Located in the northern reaches of Alabama, Madison is home to a culinary scene that offers diners everything from heart-warming Southern comfort food and juicy barbecue to authentic Vietnamese and boutique tearoom dining. Check out our list below for tips on dining out in Madison.
Serving an eclectic mix of Southern comfort food classics and globally-inspired fare, Main Street Café is one of Madison’s preferred destinations for delicious midday eats. Its unique, historic location is an added bonus. Housed inside Madison’s former city hall, Main Street Café features two of the original building’s jail cells now converted into private dining rooms and a pretty patio dining area. Choose from regular menu items like Georgia chicken with peaches and pecan sauce or tilapia with mango salsa and rice pilaf or opt for a daily special like clam bisque or Cajun shrimp salad.
Often hailed as one of the best Japanese restaurants in northern Alabama, EDO is known for its mouth-watering sushi, beautiful presentation and authentic ambience. First opened in 1998 by owner Kiyo Honma, who brings 30 years of restaurateur experience to the restaurant, EDO mimics traditional restaurants of Japan with a sushi bar, booths and zataku-style tables and a peaceful Japanese garden surrounding the restaurant. A range of sushi is available from flying fish roe nigiri to spicy tuna rolls alongside entrees like ginger teriyaki pork, chicken katsu and nabemono, a hearty Japanese hotpot-style dish.
One of Madison’s best loved barbecue joints, ChuckWagon BBQ is great-tasting, no-frills dining at its finest. Owned by native Texan Mike Holley, ChuckWagon BBQ is full of tastes and touches from his homeland. A kitsch, shack-style exterior welcomes guests into a pared-back dining room with wooden booths and a distinct Southwestern style. The meats are cooked over ‘Texas fire’, an offset cooking technique where the flame never touches the meat ensuring moist, succulent barbecue every time. Combine beef brisket, ribs, pulled pork, chicken and sausage with sides that include slaw, potato salad, corn on the cob and baked beans.
A must-try in Madison for anyone with a sweet tooth, Whistle Stop Sweet Shop is a much loved confectioners opened by owner Lynn Crumbly in late 2012 to rave reviews. Located in a charming storefront in historic downtown Madison, Whistle Stop Sweet Shop is a cozy, colorful and welcoming space serving a number of sweet and savory bites, coffee and gelato. Though for a real treat, guests should opt for Lynn’s popular, signature homemade fudge available in flavors that range from chocolate and peanut butter to chocolate caramel sea salt and chewy praline.
Pie in the Sky Pizza originally started out in Tennessee in 2001, and eleven years later founders Kelly and Caroline Black decided to bring their unique Nashville-style pizzas to Madison. The secret to Pie in the Sky’s pizza pies is a combination of slow-proofed dough, fresh cheese and its delicious signature sauce made from Italian pear tomatoes, sweet garlic, olive oil, sea salt and a secret blend of spices. Choose from simple classics like margherita and quattro formaggio, or a unique pie like the steak and blue with tenderloin, mushroom caps, red onion and gorgonzola crumbles or opt for a classic Italian entrée like spaghetti and meatballs.
Serving soulful Southern food since first opening its doors in 2011, Little Libby’s Catfish & Diner is a popular Madison dining destination for the lunch crowd. However, guests can get their fix of tasty Southern eats into early evening too. As its name might suggest, Little Libby’s is famous for its hand-breaded catfish, based on a recipe passed from generation to generation and served with hushpuppies. A number of other classic Southern dishes will also tempt diners with entrées like country fried steak and brown gravy or meatloaf served with sides such as fried okra, black eyed peas and fried green tomatoes.
For fresh, healthy and authentic Vietnamese food, look no further than Saigon, located on the outskirts of town offering guests a dining experience out of the ordinary. Appetizers include Vietnamese egg rolls stuffed with pork, taro, clear noodles and carrots or shrimp dumplings. Saigon’s entrées offer authentic tastes in the form of com tay cam, a crispy rice-based Vietnamese-style hotpot topped with meat, seafood or tofu, and specialty dishes like stir-fried New Zealand mussels with oyster sauce and salt and pepper pork chop.
Owner Victoria Barlowe fulfilled a lifelong dream when she opened Tea With Thee – an elegant, boutique tearoom – in late 2012 and since then has developed a firm following in Madison. She attracts diners looking for a unique experience, and hosts events like tea parties, wedding showers and birthday parties. Alongside Tea With Thee’s range of teas from across the globe (also available for purchase loose leaf), guests can choose from tasty, homemade wraps, sandwiches, soups, salads and desserts or opt for its three tiered service which includes a pot of freshly steeped tea and scones, sandwiches and a selection of desserts.
Opened in the fall of 2014, Cork & Crust is one of the most recent additions to Madison’s dining scene and the pizzeria and wine bar is already proving to be a big hit with local diners. Owner Jim O’Brien and sommelier Eric To conceived Cork & Crust with the aim of bringing to Madison quality house-made cuisine. With its range of pizzas, pastas and other Italian fare combined with eclectic international wines and handcrafted cocktails, the restaurant certainly delivers its promise. Try a tasty stroganoff pizza topped with four-hour braised short rib, caramelized onions and mushrooms of the tempting fusion dish of Tuscan shrimp and grits.
If quesadillas, enchiladas and burritos washed down with a margarita or two is your idea of a great meal, then head on down to La Placita Mexcian Grill for an evening of tasty, authentic Mexican fare. Kick off your meal with an appetizer of choriqueso (a fondue-like dish of chorizo and cheese) or chicken tortilla soup before trying one of La Placita’s specialty entrees. Try the tempting Plato Oaxaca, grilled steak, poblano peppers and onions topped with Oaxaca cheese and served with rice beans. For dessert, go with something authentic such as the cheesecake chimichanga or sopapilla.