poppy and Parliament is easily spotted with its poppy red exterior and British telephone booth outside. It serves lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and brunch and dinner on Sunday. Frog legs, bangers & mash, shepherd’s pie, and fish and chips are menu regulars, while colcannon and Spanish octopus are less well known. Upstairs is a Gourmet Store and butcher Shoppe with specialty cuts of meat and wonderful items that have been shipped in from the United Kingdom.
If you’re craving Greek dishes, head to Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe, Fresko Grille, or Big Papa Gyro, and my favorite for Italian food is Terranova’s Italian Restaurant on Highway 72.
Read More: 20+ Unique Places to Visit in Alabama
Bakeries and Specialty Eateries
- Mason Dixon Bakery and Bistro prepares items in-house daily catering to those with food allergies. No preservatives are used and only products that, according to the website, “you can hunt, grow, or farm.” They specialize in gluten-free baked goods.
- Dogwood & Magnolia Bakery is located in the town of Mooresville, outside of Decatur which is just a few miles north of Huntsville. The entire town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Owner Alexis Smith often hosts small parties and teaches cake and cookie decorating classes.
- Edgar’s Bakery has two locations in Huntsville. In addition to pastries and cakes, it also serves breakfast and lunch items.
- Le Macaron French Pastries is tucked among the shops of Bridge Street Town Centre and is great for a decadent treat.
When Only the Best Will Do
For a splurge-worthy, fine dining occasion, many give rave reviews to The Bottle in downtown Huntsville, Connors, a steakhouse at Bridge Street Town Centre, 1892 East Restaurant & Tavern at Five Points, and Char Restaurant on Bob Wallace Avenue.
If you are at Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment to observe artists or listen to live music, you will find several interesting places to eat. Among them are Piper & Leaf (a local tea company), The Happy Tummy, Pizzelle’s Confections, Chef Will the Palate (dedicated to the restoration of the earth), Suzy’s Pops, and Dragon Forge Cafe.
At Campus 805 and Stovehouse, there is plenty of outdoor seating and a wide variety of American and international cafes.
Visitors to Huntsville will find many of the recognized chain restaurants in addition to locally owned eateries serving regional specialties. This North Alabama city often associates friendship and a great time with food, and that is reflected in the wide variety of choices to suit every palate. I highly recommend that you come and choose your own favorites.