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An Alabama road trip every foodie should take

Peach Park Peach Park in Clanton is famous for house-churned peach ice cream in the off-season and fresh, juicy peaches all summer long. | Photo by Cary Norton

Secret-basement cocktail lounges, school buses packed with exotic meats, truly legit Italian, gourmet markets, springtime vineyards—the flavors of Alabama are more varied than you might think.

We’ve cooked up the following itinerary for a 3-day, 500-mile foodie road trip planned around sampling the Yellowhammer State’s culinary smorgasbord. (Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about barbecue—there’s a visit to fifth-generation pitmaster royalty.) 

This trip is designed as a loop through some of the state’s tastiest attractions, and you can choose to savor the whole route in a single long weekend, or take your time and consume it in bite-size pieces. Either way, remember to bring a good cooler, a big appetite, and maybe a pair of pants with an elastic waistband. On your mark, get set, bon appétit! 

Birmingham to Auburn via Montgomery

Market at Pepper Place

Shoppers browse various vendors at Birmingham’s Market at Pepper Place. | Photo by Cary Norton

Birmingham’s Saturday-morning-only Market at Pepper Place offers ample chances to load up on breakfast and trip nibbles from 100 Alabama makers and growers. Arrive early for treats from Bandit Patisserie or Ivory LeShore’s picnic-perfect single-serving bread puddings, and browse the wares of other local superstars. 2829 Second Avenue S., Birmingham. (205) 490-3176.

Missed the market? Nearby Alabama Peanut Company serves up the South’s signature road trip snack flavorfully toasted in antique roasters or craft boiled in a rotation of more than 100 house recipes. 2016 Morris Avenue, Birmingham. (205) 538-7422.

Next, head south to Clanton, where a giant peach standing 120 feet tall hints ever so subtly at the small town’s claim to fame: Surrounding Chilton County grows 80% of Alabama’s peaches. Quirky farm-stand-meets-roadside-attraction Peach Park stuffs the summer fruit into indulgent fried pies and freshly churned ice cream. Snap a selfie with another giant peach near the parking lot and continue south. 2300 Seventh Street S., Clanton. (205) 755-2065.

You may also like: Biggest roadside attractions in the U.S.

Lunchtime! For simple, nostalgic fare with a heaping side of history, drop into Montgomery’s oldest family-run restaurant. U.S. presidents and Martin Luther King Jr. have bellied up to the narrow counter at Chris’ Famous Hotdogs, open since 1917. Grab a chili dog and wait for a break in the stream of staffers from the nearby state capitol to ask the grill man about how country legend Hank Williams used to write songs at Chris’ lunch counter. 138 Dexter Avenue, Montgomery. (334) 265-6850.

Just 26 miles east, in Shorter, true meat artistry awaits inside a vintage school bus, but you’ll have to get past the very photogenic turkey first. Shana’s Place began as a deer-processing operation and has grown to include several freezers packed with cuts like tomahawk chops and Australian Wagyu and exotic finds like antelope. Cheesy cauliflower-stuffed chicken breast wrapped in bacon, anyone? Also on the menu: house-made quiches, compound butters, imported shoyu, biscuits, Burrata—anything and everything an adventurous gourmand needs. This is why you brought the cooler, people. 1894 County Road 6, Shorter. (334) 439-5080.

Acre Peanut Butter Pie

In Auburn, the James Beard–nominated Acre serves creative fare made with ingredients picked from the restaurant’s on-site gardens. | Photo by Cary Norton

Hope you’re hungry! The road from farm to table doesn’t get much shorter than at Auburn’s James Beard Award–nominated Acre. Three on-site gardens supply figs, lemons, kale, collards, pumpkins, peaches, rosemary, and more for the fine-dining spot’s specials and cocktails. Neighboring Black Belt farmers like Hickory Grove and Hornsby guest-star on the menu as well. Reserve a prime dinner seat at the chef’s bar to watch the pros work their magic. 210 E. Glenn Avenue, Auburn. (334) 246-3763.

Auburn-Opelika boasts several highly rated bed-and-breakfasts. Both the Crenshaw Guest House (371 N. College Street, Auburn; rates start at $179) and Heritage House (714 Second Avenue, Opelika; rates start at $150) are historic homes where hearty hot breakfasts are served. 

Auburn to Huntsville via Gadsden

Start the day in Auburn with a freshly made lemonade at local landmark Toomer’s Drugs, located at the intersection where Auburn University fans famously festoon the live oak trees with toilet paper. 100 N. College Street, Auburn. (334) 887-3488.

Think of today’s winding backroads route as a choose-your-own-adventure situation. If picnic fixings are crowding your cooler, take a short detour from US 280 to D.A.R.E Power Park in Jackson’s Gap and enjoy your feast along the banks of Lake Martin. 4633 Young’s Ferry Road. Or turn off US 280 onto County Road 7 just past Kellyton to reach Talladega National Wilderness, where Holmestead Farm invites visitors to pick strawberries on its 95 organic acres. 6582 County Road 7, Waldo.

Noccalula Falls

Noccalula Falls in Gadsden gives picnickers the perfect backdrop and after-lunch hiking opportunity. | Photo by Cary Norton

Those who hold on until Gadsden can carry out panang curry and fresh basil rolls from family-run Kati Thai Cuisine (102 Eble Street, Gadsden), recently named the best restaurant in the county by, and head to the 90-foot Noccalula Falls. Walk off lunch on the park’s Gorge Trail, which leads behind the cascade. 1500 Noccalula Road, Gadsden.

You may also like: 3 epic waterfalls in Alabama worth a road trip

Jules J. Berta Vineyards pizza

Sample estate-grown wines at the picturesque Jules J. Berta Vineyards, or drop in on a weekend for the popular wood-fired pizzas. | Photo by Cary Norton

Up US 431 atop Albertville’s Sand Mountain, spring brings the rustic Jules J. Berta Vineyards blooming back to life. Pause here under a pergola and drink in the scenery alongside a glass of merlot or chardonnay. (Designated drivers can buy a bottle for later.) Staff-led tasting flights as well as charcuterie boards are always available, but the winery’s popular wood-fired pizzas appear only Thursdays through Saturdays. 1409 Darden Avenue, Albertville. (256) 891-5115.

You’ll find Huntsville’s vibrant food scene loaded with happy surprises, especially at Purveyor and Catacomb 435. Primo ingredients get imaginative treatment—jumbo lump crab deviled eggs, for example—on Purveyor’s menu. 201 Jefferson Street N., Huntsville. (256) 419-2555.

And at reservations-required speakeasy Catacomb 435, a password grants guests access to a stylish basement; going inside feels illicit and exciting. Bartenders draw on house-made syrups, shrubs, and other potions to invent bespoke cocktails tailored to your spirit and flavor preferences. 100 Jefferson Street N., Unit 435, Huntsville. (256) 414-8248.

For a more casual night, opt for either of a couple nearby new kids on the block. La Esquina Cocina relies on family recipes  from Jalisco to deliver elevated and authentic Mexican food. 127 Holmes Avenue NW, Suite 101, Huntsville. (256) 858-1026.

Phat Sammy's

Phat Sammy's in Huntsville serves up pan-Asian flavors in vibrant tiki environs. | Photo by Cary Norton

Nearby, Technicolor basement tiki lounge Phat Sammy’s slings fun fare like Spam fried rice and kimchi pizza. 104 Jefferson Street S., Huntsville. (256) 489-0232.

The Revivalist

The Revivalist in the new 106 Jefferson hotel in Huntsville offers well-crafted cocktails and upscale eats. | Photo by Cary Norton

Time your arrival at the AAA Four Diamond 106 Jefferson hotel just right, and after checking in you can unwind with a cocktail and stunning sunset views of Huntsville from the rooftop bar, Baker & Able. This chic boutique hotel in the heart of downtown happens to be walking distance from some of the city’s best restaurants. Rates start at $199. 106 Jefferson Street S., Huntsville.

Huntsville to Birmingham via Decatur

For breakfast, venture to burgeoning West Huntsville, where Offbeat Coffee Studio specializes in vinyl records, lattes made with cereal milk, and melt-in-your-mouth biscuits. 2620 Clinton Avenue W., Huntsville. (256) 285-3800.

You may also like: Take a caffeinated tour on Huntsville’s Craft Coffee Trail

And don’t miss the gourmet shop atop British/Irish pub The Poppy & Parliament downtown. Carve out cooler space for house-made bangers, imported English double cream, and Wagyu beef, among other epicuriosities. 117 North Side Square, Huntsville. (256) 715-7152. 

Belleve Chevre goat

The award-winning Belle Chevre creamery in Elkmont gives visitors the chance to peek behind the scenes at cheese production, including encounters with baby goats in spring. | Photo by Cary Norton

Next up, the award-winning goat cheeses of the Belle Chevre creamery await in rural Elkmont. (Routing yourself through Harvest avoids repeating scenery later.) In spring, baby goats frolic in a courtyard pen, and guests enjoy DIY cheese boards from the small on-site shop. Reserve a tour and tasting on Fridays and Saturdays. Cyclists will love the canopied Richard Martin Rail Trail next door. 18845 Upper Fort Hampton Road, Elkmont. (256) 732-3577. 

Lunch brings you to Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q in Decatur, named for the man whose tangy white sauce defined Alabama’s contribution to the craft nearly a century ago. A fifth generation of family pitmasters now oversees the smoking of tender chicken (and ribs, brisket, and more) that made this spot a perennial competition champ. 1715 Sixth Avenue SE and 2520 Danville Road SW, Decatur.

You may also like: 10 barbecue restaurants for finger-licking fare

Ave Maria Grotto

At the Ave Maria Grotto, dozens of eclectic, monk-built miniatures—from castles to cathedrals—await road-trippers. | Photo by Cary Norton

Cullman presents another choose-your-own-adventure moment. To the right of the highway, the antique mall Highway Pickers boasts 3 floors of vintage and classic cookware. 1354 US 278 W., Cullman. (256) 841-5293. To the left, the exquisite Ave Maria Grotto offers a stroll through a miniature wonderland of castles and cathedrals built mosaic-style by a monk from the nearby monastery. The gift shop showcases the monks’ bread-baking skills. 1600 St. Bernard Drive, Cullman. (256) 734-4110.

In recent years, Magic City has earned a reputation for award-winning American fare. Less lauded, but equally delicious, are its many eateries serving authentic cuisine from around the globe. Locally beloved Red Pearl in Homewood offers traditional Chinese favorites like steamed dumplings and crispy Dungeness crab. 243 W. Valley Avenue. (205) 945-9558.

The beautifully appointed boutique hotel The Kelly Birmingham, Tapestry Collection by Hilton features stunning views of downtown Birmingham, with many of the city’s foodie highlights an easy walk away. Rates start at $126. 2027 First Avenue N., Birmingham.

Author Jessica Fender thinks the best way to get to know a place is through its food. Follow her road-tripping adventures at

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