History Loves Company
World-changing events have happened in Montgomery, Alabama. It’s where the telegram that started the Civil War was sent from, and almost a century later, thanks to Rosa Parks’ courageous defiance, it’s where the match that ignited the Civil Rights movement was struck. In a city so steeped in history, it’s no surprise some of its culinary highlights are its oldest restaurants. But new eateries are now enlivening the cuisine and this capital city’s blend of old school and new school food (and other facets) is well worth a visit.
Start a Montgomery morning right at Prevail Union on downtown’s Dexter Avenue. The sleek, shiny coffee shop and cafe, fueled by Prevail’s fresh-roasted, ethically sourced beans, plays perfect foil to its home, the circa-1929 Kress department store.
Stroll up Dexter toward the state capitol building to follow in the footsteps of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march for a block before grabbing a booth at Chris’ Hot Dogs, a 101-year-old eatery (still owned and operated by its founding family) for an “all the way” dog, crowned with kraut and doused in secret-recipe chili sauce. More spice springing from an array of Latin influences and a warm hug from owner and Venezuelan native Janett Malpartida await at D’Road Cafe, a colorful eatery known for savory arepas and empanadas. Or opt for Central, where chef Jason McGarry presents power-lunch plates of his New South cuisine to state government movers and shakers. A fruity, all-natural treat from Frio’s Gourmet Pops sweetens the downtown deal.
On the edge of Midtown, Martin’s has been dishing out comfort food since the 1930s, but if you can get ’em, you’ll see why this meat and three is most famous for its pulley bones. Floured and fried, the chicken—so named for the wishbone clinging to tender medallions from each adjoining breast—goes quick. Come dinnertime, head into Old Cloverdale. Yesteryear charm and tree-shaded streets abound in this historic neighborhood, including the fine-dining gem Vintage Year. Opened in the mid-1980s, it was reimagined in 2015. Chef Eric Rivera’s palate-pushing tweaks on tradition (think tempura fried chicken with pickled tomatoes and jalapeño crema) pack the cozy-elegant space. Another classic in Cloverdale, Jubilee Seafood, isn’t much to look at, but with its expertly prepared fresh seafood (trucked up from the Gulf daily), the only complaint uttered here is the crowd-induced wait. Just around the corner, find Tex-Mex with an emphasis on local sources tucked into every burrito and quesadilla plus hibiscus margaritas and a massive premium tequila menu at El Rey Burrito Lounge, a spot that premiered its hipster vibe before the phrase was coined.
Kick back with a frosty glass of local suds and a game of patio corn hole at Common Bond Brewers downtown. Or, let go at LeRoy Lounge, a small, dark Cloverdale haunt with a cocktail menu longer than some wine lists, and where if you can’t pick, the bartender will draw a tarot card to decide your drink-order fate.
Unveiled in April 2018, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice aims to shine a spotlight on the dark days of racial terror lynchings. The moving monument achieves its goal with power and grace.
Delve into the city’s literary legacy with a visit to the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum and stay the night. The home of the Jazz Age’s golden couple, filled with family photos, Zelda’s paintings, and F. Scott’s letters, also has a room for rent via Airbnb.
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