The Best Food and Drink in Alabama for 2018 Gallery from The Best Food and Drink in Alabama for 2018 Gallery
The Best Food and Drink in Alabama for 2018 Gallery
The Best Food and Drink in Alabama for 2018 Gallery
If you’ve ever traveled through the “Heart of Dixie” then you know it’s home to some amazing Southern comfort food. The fried chicken, apple pie, and ribs are almost unparalleled. But what you may not realize is that there is more to Alabama’s culinary landscape than meets the eye. Check out this Southern state’s stand-out cuisine in our first annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Acclaimed chef Frank Stitt is responsible for some of the best Italian food in Alabama (including pizza and pasta) and some of the best French food (he serves up the absolute best burgers), as well as the most expensive restaurant in the state. There are tons of family-owned classics such as Loyless’ Doughnuts, Gus’s Hot Dogs, and many more!
After comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs we’ve been able to make definitive slideshows celebrating the best food and drink in every state, and you can find our Alabama slideshow here.
Best Apple Pie: Pie Lab, Greensborough
Next to a furniture store in Greensborough, Alabama, is Pie Lab, an eatery that does more than sell delicious homemade pies with a delicious, flaky, almost puff pastry-like crust. Chef Seaborn Whatley, who worked in New York before returning to his home town, set up Pie Lab in an effort to bring people to the area — since opening, the eatery has helped start a rejuvenation of downtown. The young people of the town are an integral part of Pie Lab, which hires and trains local teens in an effort to break the impoverished system that has been in place for so long. Of course, the pies are the center of this community-minded business, and the pies that they make are some of the best in the country, if not the world.
Best Bar: Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, Mobile
Callaghan’s Irish Social Club is currently the pride of the state after being named the South’s Best Bar by Southern Living magazine this year. Since 1946, Callaghan’s has been bringing together the local Irish community, as well as all others who want to join in the fun of live music, drinks, and delicious burgers.
Good People Brewing Company
Best Beer: Snake Handler Double IPA by Good People Brewing Company, Birmingham
Good People Brewing Company’s Snake Handler Double IPA is a celebration of all things hoppy, with five different varieties of hops and aromas of pine, citrus, and grass. But don’t worry, it’s still described as “dangerously drinkable.” It’s the Birmingham brewery’s most requested beer for a reason.
Best Burger: Hamburger Fonfon at Chez Fonfon, Birmingham
In Birmingham, Frank and Pardis Stitt are justly famous for their Highlands Bar & Grill (one of the first contemporary Southern restaurants anywhere) and Italian-Southern (as opposed to Southern Italian) classic Bottega, but they get the cozy French bistro thing right, too, at Chez Fonfon. A cozy French bistro, that is, where the country pâté, trout amandine, and croque-monsieur share a menu with the Hamburger Fonfon. To make this impressive burger, chefs grind chuck in-house and form it into eight-ounce patties, to be griddled and topped with Comté cheese (whose sharp, nutty flavor adds a racy French flavor to the proceedings), along with grilled red onion, lettuce, pickle, and tomato. Très bien. Find more details on Chez Fonfon here.
Best Chinese Restaurant: Ming’s Garden, Montgomery
This cozy restaurant has been going strong since 1985, and you’ll still find Ricky, the owner, going table to table making sure everyone is happy. And with specialties like ma po tofu, Mandarin shredded pork and seafood, Peking duck, twice-cooked pork, a killer pu pu platter, and wonton soup that’s rich and flavorful, just about everyone dining here is happy.
Best Cupcake: Dreamcakes Bakery, Birmingham
Whether in the shop or on the truck, there are plenty of tasty options available at Dreamcakes Bakery — 15 or more flavors daily, to be exact. The thing about these delicious cakes is that they actually look like they were dreamt up during a magical tea party. With a billowing topper of fluffy frosting and a delicate design, these cupcakes are a work of art. If you can catch it, try the fluffernutter cupcake, a peanut butter cake with marshmallow meringue that’s topped with a peanut butter cookie.
Best Dive Bar: The Nick, Birmingham
The Nick in Birmingham has been around for 35 years, and this dive bar/music venue has had its fair share of iconic bands pass through. Black Flag, Jane’s Addiction, and Widespread Panic all played this dive bar before they hit it big. Pass on through and maybe you’ll catch the next big thing.
Best Doughnuts: Loyless Donuts, Dothan
To try one of Loyless’ doughnuts, you’re going to have to set an early alarm. This store closes as soon as it sells out, and it always sell out before noon. This no-frills, family-owned, southern Alabama landmark is run by husband and wife team Eva and Garland Loyless, who make their doughnuts fresh every morning. Try a chocolate-glazed one to learn how good a perfectly warm, soft, simple doughnut should taste. For more information on Loyless Donuts, click here.
Courtesy of The Market at Pepper Place
Best Farmers Market: The Market at Pepper Place, Birmingham
The Market at Pepper Place was founded in 2000 to connect Alabama farmers to the community. With more than 100 vendors, including both farmers and craftspeople, the market is a lively place to visit every Saturday from May until December. During peak season, more than 10,000 people come for the fresh produce live music, kids’ activities, and chef demos.
Best Fried Chicken: Café Dupont, Birmingham
Café Dupont offers a "fresh perspective on regional ingredients" to create a menu bursting with traditional flavors and contemporary flair. This is most evident in their signature buttermilk-fried chicken with a lemon basil sauce, served atop warm creamed potatoes. You can thank the strong relationships chef Chris Dupont fosters with local farmers for the top-quality produce and meats that you’ll taste in every bite of their specialties.
Best Grocery Store: Renfroe’s Market
Best Hot Dog: Gus's, Birmingham
Gus’s is home to the Greek Dog — in fact, it’s "the lone surviving old-school Greek hot dog place in downtown Birmingham," according to Serious Eats. To make their Greek Dog, char-grilled Zeigler pink franks are topped with seasoned ground beef, sauerkraut, a few chopped onions, and a special sauce that was formulated by Gus Alexander himself when he opened the stand around 1940 — a cross between barbecue sauce and New York-style stewed onions. The atmosphere has an unassuming air; it's small and quaint, with a TV in the corner, making it clear that, in here, it’s all about the dogs. Find more details on Gus’s here.
Best Italian Restaurant: Café Bottega, Birmingham
Over the past 30-odd years, chef Frank Stitt has been credited for significantly raising the bar in Alabama’s culinary scene. As if the success of his restaurant Highlands Bar and Grill and the roster of culinary talents who have launched their own successful careers after spending time in his kitchen weren’t impressive enough, he’s now doing the same thing for the state’s pizza scene. While devoted regulars may have trouble steering themselves away from Stitt’s classic dishes at Café Bottega like the seared beef carpaccio, niçoise salad, and chicken scaloppini, they’ll find themselves particularly rewarded by any of the eight pizzas on the menu.
Best Mexican Restaurant: El Barrio, Birmingham
This hip and popular Birmingham hotspot fills up its bar and tables nightly with locals looking for fun cocktails and creative and exciting Mexican fare. Popular starters include chunky guacamole, elote asado, and chorizo empanadas; “big plates” include a killer pozole and red chicken mole; and other popular offerings include beef barbacoa quesadilla, carnitas tacos, and Thursday-only braised duck tamales.
Most Expensive Restaurant: Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham
Frank Stitt’s Birmingham showstopper has a menu that changes daily, but it’s pretty much a guarantee that you won’t be leaving without dropping a pretty penny; nearly every entrée costs more than $30. Good luck getting out without sampling some of the astounding oyster selection, which will cost you $18 per half-dozen.
Best Pasta: Cheese Tortellini in Vodka Cream Sauce at Café Grazie, Orange Beach
This low-key waterside family favorite has been serving some of Alabama’s best pasta since 1999. Chef Brian Navarro makes all of the restaurant’s sauces from scratch, and the fan favorite is his cheese tortellini with creamy vodka sauce. Adding some fresh-caught Gulf shrimp to the equation certainly won’t hurt.
Best Pizza: Café Bottega, Birmingham
Chef Frank Stitt’s Café Bottega boasts the best pizza in the state. There’s a white pie with fennel sausage, a grilled chicken and pesto combination, and even a pizza with okra and corn. But the signature pie that the restaurant pointed to as the biggest crowd-pleaser is the “Farm Egg,” topped with mushrooms, guanciale, Taleggio, and porcini oil.
Photo Modified: Flickr / Anthony Quintano
Best Ribs: Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ, Decatur
Chris Lilly is one of America’s most renowned pitmasters, and with good reason. He took over the pit at the circa-1925 barbecue joint a couple of decades ago, introducing new sauces and rubs to the equation, and suddenly Big Bob Gibson’s was on the map. He’s best known for his Alabama-style white sauce, a tangy concoction that best complements his smoked chicken, but his ribs are not to be missed. After being liberally seasoned with his award-winning dry rub, they’re pit-smoked low and slow over hickory wood, then glazed toward the end with his famous red sauce and honey. The end result is sweet, smoky, spicy, tender, juicy, and just about everything you’d look for in a rib.
Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que
Best Sandwich: Bar-B-Q Chicken Sandwich at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, Decatur
Though just about everything on the menu at pitmaster Chris Lilly’s temple of Alabama-style barbecue is outstanding, the real claim to fame is the smoked chicken, dunked into the definitive version of tangy mayo-based Alabama white sauce. When shredded and tucked into a soft bun, it makes for one of the best chicken sandwiches you’ll find anywhere.
Best Seafood Shack: Original Oyster House, Gulf Shores
We’ve written before about the Original Oyster House’s fantastic hushpuppies; it is highly recommended that you try this iconic Southern dish here. Their seafood is definitely something to write home about as well — though the comforting Southern atmosphere will make you feel like you are already at home.
Spoon & Ladle
Best Soup: Spoon & Ladle, Birmingham
Chef Monty Todd started Spoon & Ladle to showcase the amazing soup recipes that he learned from his grandmother as a child (as well as a few that he’s come up with on his own). While he doesn’t have a dedicated storefront, his soups can be found at a few local restaurants, supermarkets, and the Pepper Place farmers market on Saturdays. The selection changes weekly, but his soups always use fresh, seasonal ingredients; popular ones include chicken and sausage gumbo, old-fashioned vegetables, Brunswick stew, Guinness beef and barley, and beer cheese and bacon.
Best Steakhouse: George’s Steak Pit, Sheffield
Celebrating its 60th year in business, George’s Steak Pit’s very name reveals why it’s so renowned: an open pit in the kitchen, on which steaks are grilled over hickory logs. The variety of steaks they’re turning out is also staggering: rib-eye, rib-eye butt, bone-in rib-eye, prime rib in two sizes, New York strip, T-bone in two sizes, filet mignon, tenderloin kebabs… The list goes on and on. And while a visit is still a splurge, no steak costs more than $37.95.
Best Taco: Al Pastor at Los Dos Hermanos Taco Truck, Birmingham
Run by brothers and Michoacán natives Daniel and Jaime Guzman, who also run Birmingham’s insanely popular Taqueria Guzman, this truck is turning out some spectacular Mexican fare, including burritos, quesadillas, tortas, and tostadas, but it’s the $2 tacos that are the real standout. Opt for the flavorful al pastor, and don’t forget to grab a chile from the bowl. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2018.