Hildegard’s German Cuisine, Huntsville AL

(I didn’t eat anything at the fifth restaurant on our day trip, thinking, correctly, that Marie would really enjoy this one. It’s one of at least four German restaurants in the Rocket City, and the one that our friend Helen recommends as the best in town.)

Every so often you chance on something that reminds you just perfectly of something in your childhood. If you’re lucky, it’s a good thing, and the genuine pleasure of enjoying it along with the memories of past encounters layer on each other for a really wonderful experience. In this case, it was the red cabbage at Hildegard’s German Cuisine. Continue reading “Hildegard’s German Cuisine, Huntsville AL”

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Big Spring Cafe, Huntsville AL

For our next stop in Huntsville, we drove with our friend Helen just a few miles down the road to check out the city’s oldest restaurant. While Big Spring Cafe has only (heh, only) been in its present location on Governors since 1970, the restaurant originally opened downtown in 1928. It is a much-loved old greasy spoon, and it serves a pretty darn good hamburger. It’s on at least its fourth owner, and I don’t believe that it’s ever stayed in the same family’s hands for more than a couple of decades, but considering the difficulty in keeping a restaurant open for even a few months, I believe that any restaurant with this kind of history, even one with as many asterisks as this one has, deserves a round of applause for making it for so long. Continue reading “Big Spring Cafe, Huntsville AL”

Stanlieo’s Sub Villa, Huntsville AL

Our good friend Helen complains that she is overweight, and that, instead of a T-shirt that reads “Body By Jake,” she needs one that reads “Body By Stanlieo’s.” She protests that when she went to college, she and her friends were regulars at this iconic sandwich shop, and that too many of their Kitchen Sink sandwiches are what did her in. Naturally, I had to try one of these. Continue reading “Stanlieo’s Sub Villa, Huntsville AL”

C.F. Penn Hamburgers, Decatur AL

For the second stop on our trip, I wanted to visit the last remaining location of C.F. Penn Hamburgers, a very old chain that started selling slugburgers in the 1920s and grew to three or more locations in north central Alabama. A couple of my blogging buddies had visited the old storefront in Decatur, not, I must clarify, with glowingly positive reviews, but vintage places like this just should not be missed. Continue reading “C.F. Penn Hamburgers, Decatur AL”

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, Decatur AL

Not for the first time, I was forced to consider the odd discrepancy between a phalanx of awards from major cooking competitions and the supposed awesomeness of what the winners of these competitions serve in their restaurants. Either the two are not anywhere close to being the same, or the judges of these competitions have an entirely different set of criteria than I do for what makes good barbecue. Of course, the written word often doesn’t have any nuance whatsoever, and I’m not saying that I’ve ever had a bad meal at a restaurant with one of those larger-than-a-child Memphis in May trophies, but I sure have had better. Continue reading “Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, Decatur AL”

Bar-B-Q Hut, Heflin AL (CLOSED)

When Governor Bentley released the initial list of Alabama’s Barbecue Hall of Fame, I was very pleased to see some terrific old favorites of ours who made the cut (most especially the excellent Brooks Barbeque in Muscle Shoals, which everybody should visit), but as I looked over the list, the biggest standout to me was the Bar-B-Q Hut in Heflin. This was a huge surprise, because I’ve made the quick little detour off I-20 to Heflin a half-dozen times in the last five years, and was aware of the pretty good Marie’s BBQ House in the area. I even got behind their catering truck once! But I had no idea that there was another barbecue joint in that small town, especially one that opened as long ago as 1946! Continue reading “Bar-B-Q Hut, Heflin AL (CLOSED)”

The Rocket, Jacksonville AL

In our experience, quite a few old “drive-ins” all around the southeast offer barbecue on their menus, but almost every one of them emphasizes burgers and milkshakes, and possibly a little nostalgia in their architecture, more than they emphasize smoked pork. Then there’s The Rocket, which doesn’t look or feel like any drive-in that we’ve run into, and which is much more like a proper barbecue shack than anything else. It’s also phenomenally popular. It’s a tiny little building completely packed with people, and I was afraid we’d have to eat in the car until a table opened up at the last minute. Continue reading “The Rocket, Jacksonville AL”