Dining Out

9 Noteworthy Alabama Restaurants | Listen

By: Jennifer Stewart Kornegay

Our top 9 Alabama restaurants from tried-and-true classics to new hotspots

From Birmingham to Orange Beach, Alabama offers a diverse range of local cuisine you don’t want to miss out on. In the Local Palate’s 2024 Restaurants Issue, Alabama writer Jennifer Kornegay offers a guide to new and tried-and-true local spots with these 9 Alabama restaurants. 

5 New Alabama Restaurants

Image courtesy of Hannah Stewart

Maro | Birmingham, Alabama

When chef Abhi Sainju came to Alabama from Nepal, cooking dishes from his homeland spanned the distance. As his tastes expanded, he began combining Nepalese, Thai, Japanese, and Malaysian ingredients and techniques. His “best of Asia” fusion debuted at Abhi Eatery + Bar and got a new package in fast-casual Maro, where diners dig into mango-tuna poke, belly-butt pork adobo authentic enough to please Birmingham’s Filipino community, and pork momos with a sought-after accompaniment. “I make a dressing from locally grown tomatoes and cider vinegar,” Sainju says. “People tell me they could just drink it, it’s so good.”

Hound and Harvest | Huntsville, Alabama

Bowls built on grits, pearled barley, and brown rice showcase the healthy-food philosophy of this “backyard bistro.” But equal focus is on flavor. “We want to help people eat better, but if it doesn’t taste good, that doesn’t work,” says co-owner Garrett Hardee. Hence offerings like the bestselling hot tamale supreme: spiced-right black beans, salsa, plant-based chorizo, and cheese grits drizzled with avocado crema. Also foundational is an inclusive welcome. “We’re in an old home; we want diners to feel like family, so we have items for vegans, meat eaters, gluten-free folks, everyone.”

Forage Bowl
Image courtesy of Bold Agency

Kinsmith | Montgomery, Alabama

Part of downtown’s Trilogy Hotel and housed in a carefully restored 1851 Greek Revival house that most recently served as the city waterworks office, Kinsmith’s intimate dining room is gilded with a jazz-age feel, evoking F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, who once called Montgomery home. Today, it hosts a flood of both residents and visitors, who sop up green goddess dressing with white truffle tater tots and dive into gumbo-fied risotto with shrimp and blue crab.

Kinsmith Dining

CoastAL | Orange Beach, Alabama

As Orange Beach’s only restaurant snuggled right up to its sugar-white sand, expansive Gulf views and balmy sea breezes are the claims to this eatery’s fame. It’s huge, seating 1,000 diners in a space open to 800 feet of beachfront, around a bar, and on a lawn. The atmosphere isn’t all that’s fresh. Alabama-farmed oysters are popular, and grouper that was swimming hours earlier shines in coconut-crusted grouper bites, tartar-and-and-slaw-smothered grouper sandwiches, and sautéed grouper resting on andouille-studded grits with sweet corn reduction. All items pair well with boozy bushwackers made from the beloved Flora-Bama Lounge recipe.

Image courtesy of Hannah Stewart

Corner Office | Auburn, Alabama

Just like the name says, this coffee-and-sandwich shop occupies a corner space in an office building. Despite a corporate-cafeteria aesthetic, the vibe is warm. And the menu is populated with morning and midday meal standards that have been given a promotion, like salty-sweet maple bacon cronuts (a croissant-donut merger), meatloaf patty melts elevated with boursin, and roasted beet hummus with green tomato chow chow. Boost any item’s ROI with the addition of a fried egg or crisped pork belly.

Image courtesy of Maggie Terry

4 Tried & True Alabama Restaurants

Image courtesy of Cary Norton

Chez Fonfon | Birmingham, Alabama

Highlands Bar & Grill may be famed chef Frank Stitt’s masterpiece (here’s hoping it reopens soon), but this spot has been beckoning Francophiles in the magic city and beyond for more than 20 years with its stellar service, smoked salmon tartine, tender veal (dressed in apples and silky, onion-soaked sauce soubise), and decadent chocolate pot de crème.

Jesse’s Restaurant | Magnolia Springs, Alabama

The 1922 white clapboard building that has housed Jesse’s since 1998 anchors a street corner in one of Alabama’s tiniest towns (the South Alabama enclave’s population is approximately 700). It may require a drive, but it’s worth every mile for dry- and wet-aged steaks enhanced with rich bone marrow butter, a whiskey glaze or crown of jumbo lump crab meat, just-off-the-boat snapper with truffle whipped potatoes, and spicy barbecue shrimp.

Chuck Short Rib
Image courtesy of Rachael Boutwell Photography

Vintage Year | Montgomery, Alabama

This fine-dining fixture has been pleasing palates for decades, but in its most recent rendition, executive chef Eric Rivera and team (including new Vintage Year executive chef Brian Morrison) bring an unfussy approach to upscale eats like chicken and dumplings (black pepper-speckled gnocchi) with baby carrots bathed in a rosemary velouté. Seats for the weekly Burger & Bourbon Night, featuring patties of wagyu, lamb, and a scallop-shrimp mix, fill up fast.

brightstar NAL©
Image courtesy of Kerrick Jordan

The Bright Star | Bessemer, Alabama

Alabama’s oldest restaurant, this culinary luminary was established by Greek immigrants in 1907 and remains owned and operated by its founding family. Its South-meets-Mediterranean style comfortably mingles Greek influences—olive oil, lemon, and pungent oregano—with local veggies and Gulf fish, including succulent snapper throats.


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