Want to know a (not-so) secret? I love good food. Imagine my joy when I was invited to participate in Huntsville Restaurant Week! I journeyed to Huntsville for a preview of five of the sixty restaurants participating in the event. This 10-day annual event will be held August 11th-20th this year and you don’t want to miss the opportunity to try the restaurant week specials for yourself! Sit back and enjoy a culinary journey through Huntsville, Alabama. Then, make plans to visit for yourself!
Huntsville, Alabama Foodie Experiences:
1. New Orleans Lunchbox– I admit this restaurant was not what I expected. Driving along, my GPS told me I had arrived. I glanced around in confusion. After 10 minutes of driving aimlessly in circles trying to find the restaurant, I stopped in a shopping center and tried to find the directions on my phone. I happened to glance up and saw, much to my surprise, New Orleans Lunchbox written on the side of the convenience store across the street.
I checked my notes. Authentic Cajun Food located in a convenience store? I needed to be convinced. The restaurant itself is small, with only a few tables and room for 15 dine-in guests, although carry-out is also available. I chatted with owner Roland Lowrey, who explained his vision of bringing classic authentic New Orleans dishes to Huntsville. Now I was ready for the tasting. The Restaurant Week Special is “The Sampler Plate” which includes red beans and rice, your choice of hot, smoked, or spicy sausage, two sides (chosen from shrimp etouffee, jambalaya, and gumbo), served with toasted baguette and whiskey bread pudding.
There is nothing fancy about this restaurant. The food is served on paper plates and bowls and the drinks (a choice of soft drinks, lemonade, tea or coffee) come in styrofoam cups. But the food! It really is just as good as the food I’ve tried in New Orleans over the years. And, it should be. Mr. Lowery has owned Roland’s Cajun Catering for the past 30 years. I chose the smoked sausage and shrimp etouffee and received such a generous portion I couldn’t finish it all. It could easily make two meals for me. Since I am a dessert fanatic, the whiskey bread pudding was a highlight for me. Soft creamy bread pudding with just a hint of whiskey. Everyone at the table mentioned how good it was. Don’t let the humble surroundings fool you, this restaurant is well worth a visit!
Tip: There are only a few parking spaces, but the food is worth the extra time it might take to park next door. The restaurant is located in at the corner of Jordan Lane and Holmes Avenue in the Marathon gas station.
2. Rocket City Tavern– This was another surprise. I expected typical tavern food. Instead, I was greeted with a variety of fine dining options. Although this is a fairly new restaurant, Rocket City Tavern was hopping when we visited on a Friday night. After a tour of the kitchens and private event space, I was ready to try the menu. Naturally, we tried the Restaurant Week Special. The first course is a choice of Pasta in Brodo, a three ingredient pasta dish consisting of orecchiette pasta in chicken broth and topped with parmesan cheese. We received a small bowl, but after I took the first bite I understood why. It was so rich and flavorful only a small amount was needed. We were allowed to add cheese ourselves and it melted beautifully into the mixture, adding a flavorful punch. We also tried the Chopped Vegetable Salad, featuring chopped veggies, mizuna greens, and a sherry vinaigrette. Seriously, this salad was so fresh and flavorful that we commented on it all weekend. It’s definitely a must try.
The entrees include a Tuscan Roasted Chicken, a Pan Seared Filet of Salmon, and an Ancho Espresso Crusted New York Strip Steak. My favorite was the Ancho Espresso Crusted New York Strip Steak, served with sauteed spinach, roasted mushrooms, and a merlot demi-glace. The mushrooms were so tasty I found myself sampling more than I should.
Dessert, a Rocket Warm Butter Cake, is included. This was another hit with the entire party. The cake is crusty on the outside, but gooey and moist on the inside. Be sure to include bites of the included white chocolate sauce, raspberry sauce and whipped cream to experience the maximum flavor. We shared three of these between the table, but we all exclaimed we could have eaten an entire portion on our own because it was so good.
Located near the Gate Nine entrance of the Redstone Arsenal, they live up to their slogan is “Where People and History Meet for Great Food and Drink.” Private Event space is available for groups of any size and a special Chef’s Table experience is available in the kitchen with Chef Michael Norton. Two other restaurants, owned by Rocket City Tavern, are located next door. Dipwich is a specialty sandwich shop and Fiero Mexican Grill specializes in fresh Mexican food. Both have menus prepared by Chef Michael Norton.
3. Rocket Republic Brewing Company– This is a huge modern space, with a space for a live band and a separate game room along with a tap room. While they have prepared a special blend for Restaurant week, I sampled the Solar Sour, a tangy and fruity orange concoction which is well worth a try if you are a craft beer drinker. Other craft breweries participating in restaurant week include Green Bus Brewing, Old Black Bear Brewing, and Below the Radar.
Where to Stay During Restaurant Week:
The Westin Huntsville- This centrally located hotel is recently remodeled and beautifully furnished. Done in a modern, contemporary style, this is the happening place for weddings and events. My room was furnished with a desk and a couch, allowing me to work in comfort. Although the hotel was packed, so full they even had to post a sign saying their massive parking lot was full, I was surprised by how quiet my room was. I didn’t notice any noise except for an occasional door shutting across the hall. There’s a beautiful view from rooms on the left side of the hotel, overlooking a lovely water feature. While you’re there, be sure to check out their very own restaurant, Sage Grill, which has lots of great breakfast specials and options during Restaurant Week.