It’s no surprise that the south contributes an eccentric flair to the culinary scene with its rich history and no shortage of immigrant influences. I simply couldn’t imagine my life without southern food or the hospitality for that matter and it comes without saying that Huntsville, Alabama wasn’t short on either. Last weekend I took a little three-day mini-vat down to our Nashville neighbor after being invited by the CVB to explore the food scene in their fare town.
This recent trip to Huntsville was different from what I remember of my last visit some 15 years ago when I was a young one, more than likely – I was being dragged by the parental units to visit extended family. But enough about me, you’re here to find out about the good stuff, like where to eat and what to do? There’s more than 50 local restaurants participating, each one offering a Restaurant Week special. Lunches are set at $5, $10, and $15, while dinners are set at $10, $20, and $30. So there’s no reason why you shouldn’t start meal-planning for the week!
First things first, I arrived at the Westin Huntsville Friday afternoon to be greeted with open arms and smiling faces. I arrived a few hours premature to the check-in time due to catching a flight straight to Huntsville from Charlotte, which is a story for another day, I digress. Any-who the staff gave me instruction to make myself comfortable in the lobby while they put the finishing touches on my room, which was more than okay with me since I had learned much about patience in the previous two days.
The room was standard in set-up but what set it apart was the view from all sides (assuming you love sunsets-rises & God’s country), the bed constructed of clouds and the chic shower/bath options. I did miss some of the amenities like a microwave and mini fridge because I love to store cold beverages when I travel and I have a mild addiction with reheating my coffee several times…whatchagonnado?! But I’m elated to tell you that the Westin is currently under-going renovation and the top floors will become a new concept called the Element, which will house some of those familiar home amenities that travelers enjoy!
The Westin staff definitely knew the way to my heart – I received a beautiful tray laden with chocolate truffles and blondie bites from their talented pastry chef & a bottle of Malbec to cap it all off. I was only seconds away from telling my wife, “we’re moving in.”
Later that day, we were off to eat at our first restaurant of the Food Blog Tour to kick off the Huntsville – Madison County Restaurant Week. I was excited to meet some of the other bloggers and get their take on the city’s burgeoning food scene and to see if there were other places off the beaten path that we should visit while in town?
We arrived at Grille 29 located in the Village of Providence which has a rather laid back vibe about it and feels like one of those places the Baptist flood after church, you know what I’m talking’ about – the south y’all! We started the off with a delicious roasted cauliflower soup that I couldn’t stop eating because the texture blew me away. It was light and airy but creamy and rich – all of these things might not seem like they make sense but you have to try it for yourself. Each course complimented the last in a way that you didn’t want the food to stop coming and there’s very few restaurants I would say that about. The fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese studded with a hint of bleu cheese in it and layered with porky-goodness was a well executed offering of the staple adorned across southern menus. The desserts were nothing short of toe-curling pleasantries that you wanted to tuck into your pocket for later, specifically referring to the lemon-curd lava cake (yes, it’s a real thing and you want it!). The staff is excited about the food they serve and Executive Chef Cara knows her flavor combinations. Did I mention the 29 cent mimosas at brunch on Sundays! And the Restaurant Week starts August 12-21, so you want to add this gem to your stop.
Our next stop on the tour was a place that I could see myself frequenting on a regular basis based on the friendliness and eccentric nature of the restaurant alone. Its the kind of restaurant where you just stop by to say hi and leave with goodies for later just because they are that awesome! I’m talking about none other than the Toybox Bistro, a quirky little joint nestled into a strip of other small businesses including a little coffee/cupcake shop called SugarBelle where I nabbed some nitro coffee ‘for the win.’
You walk into the The Toybox Bistro and you’re not exactly sure what to think because it’s adorned in novelty comics, toys, board games and more. You may even be greeted by Darth Vader’s face while you sip your pale ale at the bar. This eccentric joint is the epitome of nerd-dom and that’s an awesome thing if you ask co-owner Michelle Timon. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Michelle and hearing about her desire to give back to the Huntsville community through creative culinary eats and the allowing of everyone to be themselves in the Bistro.
We sat down at the table that would soon be covered with red baskets of poutine (cheese curd and gravy covered fries) and deep-fried wickles (only the best pickle product in a jar you’ll find!). I learned by this second stop that you have to pace yourself because more food is coming so its best to take your time and let the top button of your pants loose early. We were able to choose between two items for our entrée that would be featured on the restaurant week menu. The first being a PB & Yay Burger, yes a burger with peanut butter – but don’t worry, no jelly is involved; though I’m convinced their culinary is capable of working wonders after trying the burger laced with peanut buttery-goodness! I was under the impression that this stuff only appeared on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, not that someone in real-life was actually creating such things – well, it was divine, so you should order two, one for you and one for the one you love. The other option was Toybox’s version of a cordon bleu, a fried chicken sandwich with swiss cheese, sweet ham, and a bacon béchamel which was nothing short of heavenly comfort food amped up by the bacon béchamel. You’ll be elated to know that these items will grace the menu as permanent fixtures after restaurant week is over.
Our last stop for the food blogger tour was the Beignet Cafe, a little hole in the wall nestled into a shopping center in the northern area of the city. While the dirty grits, white corn grits with andouille sausage and chicken in a spicy tomato-based creole sauce, were rather tasty, the iced coffee made with Cafe Du Monde coffee and the fluffy perfection of the beignets stole my heart! I’ve never been to New Orleans but I believe in my heart that those pillows of sugary decadence do the originals justice! I’m still dusting powdered sugar off my clothes as we speak…or as I speak, should I say?! ;-] The service was phenomenal and the owner Denise was a gem, sharing with us her inspiration for the restaurant and taking fantastic care of us! You may also choose from a strawberry and feta grilled chicken salad, egg bake, or dirty grits – some options also come with a beignet but trust me, you’ll want to.You guys, there was so much to do and see that I won’t overwhelm you in this one post, so stay tuned for part two as my wife and I explored Huntsville a little more. These restaurants are a great start to your restaurant week dining options and you may check out the other bloggers posts below to see more mouth-watering captures of what we dined on!
Katie Actually http://www.katieactually.com/toybox-bistro/
Rocket City Mom http://www.rocketcitymom.com/kid-report-toybox-bistro/
Bo Williams http://bowilliams.com/2016/07/visiting-toy-box-bistro-for-huntsville-restaurant-week-2016/
Sweet T Makes Three http://www.sweettmakesthree.com/places-to-eat-in-huntsville-alabama/
A behind the scene shot for your life, because bloggers y’all!
Photo by the talented Sarah of The Jealous Crumpet.
Disclosure: I was invited to get a sneak peak of the Huntsville Restaurant Week participating locations as a guest of the Huntsville-Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau. All thoughts and experience opinions posted here are that of my own. Meals were provided as part of this experience.