Mystical high teas, delectable soul food with history, decadent breakfasts, and crazy mash-ups—foodies with a taste for something truly unique need look no further than Alabama’s hottest new restaurants. Call it “destination dining.” These 10 eateries serve up tasty and inventive fare with that little something extra that makes them worth a drive. Road trip, anyone?
1. Pannie-George’s Kitchen, Montgomery
This family-run favorite originally out of Auburn offers up mouthwatering fall-off-the-bone ribs inside the newly expanded Legacy Museum in Montgomery. Featuring heirloom soul food recipes, the meat and 3 takes its name from the Taylor family’s grandparents. As for the internationally renowned museum, its enlarged exhibition space debuted last fall with new artwork, immersive exhibits spotlighting slavery’s continued impact on society, and intimate theaters showing first-hand accounts of the civil rights movement and the modern penal system.
2. Urban Bar & Kitchen, Tuscaloosa
On a menu focused on Southern comfort food, diners might expect to find expertly crisped chicken and waffles and decadent towers of fried green tomatoes layered with lump-crab cakes. And Tuscaloosa’s new Urban Bar & Kitchen does not disappoint on that front, but it also surprises. The brunch and dinner spot in the heart of downtown offers an extensive gluten-free menu and creative veggie options such as Buffalo-style cauliflower “wings,” deep-fried and tossed in sauce. Don’t miss Urban’s photo booth, where guests’ snaps are turned into digital GIFs to share.
3. Dragon’s Forge Café, Huntsville
Here be dragons and … lattes? The new fantasy-themed Dragon’s Forge Café in Huntsville’s Lowe Mill gives folks a place to escape the everyday over specialty teas and single-origin coffees in a whimsical space. Sip a cherry-lemonade “Health Potion” sparkling with edible glitter. Nibble a rainbow-colored Unicorn Treat while holding court on the dragon throne. Or go all out for a proper high tea complete with house-made scones and delicate finger sandwiches filled with chicken salad and cucumber. Time a visit with one of the café’s regular Dungeons & Dragons games or a music night.
4. Oso Early, Orange Beach
What do you put on 3 chocolate espresso pancakes? Kahlua chocolate, rum caramel, and coconut cream, obviously. The new Oso Early in Orange Beach—sister restaurant to the popular Oso in Bear Point Harbor—takes breakfast and brunch favorites and pushes them over the top. Look for gouda gravy on the shrimp-and-grits dish and huevos rancheros topped with mini quesadillas. Wash it all down with house-squeezed juice and gourmet cold brew coffee.
5. Neighbors Brew & Pies, Leeds
Stone-fired pizza from scratch and house-brewed beer are just the beginning at Neighbors Brew & Pies in Leeds (be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol). The brand-new brewpub shares space with the eminently craveable Saw’s BBQ, as well as pool tables and arcade machines. Out back, the outdoor artificial grass entertainment space dubbed The Backyard—also part of the Shops of Grand River—invites guests to play games, catch a musical act, or go toe-to-toe for a round of boccie or mini golf. Or, grab that pizza to go and head next door for a film at the 4-screen drive-in movie theater.
6. Ravello, Montgomery
From the speakeasy-style basement bar to the intimate chef’s table in the open-plan kitchen to the lofty mezzanine overlooking a grand dining room, there’s not a bad seat in the house at the much-anticipated Ravello. The high-end eatery is expected to open in January. Focused on coastal Italian fare, expect a rotating selection of house-made pastas and fresh fish and meats roasted over a roaring fire. Ravello takes its inspiration from the Amalfi Coast, legendary for spectacular views. Appropriately, Ravello’s offers the best views of downtown Montgomery’s Commerce Street.
7. The Well, Opelika
To call The Well a tea shop or coffeehouse falls short of this collection of impeccably decorated rooms and carefully curated vignettes in downtown Opelika. Sure, there are hand-blended teas and coffees to be had. But less common selections include collagen elixirs and a rainbow of adaptogen lattes flavored with everything from pineapple to turmeric. Tasty bites like mocha donuts and more substantive, health-forward, grab-and-go fare are just a taste of what’s for sale. The collective of 20 women-owned businesses offer clothing, decor, handmade goods, and even the furniture guests sit on.
8 and 9. Revivalist/Baker & Able, Huntsville
Two perfectly paired establishments await visitors to downtown Huntsville’s newest boutique hotel, the 106 Jefferson by Hilton’s Curio Collection. On the ground floor, the Revivalist restuarant and bar harks back to warm tavern life with modern takes on European and American regional cuisine, with premium ingredients like Mangalitsa pork and Akaushi rib eye.
Head upstairs to the rooftop lounge Baker & Able, named for the first primates to survive a space flight on a Huntsville-built Jupiter rocket, where craft cocktails and panoramic views of the city await.
10. Cheetos Korean Fusion Dessert Café, Opelika
South Korea may not have invented the themed café, but it’s definitely mastered it. And the family behind the new Cheetos brings the colorful, fun, and tasty phenomenon to Opelika. You won’t find the popular orange snack food here. Instead, you can sample some of the latest food crazes, like a french fry–wrapped hot dog called the Ugly Potato Dog or the superbly crispy Croffle, a waffle-croissant hybrid, topped with tiramisu cream or cheddar. Playing backdrop to the wild snacks at this new eatery is a vibrant, candy-colored dining room and a bevy of Instagrammable bevies, bobas, and shakes to wash it all down.
Whether it’s Alabama or Albania, travel expert and award-winning journalist Jessica Fender lives to find exciting new eateries. Follow her adventures throughout the South and beyond on Instagram @travelerbroads.
AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.
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