The Best Places To Eat In Alabama

When you’re considering culinary destinations, if Alabama doesn’t leap front of mind, it’s time to change your perspective. This sweet Southern state is full of diverse dining destinations, great places to stay, and a robust scene that should be on every food lover’s radar. We’ve teamed up with Sweet Home Alabama to bring you a little … well, taste. Here, the best restaurants to visit, the regional foods you’ve got to sample, and the hotels and inns to book a stay at on your next visit.

Art Meripol

Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q in Birmingham serves up family-recipe barbecue staples.


This city of nearly 200,000 people is home to the Alabama Theater, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and the McWane Science Center. It also happens to be a hotbed of culinary artistry. Award-winning chef Frank Stitt’s Chez Fonfon is the city’s go-to spot for French cuisine (start with the escargot and finish with the coconut cake), while Southern fusion abounds at Chris and Idie Hastings’s award-winning Hot and Hot Fish Club, where you’ll find dishes like their legendary duck cassoulet and an innovative presentation of bone marrow. Then there’s the historic Merritt House, built in the 1870s and now home to Galley & Garden, which many regard as Birmingham’s most romantic restaurant, serving up dishes like cornmeal-crusted Gulf oysters and Duroc pork chops.

pastry chef dolester'miles coconut cake and lemon tarts on the sideboard

Art Meripol

Chez Fonfon in Birmingham is known for its decadent desserts.

Southern steakhouse staples like prime porterhouse steak and coal-roasted half-chicken shine at Helen, named for chef Rob McDaniel’s grandmother. Equally compelling is the barbecue served up at family-owned Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q, which features a seasoned pit, a sauce that’s been passed down through the generations, and larger-than-life portions. At Niki’s West, the cafeteria line has been calling since 1957; that’s where diners will find local classics like field peas, turnip greens, lima beans, fried pork chops, liver and onions, and fried okra. The modern counterpoint would be Johnny’s Restaurant, a Southern diner with Greek undertones that shows its support for Alabama farmers and Gulf fishermen with everything from keftedes to fried catfish.

Stay a while at the 63-room Hotel Indigo Birmingham. Dating back to the early 1930s, the Art Deco-style building in the Five Points South neighborhood is mere steps away from Chez Fonfon and some of the city’s best nightlife.

a sign on a brick wall


Central in Montgomery serves seasonal, local farm-to-table fare.


Called the cradle of the civil-rights movement, Alabama’s capital offers some of the state’s most memorable meals. At Chris’ Famous Hotdogs, the oldest family-owned restaurant in town, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, and, yes, hot dogs have been served up since 1917. Those on the hunt for traditional Southern fried chicken should head directly to Martin’s Restaurant, where the chicken, gravy, homemade pies, and rib-sticking sides are all famously beloved. And Derk’s Filet & Vine, a hybrid market and restaurant with seating for 140 and an attached wine store and grocery, offers the largest selection of beer and wine in the state.

Vintage Year is a perennial Montgomery favorite, with everything from chicken and dumplings to dry-aged rib-eye, with classic steakhouse appeal and an ambitious wine list. You’ll find a slightly more upscale crowd at Central, where regional ingredients like cured meats, cheeses, and produce are the culinary focal point. Those looking to travel to Italy without crossing any national borders need go no further than SaZa, an ode to chef Joe DiMaggio’s grandmother with dishes like Grandma’s Sunday Sauce and stuffed hot peppers. And no Montgomery sojourn is complete without a stop at Pannie-George’s Kitchen for traditional Southern “meat and three”—one meat selection, three veggies, and an irresistible dessert to boot; we’d get into specifics, but the menu changes daily.

a table with plates and glasses on it

Sweet Home Alabama

The view from the chef’s table at Dauphin’s in Mobile, known for Southern classics like alligator and crawfish.


Perched on a bay leading into the Gulf of Mexico, this waterfront slice of Alabama is the destination for those in search of the state’s freshest seafood. The Blind Mule serves up Cajun-Creole classics like Gulf seafood gumbo and red beans and rice in a casual setting (visitors can also look forward to live music, comedy, and trivia). At Wintzell’s Oyster House, which has outposts both downtown and in West Mobile, seafood is again the main attraction: boiled shrimp, gumbo, oysters Rockefeller, and an oyster po’boy that’s the talk of the town.

menu items shoot for website

Tad Denson

A seafood-forward meal at the Original Oyster House in Mobile.

Dauphin’s flaunts a wide view of Mobile Bay from its 34th-floor location; order the delta cakes, made with fresh crawfish; the fried mojo alligator; and, if they have them, the sautéed blue-crab claws. Felix’s Fish Camp is another go-to for seafood and a sunset, with fried crawfish tails, local jumbo Gulf shrimp, and turtle soup all on the menu. But there might be no better place for oysters—char-grilled, hand-shucked, raw, and baked—than at the Original Oyster House, a classic wood-paneled spot overlooking the water where locals and visitors alike come to slurp the area’s best bivalves.

Clearly, whether you come for Alabama’s pristine beaches or rich history, you’re going to be happy with the culinary options, which surprise and delight from city to city. The only question may end up being: Did you book a long enough trip to try them all?