August 1, 2021

9 unusual restaurants to try in Alabama

4 min read

For most people accustomed to walking in off the street to dine in brick-and-mortar restaurants, ordering lunch or dinner from a food truck is about as exotic as it gets.

But some Alabama restaurants go to unusual heights or dish from decidedly different locales.

You can eat in a jail, or nosh between firing rounds from a pistol or paint gun. If the water floats your boat, try a bobbing bistro in a lake. Or graze on a steak before the barn doors close.

Tired of run of the mill restaurants? Here are nine places where the food isn’t the only thing that you’ll tell friends and family about.

Get an eagle’s view at 360 Grille in Florence

Perched in a tower high above the Tennessee River at the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa, the outer portion of the dining room rotates, offering a spectacular 360-degree view. The menu is upscale, with crab cake, foie gras, and pork belly among appetizers, plus pasta and risotto courses. Prime steaks are $46 and up. Don’t worry, you most likely won’t feel the movement at the slow rotation rate.

(360 Grille/Facebook)

Go to jail at Main Street Café in Madison

The building, built in the mid-1950s to house what was then Madison’s City Hall, includes two rooms once used as jail cells where lunchtime diners can eat much better food than the detainees once did. The Main Street Café invites patrons to, as the owners put it, “Come have lunch in jail … without having to break any laws!” Operated as a restaurant since 2000, lunch options include soups, salads, and entrees. Look for steak, seafood, and daily specials at dinner.

(Main Street Cafe/Facebook)

Take your shot at Mama Mistiano’s Italian Café in Boaz

Where else can you shoot a few rounds and follow up with a meal cooked using old family recipes from Calabria, Italy? Mama Mistiano’s is located in the Sand Mountain Shooters Club, which bills itself as “THE PLACE for the Shooting Sports Enthusiast.” Sandwiches include subs with hand-rolled meatballs and beef Tringali, made using a 75-year-old family recipe. On Sundays, the Italian family-style lunch features multiple pasta dishes and desserts like Mama’s Italian Cream Cake.

(Sand Mountain Shooters Club/Facebook

Gorge in a grotto at Rattlesnake Saloon in Tuscumbia

Nestled under a rock outcropping, the Rattlesnake Saloon offers bar food, some with fun names like Skunk Rings (onion rings) and Giddy Up Sticks (fried cheese sticks). Dogs and burgers include the Gigantor, a whopping two-pound burger with a pound of fries and half pound of onion rings, plus a pitcher of soft drink. Eat it all within 45 minutes, solo, and it’s free.

(Rattlesnake Saloon/Facebook)

Order from an Airstream at Hotbox in Birmingham

Recently relocated to Good People brewery near Railroad Park, Hotbox built a loyal following in its original spot in the Avondale neighborhood. Operating from a moored Airstream trailer, the menu includes elements of Asian and Cajun food like Lemongrass Fried Chicken, Jambalaya Egg Rolls, and a pork chorizo sausage dog cooked in Good People’s Muchacho beer.

(Good People Brewing Company/Facebook)

Float your boat at Nibblers on Lake Martin

A food “truck” that floats, the colorful restaurant on pontoons plies Lake Martin most summer weekends, feeding boaters its hand-formed burgers, quesadillas, tacos, wraps, and more. Chocolate and vanilla shakes are machine-spun the classic way. Nibblers offers more than a dozen flavors for snow-cones, plus another 18 combinations. Check out the Nibblers Facebook page for its location.

(MELT Birmingham/Facebook)

Eat among antiques at The Garage in Birmingham

Now a bar, The Garage was a car park during the 1920s, then a storage space for the antiques and stone decorations that a former owner collected. Tables are placed among the statuary, planters, and trees in a shady courtyard out back. The perfect time to visit is in the early spring, when its giant wisteria vines bloom. The menu is mostly sandwiches. Cash only.

(Garage Cafe/Facebook)

Dine in barns at The Red Barn in Demopolis and The Old Barn Restaurant in Goshen

The Red Barn in Demopolis is housed in a circa-1950s barn that was converted to a restaurant in 1971. It specializes in steaks, ribs, and seafood. The structure that houses the Old Barn Restaurant in Pike County is more than a century old. The meat-and-two also is known for steak and fried catfish.

(The Old Barn/Facebook)

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