Recently, the Alabama Tourism Department issued a list of “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.” While you might be just fine if you never taste chef Frank Stitt’s grits before you reach your deathbed, your palate will be a whole lot richer if you do. Read on for our short list of Deep South favorites and where to find them.
Baked Grits: Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham
If sweet tea is the “house wine of the South,” then grits are its daily bread. Executive chef and owner Frank Stitt does them right with country ham, chanterelles, and Parmesan. Dinner for two $90.
Tomato Salad: Hot & Hot Fish Club, Birmingham
Thick stacks of heirloom tomatoes mingle with fried okra, field peas, fresh corn, and studs of applewood-smoked bacon under a veil of balsamic vinaigrette—summer on a plate. Dinner for two $100.
Fried Chicken: Martin’s Restaurant, Montgomery
This old-school “meat and three” has been a local mainstay since the 1930’s. The chicken’s batter shatters with every crunchy bite. Be sure to order a side of corn muffins, crisp on the outside, fluffy, buttery, and piping hot on the inside. Dinner for two $40.
Barbecued Chicken: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, Decatur
In northern Alabama, a mayo-based white barbecue sauce reigns. Trust us, Big Bob Gibson’s tangy twist gets on with hickory-smoked chicken like a house on fire. Lunch for two $18.
Burger: Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, Mobile
Served only on Wednesdays, the “L.A. Burger” is a spicy Lower Alabama mix of freshly ground beef and Conecuh sausage, the unofficial smoked meat of the state. It sells out fast—get there by noon. Lunch for two $20.
Gumbo: Guy’s Gumbo Shack, Fairhope
Louisiana gets all the credit for gumbo, but the smoky mix of chicken, andouille, and okra in a tomato-based roux at Guy’s holds its own. Finish it with your choice of oysters, shrimp, crawfish tails, or crabmeat. Dinner for two $35.