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  • Writer's pictureCL Burkins

Launching Food And Drinks in Huntsville, Alabama

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Exploring some of the best food and drinks in Huntsville, Alabama


I distinctly remember driving over the mountain around 11pm on January 2, 2021, and sobbing the kind of gut-wrenching cry that is atypical of me. I was unaware that in a few short days my youngest son would be diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening internal abscess and insurrectionists would storm the capital. In the moment, however, my mind was solely focused on the fact that I had just moved my first born son into his forever home in another state. He had officially left the nest.

Downtown in Huntsville, AL
Downtown Huntsville, AL

Leaving the nest was not why I was crying (well, maybe it was a part of it). Truth be told, I was incredibly concerned that his father and I had knowingly and supportively moved him to what I thought was the literal worst place for a 22 year-old, single guy: Huntsville, Alabama.


Why in the world was he moving there of all places? As a rocket propulsion engineer, he had landed his dream job working at NASA. And if you aren’t aware, this location specializes in rockets - thus the nickname “Rocket City”.


It’s important to note that Huntsville is not your typical Alabama small town, owing in large part to it being one of NASA’s homes. All of the scientists and engineers who built our space program and made this their home also brought with them forward thinking, openness to change and diversity. The footprints of that are evident in this progressive town that continues to experience a gastronomy boom.


Huntsville is home to a major league hockey team, a minor league baseball team (the Trash Pandas), an amphitheater, an incredible downtown water feature with walking trails and so much more. And it’s growing every year by adding new hotels and residential lofts.


There is a lot to see and do, but here is just a small glimpse into some of my favorites for food and drink in Huntsville, Alabama.


Old Black Bear Brewing Company

If you can imagine it, it’s probably on one of their burgers.
Burgers and beer in Huntsville
Pimento Cheese Burger at Old Black Brewing Co

Just outside of Huntsville, and close enough for us to consider it one and the same, is a little town called Madison. Surrounding what were once the Memphis and Charleston Railroad Company tracks, is a small downtown area with some neat places. The standout here, though, is the Old Black Bear Brewing Company.


In addition to being a brewery and distillery, they tout that all their food is made-from-scratch. I do love a great IPA, and Old Black bear absolutely delivers. They also have a cool outdoor seating area with strung lights, a stage, firepit, and dog-friendly vibe.


And if the above wasn’t reason enough to check it out, their burgers are worth the 15-minute drive from Huntsville proper. I dare say Old Black Bear is a burger-lover’s paradise. If you love pimento cheese on your burger, they’ve got you. A little PB&J on your quarter-pounder, no problem. If you can imagine it, it’s probably on one of their burgers.


This is a definite must-add stop when you visit Huntsville.


The Camp

The Camp is the kind of quirky, hip, open-air spot that you and your friends would make your weekend go-to.
The Camp bar in Huntsville
The Camp in Huntsville

I only highlight bars when they have a truly unique atmosphere that make them stand out from the crowded bar scene. And Huntsville’s The Camp is just that. This outdoor bar is eclectic and vintage. Perhaps you’ve known someone whose backyard was so random with vehicles, lean-to’s and more that it felt almost intentionally artistic. That is The Camp.


They have a full bar plus seasonal drinks, food trucks, concerts, a coffee shop, and just an all-around chill vibe. When we visited, it was Mardi Gras season, and the decor and drinks reflected that. Because some of their menu is seasonal, I won’t recommend a specific cocktail here. Just know The Camp is the kind of quirky, hip, open-air spot that you and your friends would make your weekend go-to.


The Bakingtist & The Moon Bake Shop

...baking...is the highest form of culinary art. ...Enter The Bakingtist and The Moon Bake Shop.
Pastries at The Bakingtist in Huntsville
The Bakingtist in Huntsville

Aside from a great dinner with fantastic cocktails, I always try to discover the best coffee and pastry places when we travel. It’s even better if they are small businesses, which we love to support as much as possible.


I’ve always felt that baking, probably more so than cooking, is the highest form of culinary art. It’s not as simple as throwing a dash of this or that in because baking is a science. Enter The Bakingtist and The Moon Bake Shop.


Both are incredibly delicious, located in downtown Huntsville and serve fresh baked goods and great coffee. Perhaps the difference with these two establishments is that their starting points are baking, and the coffee is what follows.


The Bakingtist is female-owned and all about the science behind baked goods. Here, they tend to focus on breads (like sourdoughs and focaccias), pastries (like brioches with delectable fillings), and cookies. And they donate part of their profits to conservation and sustainability. Do note that this place sells out of its freshly made goodies quickly, so plan to get there early.


The Moon Bake Shop, owned by a husband and wife team, also serves up cookies and pastries, but it has a broader menu. You'll also find pies, cakes, cruffins, sandwiches, and more. And although this is a smaller place, they have really nice outside seating.


You won’t go wrong with either bakery when in Rocket City, so why not try both while you're in town.

 

My TOP Recommendations for Huntsville:
  1. Walk Big Spring International Park - Located in the heart of Huntsville, make sure you stop to feed the ducks.

  2. Eat charcuterie at Domaine South - On the very edge of Big Spring Park this bohemian-style restaurant lets you craft your own charcuterie board while enjoying great wine and cocktails.

  3. Stop at the Huntsville Museum of Art - Although not the caliber of larger museums, it is quite fantastic. And educators get a discount on tickets.

  4. Explore Maple Hill Cemetery - If you love traipsing through old cemeteries, then add this to your list. Dating back to 1822, it serves as the final resting place for both Union and Confederate soldiers, but the best part may be the carved trees.

  5. Spend time at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center - Of course, everyone should visit this while in Rocket City. Perhaps one thing we can all agree on is the sheer tenacity of our country’s dedication to explore the final frontier. Sure, the museum is a bit dated, but your visit helps fund this very vital historical center.


Fast forward from that January night in 2021 to the present. My son (who also happens to be a foodie and a far-superior cook than me already) has discovered great food, bars, bakeries and venues in this fantastic city. And we owe this post to his continued zest for his new home.


On more than one occasion, parents can be wrong. (Cue Taylor Swift’s “It’s me, hi, I'm the problem it’s me.") It’s true. I was absolutely and unequivocally wrong about any concerns I might have had when my son moved to Huntsville.


It is one incredible city, which I feel somewhat conflicted about revealing. I kind of want to keep this little secret all to myself, but it’s too great not to share.


So, whether you're a space enthusiast or not, take off for a visit to Rocket City. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)








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