Nothing, it seems, can stand in the way of an epic brunch. A wave of inventive new restaurants that opened in 2020—combined with established culinary hot spots on the rebound—has left Alabama foodies with enviable options for whiling away their weekend afternoons. From traditional to out-of-the-box, from high-end to home-cooked, these eight eateries from across Alabama make the perfect 2021 brunch bucket list.
1. Superhero Chefs, Tuscumbia
104 S. Main Street, Tuscumbia. (256) 320-7349; superherochefs.com.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s … peanut butter pancakes you’ll be dreaming about for weeks. Celebrity chef Darnell Ferguson—dubbed the “King of Brunch” on an episode of Beat Bobby Flay—opened Superhero Chefs in 2019, offering all-day breakfast and mouth-watering, handcrafted burgers at lunch. Brunch specialties include dishes like Sub Zero Cakes (blueberry pancakes with lemon-mascarpone) and Juggernaut waffle sammies.
2. The Hope Farm Urban Farm and Wine Bar, Fairhope
915 Nichols Avenue, Fairhope. (251) 340-3276; thehopefarm.com.
The distance from farm to table has never been shorter. Each dish on The Hope Farm’s perpetually changing brunch menu spotlights at least one ingredient—from bright satsumas to spicy radishes to delicate microgreens—grown on land behind the Fairhope restaurant. Everything else is locally sourced. Father-son team Robert and Bentley Evans opened this unique hybrid in June 2020 to combine their love of wine and agriculture. Weekend brunchers favor the signature mushroom toast with its compound butter, farm-raised mushrooms, and seasonal herbs. The menu varies from charcuterie to small plates to a tempting and shareable chateaubriand, offering options for appetites big and small.
3. Sunliner Diner, Gulf Shores
100 E. Second Avenue, Gulf Shores. (251) 937-6590; sunlinerdiner.com.
Step back into the era of sock hops and saddle shoes at the Sunliner Diner, which opened in Gulf Shores in 2018. All-day breakfast comes with a heaping helping of ’50s flare, from the vintage-clad staff to the functional jukebox to the old-fashioned car parked in the dining room and converted into a booth. Avocado Benedict and the Dream Boat, a tower of waffles layered with bacon and sausage and topped with whipped cream and caramel, are among brunch-time favorites. The menu is extensive. Treat yourself to a handspun milkshake or opt for a frozen Irish coffee or spiked hot chocolate for the full brunch experience.
4. Plant Bae, Montgomery
175 Lee Street, Montgomery. (334) 676-2961; plantbae.net.
Montgomery’s Plant Bae dispels the myth that vegan means salad. The capital’s first fully vegan eatery dishes up plate after plate of comfort food such as smoky collard greens or cleverly named Nox Tails and Gravy made with eggplant and a rich, étouffée-like sauce. (A dedicated brunch menu was shelved last year due to COVID-19; sweet potato biscuits, black bean breakfast bowls, and tofu scrambles will hopefully return this year.) Owner Quebe Bradford, who opened Plant Bae in May of 2020 with her husband, Eric, calls her fare “food that loves you back” and is constantly inventing new, creative dishes. Roasted tomato “tuna poke,” anyone? Grab an outdoor table beneath one of Plant Bae’s street-side apple trees and find out how creative vegan cooking can be.
5. The Depot, Auburn
124 Mitcham Avenue, Auburn. (334) 521-5177; allaboardauburn.com.
This fine-dining hot spot housed in Auburn’s historic train depot offers the quintessential, laid-back brunch experience and a menu focused on fresh seafood. The best part? All of the catch—from the crab in the Crab Cakes Benedict to the Gulf oysters that top the Eggs Rockefeller—is sustainably harvested. The Depot was Alabama’s first restaurant to earn the James Beard Smart Catch Leader Award. With its internationally recognized wine list, it’s no surprise the brunch cocktail menu is bubbly. Bar Manager and Wine Director Heather Tuten dresses up the classic mimosa with mango sherbet, rosé, and peach vodka, for example. Please note: The Depot is a game-day favorite during peak football season. Reservations are recommended.
6. La Esquina Cocina, Huntsville
127 Holmes Avenue NW Suite 101, Huntsville. (256) 858-1026; laesquinacocina.com.
Modern takes on traditional Mexican dishes have set La Esquina Cocina, which recently celebrated its first birthday, on a path toward Huntsville brunch superstardom. The Jimenez and Garcia family, which opened the sleek spot just off the downtown square, boast 30 years of restaurant experience in the South and has roots in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Their classically trained chef hails from foodie wonderland Mexico City. So, trust that the creamy poblano sauce on their chorizo egg scramble will be irresistible and that the chilaquiles served with a 6-ounce ribeye will be authentic. Brunchers can enjoy guava-mango mimosas and bottle service in the natural light–filled dining room or on La Esquina’s patio. And, because of its location in the heart of Huntsville’s entertainment district, patrons are welcome to take a drink to go and walk off brunch downtown. Note: Brunch is served on Sundays only.
7. Sage Juice Bar and Speakeasy, Tuscaloosa
2324 Fourth Street, Tuscaloosa. (205) 737-7663; sagejuicebar.com.
A juice bar and speakeasy may not be the first place you’d think to brunch, but this gem in Tuscaloosa’s historic downtown Temerson Square offers a novel alternative to traditional Southern fare. Health-forward dishes such as grain bowls come with local, organic eggs and bacon on weekends. And fresh-pressed juices—a minty pineapple-coconut blend called Mint 4 Me is particularly popular—can perk up your morning. The curated menu is rounded out with from-scratch smoothies, panini, acai bowls, wraps, and more. Proprietor Kenneth Cupp opened Sage in June with his wife, Cheyenne, to offer “a big city feel in a small town.” Look for music from jazz sax to classical guitar during brunch.
8. Yo’ Mama’s Restaurant, Birmingham
2328 Second Avenue N., Birmingham. (205) 957-6545; yomamasrestaurant.com.
Pre-pandemic, this family-run favorite in downtown Birmingham boasted lines out the door all weekend long. And when warm weather returns this spring, so will brunch with distanced-friendly sidewalk seating and the dishes fans have clamored for such as loaded seafood omelets and peach cobbler chicken-and-waffles. Yo’ Mama’s Restaurant’s comfort food menu comes from a lifetime of from-scratch recipes that owner and matriarch Denise “Mama” Peterson developed to feed her own family before launching the restaurant in 2014. And every sauce, dip, and condiment—from the syrup to the whipped topping to the Put on Everything (POE) Sauce—is made in-house, just like your mom would.
Travel blogger and guide author Jessica Fender valiantly eats her way across the South to bring you gems like these. Follow her adventures crisscrossing the country at travelerbroads.com.
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.