Huntsville, Alabama probably isn’t at the top of your culinary adventure bucket list. For shame! Huntsville restaurants have proven to be just as innovative as the U.S. Space and Rocket Center that calls this part of the state home.
What could possibly tempt your palate with when you head south? Microbreweries, absinthe bars and bartenders mixing sweet, salty and sour into enlightened cocktails. Ethically sourced fish being flown in and still flapping from the coast, and yes, we asked for the name of the fish (it was Charlie). Best of all, a perfectly balanced burrata salad that had us asking for more.
Whether you are flying in for work, dropping the kids off at Space Camp, or coming to hang out for a weekend with the girls, here is where you will want to eat, drink and get caffeinated while in Rocket City.
EAT: HUNTSVILLE RESTAURANTS
When you start to think about Huntsville restaurants, the first think you need to know is that reservations are the key. Yes, you can get a table without one, but if you want to guarantee a spot at a restaurant you have had your eye on, a reservation is highly recommended.
Huntsville locals love good food and they do eat out. You will have to fight them for a table on busy nights.
BLUE PLATE CAFÉ
Pretty much a staple in Huntsville, this breakfast spot, which also serves lunch, is always hopping. There is always room at the counter for anyone who wants eggs, bacon and pancakes bigger than your face. The staff is friendly and happy to chat for a moment if you are traveling solo, but there are plenty of tables if you are dining with friends.
Another Broken Egg
Right downtown, within walking distance of the Von Braun Center, you will find this tasty little breakfast spot. Service is quick, the menu is large, and the coffee is free flowing. Best of all, they serve mimosas, spiked brews and a variety of Bloody Marys with brunch. Breakfast specialties include Blackberry stuffed French toast, beignet biscuits and salmon avocado toast.
If you have even one bad bite at Domaine South than you obviously don’t love food. Every morsel is well balanced, beautifully plated and thought out. A simple salad of burrata, blood oranges, clementines, grapes and nuts was sweet and salt perfection. Paired with a glass of Cava (sparkling Spanish wine) during Saturday happy hour (11am-3pm) and lunch was complete.
Bring a few friends, grab a table outside and make sure you linger over a bottle or two. Even if you are traveling solo, a seat at the bar will find you eating well and in good company.
Arrive hungry. You have been warned. Plan on sharing small plates, like the beet salad and Cripsy Alabama Duroc Pork Belly, so you can dive into entrees featuring bourbon honey-glazed duck, beef short ribs and pan-roasted Gulf grouper.
Each bite is better than the next, with the perfect combination of flavors that doesn’t overwhelm your senses, but only inspires your mouth to want to dig in for another bite.
When your ingredients are coming in so fresh that the halibut was just plucked out of the waters of the Pacific Northwest less than 36 hours ago, flown to the restaurant and prepared for your, well, you can bet it’s going to be an experience. This restaurant prides itself on an ever-changing menu so good that you may have to have a Portlandia moment and ask for the name of your Airplane Chicken (yes, that’s on the menu).
Listen to the specials and ask the waiter for recommendations. The Ahi Taco appetizer should not be skipped. Ever. Even if you don’t think you like tuna. Get over it and give it a try. You’re welcome.
Passion fruit marshmallows is why I show up, but the rest of the population flocks to this chocolatier for the small chocolate truffles that look like works of art. The large shop in Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment is where you ca load up on goodies to bring home to the kiddos, or indulge in a decadent hot cocoa on a cool winter day. You know, if you haven’t filled up on chocolates already.
A nice spot to grab lunch after a hike in Monte Sano State Park. Flat breads and sandwiches are served in spades, but if you love brunch, plan on grabbing a table on the weekend. This is the spot to linger over your favorite breakfast foods and a Bloody Mary.
SIP: HUNTSVILLE COCKTAILS
You can’t go to Huntsville and not get a taste of the cocktail culture. Yes, the city has breweries, and some very good ones. What happens when you don’t drink beer though? Well, we are always up for the challenge, so we went in search of a few great sips across the city and here is what we found.
Aptly named, this lush bar is reminiscent of an old speakeasy, and the drinks are up to the task too. Get a bit dolled up, order a Bees Knees, and catch up with local friends, or the ones you brought with you. Parking is available across the street, although it is within walking distance of most downtown hotels.
Known more as an eating establishment, Purveyor Huntsville has a book filled with cocktails. Literally. Ask for the cocktail menu and an old book will come to you. How’s that work? The cocktail menu is glued into pages throughout the book.
Stick to the front, which is where you will find the Purveyor signature cocktails. Bourbon lovers, might we recommend the “John Locke?” You won’t be sorry.
Also, a restaurant, but the bartenders really know what they are doing. Worried a cocktail you are interested in might be too sweet? The bartender will make sure you get the perfectly balanced sip. We loved the “Forever Young” with its hints of passion fruit and citrus on a spring evening.
Headed to the coast? Check out these Gulf Shore restaurants our friends love.
CAFFEINATED: HUNTSVILLE COFFEE AND TEA SCENE
Now, you can’t just sip cocktails all weekend long. No, you will need to refuel with a morning latte, and Huntsville coffee is putting itself on the map in a big way.
Newcomers Off Beat Coffee Studio, and favorite staple Honest, serve impressive decaffeinated cappuccinos and lattes, which any coffee lover will know is hard to do. If you can roast a good decaf, you know the beans will be good.
OFF BEAT COFFEE STUDIO
Located in Campus No. 805, a multipurpose facility that is home to Civil Axe, Straight to Ale Brewery, and even Rock n’ Roll Sushi, they finally have their own coffee shop.
Off Beat Coffee Studio is doing things a little different too. Not only can you get a classic espresso drink, but you can also get cereal milk lattes. Want your latte sweetened with Lucky Charms milk? No, those marshmallows won’t be floating around your latte, but they will have the ever so slight hint of that sweet milk you get after eating the cereal used in your latte instead of plain milk. No, it is not gross or too sweet. In fact, sugar lovers may have to add in a little extra sweetener.
HONEST COFFEE ROASTERS
Originally out of Franklin, Tennessee (next to Nashville), Honest Coffee Roasters opened in Huntsville with much excitement back in 2017, and has been thriving ever since. With its prime location on Clinton Row, laptop users like to camp out for a few hours while getting their java fix. Visitors can grab a craft cuppa before strolling the cherry blossoms in Big Spring International Park. They also serve up a robust breakfast with acai bowls, breakfast sandwiches, biscuits and oatmeal on the menu.
Coffee Events: New in 2019, the Huntsville Coffee and Tea Festival was a massive success with lines out the door for tastings, specialty batches and a barista art competition. Look out for details for next year’s event.
PIPER & LEAF TEA CO.
For the non-coffee drinkers (oh the horror), there is Piper & Leaf Tea Co. Your basic blacks are certainly available, but it is the floral blends and complex varietals that you will want to try, especially iced. Think we are talking about wine?
Tea lovers will be thrilled to hear that a tea shop is treating their product with care and understands that the sweepings off the factory floor in a tea bag is not what tea should be all about. These big, bright beautiful leaves are where true tea-fanatics should be sipping.