Need tips on restaurants/places to visit in Nashville, TN; Huntsville, AL; and Birmingham, AL...
February 10, 2007 9:10 PM   Subscribe

Need tips on restaurants/places to visit in Nashville, TN; Huntsville, AL; and Birmingham, AL...

I will be taking a trip to see a friend that lives in Huntsville, AL; I will fly in to Nashville,TN on Saturday, Feb 17 (Early Afternoon), and then head over to Huntsville, AL later that day; then I will be flying out of Birmingham, AL on the afternoon of Monday, Feb 19...

Essentially I will be in Nashville, TN for about 4-5 hours, in Huntsville, AL 1 full day, and in Birmingham, AL for 4-5 hours...

Any tips on local restaurants (BBQ, etc...), events, and/or places I should visit?

These three posts have many good tips (Nashville, Huntsville, Birmingham) but they are older posts, and I was wondering if there are any seasonal events happening on the holiday weekend...

I plan to visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL.

Thanks in advance!
posted by MrBCID to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, oh pick me, pick me! I grew up in Nashville and lived in Birmingham. I'm a restaurant nut so I'll confine my responses to that.

If you're looking for the best meal in Nashville, Margot (over in East Nashville) is an absolute don't miss. The food is as fabulous as any I've ever had, a marvelous fusion of Southern, Provencal, and Tuscan cuisines in a relaxed, elegant atmosphere that never disappoints. If you want something more casual but definitively Nashville, try Prince's Hot Chicken (for a rare local delicacy) or Swett's or Monell's for meat and three.

Between Huntsville and Birmingham (if a slight detour) sis a fabulous barbecue joint called Big Bob Gibson's. In Birmingham proper, Dreamland barbecue is pretty good, but not as dirty and authentic as I like.

Also, a great chef named Frank Stitts owns a few restaurants in Birmingham. My favorites are Highlands (for the very high end) or Chez Fonfon (next door; for authentic French bistro fare).
posted by mostlymartha at 9:33 PM on February 10, 2007

I second Monell's.
posted by Duncan at 10:32 PM on February 10, 2007

I'll second the BBQ at Gibson's BBQ joint in Decatur, AL-- they have an internationally famous White BBQ sauce.

Birmingham has a more BBQ restaurants per capita than any other city in the world. Quantity has nothing to do with quality, but there are few great spots to grease your guts:

Dreamland: ribs with a tangy, vineagar based sauce.

Jim & Nicks is probably the best all-around BBQ in town. It is a local chain that is going national (Dreamland is also trying to go national).

The best real Southern BBQ in the Birmingham area can be found at two places:

Green Top BBQ on Highway 78 on the Jefferson/Walker County line just up the street from a strip club called Wesley's Booby Trap. Green Top is also a bar that gets really rowdy at night (my cousin had her teeth knocked out with a beer bottle there).

Top Hat BBQ has a nice ambience. Sunday is the best time to go because all of the customers (the after-church crowd) are wearing their Sunday best. It will be crowded.

* * *
On the other hand, my favorite restaurant in town is Surin West it is excellent Thai food and is located very close to Jim N' Nicks – as well as the Stitt estabishments (mentioned above but both closed on Sundays) in the Five Points area...
posted by cinemafiend at 10:56 PM on February 10, 2007 [2 favorites]

A drive through the Warner parks just outside Nashville is relaxing, especially on a Sunday morning. If you've time for it, a visit to the Narrows of the Harpeth is worth the trip. Cheekwood is lovely, even in winter. My son works in a high ticket Nashville restaurant, so I'm opting out of recommendationss on that topic, to avoid conflict of interest issues.

In Birmingham, don't miss Vulcan Park, for a view of Vulcan's mighty buttocks.
posted by paulsc at 11:02 PM on February 10, 2007

Seconding paulsc's Cheekwood recommendation.

You may also like the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, which is a pretty great zoo. If you go, don't miss the elephants and giraffes, which are in a separate area.

4-5 hours doesn't give you much time, though, and since you're flying in, you may not feel up to all of the walking both those places entail. I know when I get done from a flight I feel disproportionately exhausted.

If you love bookstores, Davis Kidd is great, and they have an excellent little restaurant. BookMan and BookWoman in Hillsboro Village are also really cool, in a more cluttered way, and that area is generally fun to walk around in.

If you're a music fan, even if you aren't much of a country music fan, the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum is pretty fantastic, extremely well organized and informative. Again with the walking though.
posted by joannemerriam at 5:09 AM on February 11, 2007

There's a bar on Music Row called Robert's that has free live music all day, every day. It's kind of seedy and run-down, which is part of the charm for me. The last time I was there, there was a great band covering classic country songs. I requested 'Black Rose' by Waylon Jennings, but the lead singer said he wasn't sure they could do it. A few songs later, when the band took a break, the lead singer came over with a piece of paper and asked me to help him remember the lyrics. We pieced them together and then he and the rest of the guys huddled in the corner around the guitarist for a few minutes, and when they came back on stage they played it perfectly and the singer thanked me and said something along the lines of how nice it was to see a 'young-un' keeping the music alive. In a silly way it felt awesome to help out like that. Anyway, Robert's is a great place to waste a few hours and drink a few PBR's. Or sodas, or whatever.
posted by cilantro at 5:42 AM on February 11, 2007


I'm meeting a friend in Birmingham Saturday and we're going to be there through Monday. My friend mentioned a museum exhibit she wanted to check out and we're both anxious to hit Charlemagne Records in Little Five Points.
posted by Clay201 at 6:48 AM on February 11, 2007

400 DEGREES. Nashville-style hot chicken, at least as good as Prince's, but with less attitude and better manners.
posted by dontrockwobble at 8:04 AM on February 11, 2007

I second Margot! I was in Nashville in March and it was fantastic. The food, service and atmosphere were all great without being pretentious.
posted by lagreen at 8:46 AM on February 11, 2007

When in Birmingham, spend as much time as possible in the immediate vicinity of Five Points. I pay extra rent just to be close to Jim and Nick's, Surin West, The Pancake House, Highlands, Hot and Hot, Bottega, etc....

You can't go wrong!
posted by jefficator at 10:06 AM on February 11, 2007

Five Points in Birmingham is indeed a pretty awesome area (note: it's just Five Points or Five Points South... Little Five Points is in Atlanta). And one that I live in. There's a ton of restaurants, depending on what you want to eat. There's Jim and Nick's, and Surin West, as already mentioned, but there's also a thriving up-scale dining scene. So if you're into that sort of stuff, check out this New York Times article (rehosted) - almost all the restaurants are in Five Points.

Also, check out the Bottletree. Since you're going to Charlemagne, I'll assume you're into good, independent music. However, their schedule doesn't have any shows listed for that weekend (odd). But even still, they're a very unique bar/restaurant, so peek at their menu.

Also, if the weather is nice, and you enjoy bars, check out The Garage. It was recently named one of the 5 bars in America worth flying to by GQ. The picture at that website is just small glimpse of their amazingly, unique patio. It's also just a short walk/drive from Five Points.

For the daytime, there's Vulcan Park, Sloss Furnaces, a very nice Civil Rights Museum, and a surprisingly pleasant Museum of Art. There's also a very unique used book/relic store called Reed Books
, but he's in the process of moving and only has about half of his stuff in the old store (you could still spend an entire day there).

Also, everything I've mentioned is downtown and only a short drive from one to another.

Are there any specific things you're interested in? Music, theatre, food, shopping?

I went to high school in Huntsville and can tell you that there's not much to do besides visit the Space and Rocket Center.
posted by JacksonEsquire at 2:57 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow... how many times can I begin a paragraph with "Also" - my English professors would be angry.
posted by JacksonEsquire at 3:01 PM on February 11, 2007

JacksonEsquire is right on. Restaurants in the 5 Points area are nationally-renowned; Bottletree ROCKS all the time. And has a pretty good cafe, too. (Tempeh BBQ! Only at Bottletree.)
posted by fearless_yakov at 4:17 PM on February 11, 2007

The best use of your time....hmmm...
The Hermitage (Andrew Jackson's home) is close to the airport. Interesting home & garden with a cafe.

Cafe Margo is the correct spelling and it is a bit of a backtrack, but a great stop for foodies.

Monell's in downtown Franklin is a good choice for a meal and a leg stretch just south of Nashville. You can tour Civil War houses/battlefields/cemetary or the McLemore House Museum (African American Reconstruction era home - be sure to check the hours) or stroll the historic downtown. Perhaps stop by Landmark Booksellers.
posted by egk at 6:34 PM on February 11, 2007

Thank you all for your outstanding tips!

JacksonEsquire: "Are there any specific things you're interested in? Music, theatre, food, shopping?"

Nothing in specific; but your recommendations give me plenty of places to pick from in the short time I will be there... Thanks again!
posted by MrBCID at 7:12 PM on February 11, 2007

As a postscript - I recently visited TOP HAT BBQ and the place has gone way downhill. The BBQ was clearly several days old and had been reheated - the place now has new owners...

It's still a beautiful drive from I-65 but the food is way below par.
posted by cinemafiend at 7:40 PM on November 14, 2007

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