Ask any outdoor enthusiast what their favorite part about an adventure is, and you’ll likely get a similar response: sitting down for that first post-workout meal, eyeing the menu, and taking that first, mouthwatering bite (or refreshing sip).
Fortunately, Alabama is brimming with excellent restaurants that replenish and refill outdoor aficionados after a day on the river, road, or trail. No matter what you’re craving—a juicy burger, cold beer, or some classic Southern fare (or any combination of those)—you’re likely to find a quality meal not far from your favorite landmark or trailhead.
From fried fare and inventive settings, to hearty pasta served up in a wooden café, to fresh seafood on the shores of Mobile Bay, we’ve got you covered with a five of our favorite post-outing restaurants in Alabama. Be sure to bring your appetite.
1. Rattlesnake Saloon
It’s not everyday that you can dig into a meal at the mouth of a cave, which makes the Rattlesnake Saloon an especially unique dining experience following a day on the Tennessee River or in the Bankhead National Forest.
The mostly-outdoor saloon opens in April and serves hungry diners all summer. An immense rock wall shadows the tables and keeps diners cool—even at the height of summer.
The menu trends toward basic family fare that hits the spot after a day outdoors: French fries, onion rings, mozzarella cheese sticks, chicken tenders, burgers, and sandwiches—all served in eye-popping portions.
Feeling especially famished? Try your hand at the Gigantor, a two-pound ground beef burger topped with all the fixings. It comes with one pound of fries, a half-pound of onion rings, and a pitcher of soda, lemonade, or iced tea. It’ll set you back $45, but the dish is free if you manage to eat it within 45 minutes.
We know how good that first beer tastes after a hike, but take note: Despite its name, the Rattlesnake Saloon pours only a small selection of beer (including Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light)—and it’s not available until 5 pm.
2. Nibblers Float-Thru Grill
After a day of boating, camping, hiking, or fishing at Lake Martin, you might not want to wait for your next meal.
Thanks to Nibblers Float-Thru Grill, you don’t have to.
The colorful pontoon boat patrols Lake Martin each summer (most commonly near Chimney and Acapulco Rocks), dishing up filling fare to boaters and determined swimmers. Nibblers’ menu changes regularly, but diners can expect a mix of quesadillas, wraps, tacos, burgers, sliders, and other summery cuisine.
Pro tip: Work up an appetite on the nearby Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail (mostly hugging Lake Martin’s southeastern shore) before diving in for a meal at Nibblers. The extensive trail system winds around the Lake Martin shoreline, offers views of Kowaliga Bay and Chimney Rock from dramatic bluffs, and introduces hikers to central Alabama’s lush forests.
3. Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q
Northern Alabama (including the region around Huntsville and Decatur) is blessed with myriad hiking, paddling, cycling, mountain biking, and trail running destinations not far from town—and that’s to say nothing of the nearby Bankhead National Forest. And there’s no better way to replenish the calories you burned in these outdoor playgrounds than with a stop at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, considered by many to be the state’s best barbecue.
Established in 1925, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q now hosts two locations in Decatur. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the restaurant’s hickory-smoked dishes, which include ribs, beef brisket, a stuffed baked potato (overflowing with butter, sour cream, cheddar cheese, smoked bacon chips, chives, and a mound of your favorite meat), pulled pork, and lip-smacking sides.
But the real star is Big Bob’s tangy white sauce, made from secret ingredients that have enchanted Alabamans for generations. The tangy white sauce is slathered on several smoked chicken dishes, including a barbecue chicken sandwich and hickory-smoked barbecue chicken.
4. Wildflower Café
If you’re not quite ready to leave the outdoors behind for your meal, good news if you happen to be in the eastern part of the state: You don’t have to. The wood-framed Wildflower Café, located just a few miles from the Alabama/Georgia state line in Mentone, is surrounded by mountains of greenery, including ivy, ferns, and massive trees. Even with muddy hiking boots, you’ll feel right at home while perusing the menu.
The café serves a decadent menu, and you can’t go wrong with its hearty salads, perfectly cooked prime rib, wraps and sandwiches, or pasta dishes. The Wildflower Café’s specialty, however, is the loaded tomato pie. The signature dish comes topped with grilled chicken breast (though it’s also available as a vegetarian dish), diced tomatoes, and parmesan and feta cheese—all served on angel hair pasta and covered with a garlic-parmesan cream sauce.
And head’s up if you’re super hungry: The Wildflower Café is an extremely busy restaurant that prepares its meals to order. If you’re itching to get back to town, or are so famished that you need sustenance stat, your server will happily suggest a dish that doesn’t take long to cook.
5. Felix’s Fish Camp
Living in and around Mobile, it’s almost a crime not to love seafood. So whether you’re coming back from a day on the Gulf Coast, or once you’re done paddling or mountain biking in the forests outside of town, stop at Felix’s Fish Camp for outstanding seafood—and views to match.
The spacious restaurant prides itself on serving the freshest seafood available and boasts a menu that includes Gulf shrimp, oysters, crawfish, ahi tuna, whitefish, and crab. However you like your seafood cooked, odds are good that Felix’s serves it—and serves it well.
While you’re at it, try to snag a window seat for unimpeded views of Mobile Bay. There may be no more perfect locale for soaking up the sunset after enjoying a long day outdoors.
Originally written for BCBS of AL.