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3 Alabama cities where you should eat

Indulge in handcrafted sips and fresh pastries at Botanic. Photo by Mary Fehr

Some globe-trotters travel seeking natural wonders, a bustling art scene, or the chance to soak up some sun. For others, the path to their vagabond hearts lies straight through their stomachs.

Looking for some of the best places to eat in Alabama? Whether it’s high-end dining, unique regional dishes, or learning about a town’s history one bite at a time, the Yellowhammer State has a smorgasbord of options. These 3 delicious destinations make for perfect foodie weekend getaways in Alabama. 

Jump to: Auburn-Opelika | MobileTuscaloosa

1. Seafood in Mobile

To get seafood any fresher, you’d have to swim for it. Gulf-cozy Mobile’s growing rep for fine dining and foodie finds makes it an ideal base for Alabama gourmands. 

Must-try dish in Mobile

Don’t leave without trying the Mobtown original known as West Indies Salad. The ceviche-like dish combines sweet onion and tender crabmeat drenched in oil and vinegar.

Sadly, Bayley’s Seafood, the restaurant where the dish was invented, closed last year. Lucky for us, another historic spot, Wintzell’s Oyster House, serves the delicacy along with its namesake bivalves and an award-winning seafood gumbo.

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Restaurant reservations to snag

At The Hummingbird Way, it’s no surprise that local oysters, soft-shell crab, and whole flounder star on the menu: Executive Chef Jim Smith chairs the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission (and twice competed on Top Chef, but who’s counting?). For a treat-yourself experience, sign up for his 5-course tasting menu with expertly curated wine pairings.

Or splash out on a meal with a view at Dauphin’s, where the area’s first chef’s table offers a backstage kitchen pass and stunning sunsets seen from high above Mobile Bay.

What to do in Mobile

Two Oyster City Brewing Co. glasses being toasted together

Sip on a cold one at Mobile's Oyster City Brewing Company. Photo Courtesy Oyster City Brewing Company

Originally a Florida fave, the Mobile location of Oyster City Brewing Co. offers a welcoming atmosphere and a beer garden with live music on weekends. In addition to regular food tours through historic downtown that garner sky-high ratings, Bienville Bites Food Tour occasionally goes wild with creative options such as an ’80s-themed murder mystery experience.

You may also like: Dauphin Island, Alabama’s sunset capital, offers fun for everyone

Where to stay in Mobile

Seating area near a staircase inside Admiral Hotel

The Admiral Hotel boasts more than 150 guest rooms and an outdoor pool. Photo courtesy The Admiral Hotel

The Admiral Hotel, located in the heart of the historic district, originally opened in 1940. The property has 156 guest rooms, an outdoor pool, and is located next to plenty of foodie hot spots. Rates start at $149. AAA rates starts at $134.

2. The classics in Tuscaloosa

Nothing’s more satisfying than a heaping helping of nostalgia. And with the University of Alabama football season in full swing, now’s the time to taste Tuscaloosa at its best. 

Must-try dish in Tuscaloosa

Dreamland Bar-B-Que ribs along with sides of bread and beans

Tuscaloosa's Dreamland Bar-B-Que serves up tasty pork ribs with all of the usual sides. Photo by Mary Fehr

The hickory smoke scent that wafts through town isn’t just for show. Druid City is known for its barbecue, and here, that means pork ribs. Two legendary ’cue joints vie for visitors’ attention on this front: Dreamland Bar-B-Que in Tuscaloosa and Archibald and Woodrow’s BBQ just across the river in Northport. Savvy gastronomists make time for both.

You may also like: 5 epic Alabama road trips

Restaurant reservations to snag

Located on the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk, the upscale-casual River specializes in elevated takes on southern classics such as Alabama catfish and rib eye. Arrive early to take advantage of a generous happy hour.

Waysiders breakfast spread: pancakes, biscuits, eggs, bacon, and grits

Elephant-shaped pancakes? Say no more. Come for breakfast or a meat-and-three plate. Photo by Mary Fehr

Reservations aren’t accepted at iconic breakfast and meat-and-three spot The Historic Waysider. With an interior that doubles as a museum for the hometown team, expect a line for game weekend breakfasts, along with special elephant-shaped pancakes.

What to do in Tuscaloosa

R&R Cigar

Chill out with a beverage and catch a Crimson Tide game on one of R&R Cigars’ big-screen TVs. Photo by Mary Fehr

If you can’t catch the Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium, upgrade your game-watching experience at a restored 1903 mansion. R&R Cigars provides a well-stocked humidor, a full bar featuring hard-to-find whiskeys, and multiple lounges with big-screen TVs.

Or spend a few hours learning to whip up biscuits and homemade pastas at Cleaver & Clove’s new downtown culinary studio for a souvenir that lasts a lifetime.

You may also like: 8 of the best food trucks in Alabama

Where to stay in Tuscaloosa

Located in the heart of the action—and backed by Tide Head Coach Nick Saban—The Alamite opened last year as Tuscaloosa’s first upscale boutique hotel. Foodie bonus: There’s a rooftop bar and an on-site French-inspired steak house. Rates start at $153. AAA discounts are available.

3. Farm-to-fork in Auburn-Opelika

This college town leans on the bounty of local farms and the creativity of its resident chefs to whip up a destination-worthy dining scene that’s gaining momentum all the time. 

Must-try dish in Auburn-Opelika

Depot lump crab cake

Diners can dig into Alabama jumbo lump crab cake with heirloom tomatoes, pickled cucumber, Alabama royal red shrimp salad, corn, and aioli at Depot. Photo by Mary Fehr

Sampling something grown locally is imperative. Go for the brunch plates and killer seasonal cocktails at Lucy’s or sustainable seafood at the much-lauded Depot. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find refined-dining spots here that don’t tag local purveyors on the menu.

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Restaurant reservations to snag

No foodie comes to Auburn without stopping at Acre, where it seems chef David Bancroft is nominated for James Beard Awards as often as he’s credited with kick-starting the town’s farm-to-table scene. Gardens and orchards on the premises plus regional ranches contribute to his stylishly Southern fare.

The hotly anticipated 1856 is a new teaching-and-fine-dining restaurant at Auburn University’s Rane Culinary Science Center. Meals take advantage of the 4,400-square-foot rooftop garden as well as the expertise of renowned chefs-in-residence Tyler and Jenn Lyne.

What to do in Auburn-Opelika

Shoppers browsing the selection at Lambert Powell Meats

Shop hand-cut filet mignon to picanha—a prized Brazilian cut—at Lambert-Powell Meats Lab. Photo by Mary Fehr

With a wealth of well-stocked farmers markets, Auburn-Opelika is a gourmet grocery lover’s delight. Just be sure to pack a cooler. For a truly unique shopping experience, geek out at the Lambert-Powell Meats Lab, where everything from hand-cut filet mignon to picanha—a prized Brazilian cut—is for sale.

Peaches and other treats on display at Botanic

Shop fresh fruit and other treats at Botanic’s shops and eateries. Photo by Mary Fehr

Unwind with a craft cocktail and live music on the gracious patio at the newly opened garden center and foodie hub Botanic. The entire compound of shops and eateries is built around a gorgeous hydroponic greenhouse and a love of nature.

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Where to stay in Auburn-Opelika

Seating area inside the Laurel Hotel & Spa

A stay at The Laurel Hotel & Spa includes aperitivo hour, gourmet snacks in the Library Lounge, and breakfasts that guests rave about. Photo by Thomas Watkins

The state’s first ultra-luxury accommodation, The Laurel Hotel & Spa, falls into the category of “spendy, but worth it.” Perks for the peckish include aperitivo hour, gourmet snacks in the Library Lounge, and breakfasts that guests rave about. Rates start at $429.

For cozier digs, the Auburn Bed and Breakfast at Shoofly Farm promises relaxed luxury, including epic weekend brekkies, walking trails with bucolic views, high-end in-room flourishes—did someone say soaking tub?—and impossibly cute barnyard animals. Rates start at $190. Resort fee is included in the tax.

Natural wonders are nice, but give travel pro and journalist Jessica Fender a foodie destination any day. Follow her adventures eating her way through the South and beyond at 

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