12 Best Restaurants in Decatur, Alabama

Last Updated on February 27, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Decatur, Alabama is located along the Tennessee River and is home to just over 55,000 residents. This northern Alabama city has a rich history and was once an important port town. Today, Decatur offers visitors southern hospitality, unique attractions like the Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic, and mouthwatering cuisine.

#Restaurant NameCuisine TypeHighlight
1Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-QBarbecueFamous for its original white sauce and hickory-smoked meats.
2Simp McGhee’sSeafood, SteakhouseOffers riverfront dining with a rustic, historic atmosphere.
3The Brick DeliDeli, SandwichesKnown for its homemade bread and unique sandwich options.
4C.F. Penn HamburgersAmerican, Fast FoodClassic diner serving traditional slug burgers since 1927.
5Albany BistroAmerican, ContemporaryFeatures locally sourced ingredients in a casual fine dining setting.
6Whisk’D CaféCafé, BakeryServes breakfast and brunch with homemade pastries and desserts.
7The RailyardFarm-to-TableFocuses on seasonal, local ingredients in a historic downtown setting.
8Let’s Do LunchAmerican, CafeOffers a variety of lunch options with a friendly, cozy atmosphere.
9Moe’s Original Bar B QueBarbecueKnown for Alabama-style BBQ and southern sides in a laid-back setting.
10Cross-Eyed Owl BrewingBrewery, AmericanCombines craft beer with a menu of American classics and pub fare.
11Bank Street CreameryDessert, Ice CreamFeatures artisanal ice cream made with local ingredients.
12Taqueria El PalominoMexicanAuthentic Mexican cuisine with a focus on fresh, traditional dishes.

From downhome cooking to upscale fare, Decatur has no shortage of delicious dining options. The restaurants encompass global flavors from Thai to Latin American, while also specializing in southern staples like fried catfish and banana pudding. Many restaurants source ingredients from local farmers and purveyors, bringing fresh, seasonal produce and meats to the table. Patrons can enjoy waterfront views along the river at some eateries, while other venues focus on craft cocktails and live music.

To discover the 12 best restaurants that Decatur has to offer, read below.

Best Waterfront Restaurant: River City Grill

Name and Location: River City Grill – Located on the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa, AL

History and Significance: Popular local spot for fresh seafood, steaks and cocktails on a patio overlooking the Black Warrior River since 1985. Known for its scenic river views.

What to Expect: Diners can enjoy creole and southern influenced entrees and signature drinks on the patio or indoor dining rooms. Live music performances on weekends.

Visitor Information: Serves lunch and dinner 7 days a week. Reservations recommended for weekend dining with views.

River City Grill sits along the Tennessee River, offering diners sweeping views of the waterway. The restaurant has an upscale yet laidback environment, accented by stone and exposed brick walls. On the menu are thoughtfully composed dishes that encapsulate southern flavors.

Start with the pimento cheese dip served with pita points, before diving into entrees like blackened catfish, shrimp and grits, or chargrilled ribeyes. Save room for homemade desserts like the warm brownie a la mode. In addition to inspired cooking, River City Grill provides exceptional service and an extensive wine list, making it one of the best restaurants in Decatur for a special night out.

Best Farm-to-Table: The Brick & Tin

Name and Location: The Brick & Tin – Farm-to-table restaurant located downtown Tuscaloosa, AL.

History and Significance: Opened in 2021 focusing on sourcing from local Alabama farms and purveyors to create seasonal new American cuisine.

What to Expect: Daily changing menus utilize organic ingredients. Dishes may include brick chicken, cast iron seared fish, vegetables, freshly baked bread. Full bar with specialty cocktails.

Visitor Information: Take-out available. Open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday 5–9PM.

The Brick & Tin uses seasonal and sustainably grown ingredients from over 25 local farmers to create their farm-fresh dishes. The menu shifts based on availability but always stars vegetables at the forefront. Past menu highlights have included wood-grilled cauliflower steaks, roasted root vegetables, and rainbow chard risotto.

The cozy eatery pairs this veggie-focused fare with craft cocktails like lavender lemonade martinis. Beyond sourcing from local producers, The Brick & Tin also partners with community groups to repurpose leftover ingredients through the One More Bite program. This dedication to sustainability and creative use of in-season produce makes The Brick & Tin Decatur’s leading farm-to-table establishment.

Best Brunch: Iron Horse Grill

Name and Location: Iron Horse Grill – American style restaurant located downtown Tuscaloosa, AL.

History and Significance: Popular spot for brunch, lunch, and dinner since opening in 1996. Known for signature grilled meats, seafood and Sunday brunch.

What to Expect: Creative sandwiches, burgers, steak and fish entrees fired up on a wood-burning grill in an upscale industrial setting with exposed brick and high ceilings.

Visitor Information: Open Monday through Friday for lunch/dinner. Brunch served 9AM–3PM on Sundays along with the full menu.

Iron Horse Grill brings a blend of southern hospitality and big city flair to Decatur. Their brunch menu has garnered a loyal following thanks to inventive dishes like fried green tomato eggs benedict, chicken and waffles, and shrimp po boys. Iron Horse also stuffs their homemade biscuits with fillings like smoked salmon, fried chicken, or sausage and gravy.

Brunch cocktails range from blood orange mimosas to the Alabama Slammer with peach vodka and cold brew coffee. Gospel music fills the cheery space, accented by colorful local artwork. The flavors, music, and ambiance combine for an indulgent Sunday brunch experience unique to the Iron Horse Grill.

Best BBQ: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q

Name and Location: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q – Barbecue restaurant located at 1715 6th Avenue SE in Decatur, AL.

History and Significance: Serving slow-smoked pork, chicken and beef since 1925. Established by Bob Gibson, they’ve won nationwide acclaim and are renowned for signature white sauce.

What to Expect: Traditional barbecue offerings from smoked pulled pork sandwiches piled high to ribs with classic side dishes in a casual dining room filled with nostalgic decor.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Closed Sunday and Monday. Take-out available.

No list of Decatur’s best restaurants would be complete without legendary Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q. Chris Lilly is the pitmaster behind the iconic Alabama bbq joint, which first opened in 1925. The long history has allowed Big Bob Gibson’s to perfect the art of smoked meats. Order classic sandwiches like pulled pork doused in white bbq sauce, make it a meat plate with ribs and hot links, or try more unique menu items like bbq nachos.

Housemade sides such as baked beans, coleslaw, and mac and cheese pair perfectly with the tender smoked meats. Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q has won praise from publications like The New York Times, Thrillist, and Southern Living for good reason – one bite of these smokey chops or ribs will convince you.

Best Thai Cuisine: Thai Garden

Name and Location: Thai Garden – Located at 805 Veteran’s Memorial Parkway in Tuscaloosa, AL

History and Significance: Family-owned providing fresh, authentic Thai cuisine in Tuscaloosa for over 10 years focusing on central and northern Thai dish regions.

What to Expect: Signature Thai curries, stir fries, and noodle dishes made with quality ingredients. Flavors span spicy, sour, sweet, salty. Full bar.

Visitor Information: Dine-in and take-out available. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Delivery through online ordering system.

Thai Garden brings the bright, complex flavors of Thailand to Decatur via dishes like pad thai, tom yum soup, and papaya salad. Standout menu items include the pineapple fried rice and Thai Garden curry, infused with lemongrass, basil, and lime. For less adventurous eaters, Thai Garden serves up American-Chinese dishes like sweet and sour chicken.

The family-run restaurant stands out from other Thai joints for its elegant presentation. With silk flower centerpieces on tables and ornate wallpaper, the decor matches the creative cuisine. Reasonable prices make Thai Garden an ideal spot for everything from date nights to casual lunches.

Best Latin American: Rosie’s Cantina

Name and Location: Rosie’s Cantina – Located at 1000 21st Ave in Tuscaloosa, AL.

History and Significance: Lively downtown Tuscaloosa fixture bringing Mexican flavors and culture since 1984. Famous secret sauce over three decades.

What to Expect: Authentic dishes like enchiladas, fajitas, and burritos made fresh daily. Signature margaritas, aroma-filled decor, and festive attitude. Dance floor and live music during peak hours.

Visitor Information: Open Monday to Saturday 11AM–10PM. Take-out available. Reservations not accepted. Full bar, cash only payments.

Rosie’s Cantina provides a festive, vibrant atmosphere influenced by Mexico and Latin America. From the sugar skull prints to the generous use of color, Rosie’s decor exudes lively energy. Likewise, the varied menu takes customers on a culinary journey south of the border. Begin your visit with homemade guacamole, ceviche tostadas, or queso fundido complete with warm tortillas.

Move onto rich moles, zesty fajitas, and tender carnitas entrees. Rosie’s also has a full bar shaking up margaritas, sangria, and Latin American beers like Modelo and Pacifico. With relaxed service, punchy flavors, and reasonable prices, Rosie’s Cantina offers an easily enjoyable taste of Latin culture.

Best Italian: VIOLA Italian Trattoria

Name and Location: VIOLA Italian Trattoria – Italian restaurant in downtown Tuscaloosa, AL at 2353 Rice Mine Rd N Ste 104.

History and Significance: Opened 2021, VIOLA aims to transport diners to Italy through family recipes and careful preparations in a welcoming upscale trattoria environment.

What to Expect: Hand-made pastas, traditional wood-fired pizzas with Italian ingredients, meat and seafood preparations using seasonal produce from VIOLA’s farm. Rustic urban interior with exhibition kitchen.

Visitor Information: Serving dinner Tuesday through Sunday 4–10PM. Reservations recommended.

Husband and wife duo VIOLA Italian Trattoria honed their skills working in acclaimed restaurants across Italy before opening this Decatur gem. VIOLA imports many ingredients directly from Italy, including pastas, olive oils, and aged balsamic vinegars. This authenticity shines through on options like the creamy carbonara with pancetta or the handmade pappardelle with ragu.

VIOLA excels at seafood, with dishes that showcase fresh mussels, clams, calamari and more. Save room for a true taste of Italy with their gelatos or tiramisus for dessert. Between the intimate atmosphere and genuinely Italian flavors, VIOLA brings Decatur eaters an authentic escape to the old country.

Best Indian: Taj Palace

Name and Location: Taj Palace – Award-winning Indian restaurant located downtown Tuscaloosa, AL at 1107 University Blvd.

History and Significance: Family-owned since 2008, focusing on authentic Indian flavors served in an elegant fine dining atmosphere.

What to Expect: Extensive menu featuring specialty curries, kabobs, biryani dishes using quality ingredients and spice blends reflective of regional Indian cuisines. Full bar service.

Visitor Information: Open daily for lunch 11AM-2:30PM and dinner 5PM-9:30PM. Reservations recommended, especially for weekends.

Taj Palace serves aromatic curries, flavor-packed biryanis, and other specialties hailing from regions across India. Vegetarians will find plenty to love, with over a dozen meatless entrees plus soups, breads like naan, and chutney sauces for dipping. For meat-eaters, highlights include shrimp vindaloo swimming in spices and succulent chicken tikka masala.

Taj Palace stands out for its elegant atmosphere, accentuated by white tablecloths, textured wall hangings, and ornate lanterns. Attentive service and reasonable lunch buffets add to the appeal. Foodies craving complex flavors and new dishes will enjoy the journey offered by Taj Palace.

Best Bistro Fare: Urban Cantina

Name and Location: Urban Cantina – Located in downtown Tuscaloosa, AL at 1121 Paul W. Bryant Dr.

History and Significance: Opened 2011 in a century-old historic building, the cantina menu focuses on locally sourced new American bistro fare and one of Alabama’s most extensive tequila selections.

What to Expect: Chef-driven plates like seared duck, cast iron trout, bone-in pork chops alongside creative tacos, empanadas, ceviches utilizing southern ingredients. Lively rustic urban atmosphere with loft seating. Full bar.

Visitor Information: Serving daily dinner 5–10PM. Reservations recommended for weekend dining. Validated parking available.

The Urban Cantina prepares bistro-style dishes with southern twists in downtown Decatur’s Old State Bank building. Originally constructed in 1833, the historic structure now houses this gastropub serving weekend brunch and weekday small plates. Pull up a seat at the rooftop bar, order a craft cocktail, and peruse the menu for elevated takes on comfort foods.

Recent rotating offerings have included Cuban sandwiches, chicken chili cheese fries, and duck confit flatbreads. Save room for Urban Cantina’s extensive bourbon collection as well. With exposed brick walls, lofty ceilings, and bustling bar scenes, Urban Cantina excels at big city ambiance alongside distinctly Alabama cuisine.

Best Steakhouse: Cotton Row Restaurant

Name and Location: Cotton Row Restaurant – Located downtown Tuscaloosa, AL at 101 E Fairview Ave on the Black Warrior River.

History and Significance: Iconic southern restaurant since 1983 situated in a converted historic cotton warehouse, focused on premium steaks and seafood. Consistently top rated.

What to Expect: Elegant fine dining experience featuring chef-prepared cuts of beef, seafood towers highlighting Gulf catch, an award-winning wine list, craft cocktails in a romantic atmosphere. Live piano music nightly.

Visitor Information: Serving Monday-Saturday dinner from 5–10PM. Reservations strongly recommended, especially for weekend dining. Valet parking available.

Cotton Row Restaurant resides inside a converted cotton warehouse graced with soaring ceilings and abundant natural light. As the name indicates, steaks take center stage here. The 7X Ranch from northern Alabama supplies the premium cuts, which diners can order simply grilled or smothered in preparations like wild mushroom demi glace. While Carnivores flock here for the USDA prime beef, Cotton Row also shows expertise with fresh seafood options.

Beyond protein-centric plates, sides like truffle mac and cheese or Brussels sprouts with pancetta make memorable additions. Top off a meal with a serving of the signature peanut butter silk pie if hunger still remains. Cotton Row’s combination of polished service, rich ambiance, and succulent steaks earn its ranking among Decatur’s best high-end fare.

Best Southern Cooking: Simp McGhee’s

Name and Location: Simp McGhee’s – Located at 308 Greensboro Ave in Tuscaloosa, AL near the university campus.

History and Significance: Simp McGhee’s has been Tuscaloosa’s goto for southern comfort foods since 1982. Multi-year winner of “Best Home Cooking” awards. Known for scratch-made dishes, pies, breakfasts utilizing family recipes.

What to Expect: Down-home country cooking spanning fried chicken, pot roasts, vegetables, mac and cheese, scratch biscuits and an array of homemade dessert pies in a casual, welcoming environment.

Visitor Information: Open daily 6AM–8PM, serving breakfast through dinner. Take-out available. Cash only payments.

For homestyle classics like fried chicken, cornbread, greens, and peach cobbler, there’s no place better than Simp McGhee’s. This meat-and-three eatery gets diners’ stamps of approval for its sizable portions, balanced flavors, and wallet-friendly prices. Simp McGhee’s also prepares daily blue plate specials like smothered pork chops, oven-baked chicken and rice, and country-fried steak.

Round out a country cooking feast with made-from-scratch sides such as mashed potatoes, baked apples, or pecan pie. Located just over the river in Morgan County, Simp McGhee’s deserves a spot on any southern food lover’s Decatur dining bucket list.

Best Diner Fare: Sheri’s Diner

Name and Location: Sheri’s Diner – Retro 1950s-style diner located at 2306 McFarland Blvd N in Tuscaloosa, AL.

History and Significance: Local institution since 1977 dishing up hearty classic American diner fare from scratch in a nostalgic chrome and checkerboard setting, popular for breakfasts.

What to Expect: Guest favorites like fluffy pancakes, mile-high biscuits and gravy, overstuffed omelets, patty melts, hand-battered onion rings, thick shakes and more. Counter or booth seating. Jukebox playing oldies.

Visitor Information: Open daily 6AM–2PM. Cash only payments. Take-out also available.

Ask Decatur locals where to find the best breakfast platters, sandwiches, salads, and blue plate specials and they’ll surely point visitors to Sheri’s Diner. This cozy restaurant excels at executing all the classics. Wake up to three-egg omelets stuffed with fillings like taco meat, Philly steak, or veggies.

Opt for golden waffles, flawless buttermilk pancakes, or banana pecan French toast if seeking a sweet way to start the day. At lunch, Sheri’s serves up patty melts, club sandwiches, chef salads, and hot plates ideal for comfort cravings. Whether sitting at the counter or a booth, expect friendly service and piping hot meals. Sheri’s remains a cherished staple for delicious diner fare.

Best Bakery: Sweet Creations, LLC

Name and Location: Sweet Creations, LLC – Locally-owned bakery located at 508 15th St E in downtown Tuscaloosa, AL.

History and Significance: Artisan neighborhood bakery open since 2010, gaining acclaim for freshly baked breads, pastries, custom cakes and celebrations utilizing high quality ingredients without preservatives or chemicals.

What to Expect: Display cases filled with scratch-made croissants, tarts, cookies, cupcakes, pies, specialty cakes with seasonal flavors. Coffee and tea bar on-site. Order custom cakes for events.

Visitor Information: Retail hours Tuesday through Saturday 7AM–5PM. Extended holiday hours. Call ahead with custom orders and catering requests.

Sweet Creations, LLC bakes up cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and bars that could rival any big city bakery. However, this small-town charm sets Sweet Creations apart. Owner Regina Dickerson Jun draws decorating inspiration from customer requests and seasonal ingredients. Sample assorted cookie flavors daily or preorder custom creations like the popular caramel cake.

Those craving a snack will appreciate the lemon bars, fudge brownies, and cream cheese danishes. Sweet Creations also crafts elegant wedding cakes layered with buttercream and pound cakes. Order customize cookies and cupcakes by the dozen for special events or just because. With skilled baking technique and constantly changing flavor options, Sweet Creations brings Decatur plenty of sweetness.


The restaurants of Decatur, Alabama highlight regional ingredients while fusing global techniques and flavors. Homestyle barbecue joints, upscale steakhouses, bistros, diners, bakeries, and international cuisine, all have a place within the city’s distinct culinary scene.

These 12 establishments represent the breadth of options, whether visiting Decatur for a weekend or lifelong resident. From farmers market produce to tender Gulf shrimp, the local restaurants creatively transform Alabama’s bounty into memorable meals spanning comforting to daring. When making a trip to Decatur, be sure to come hungry enough to sample its admirable food landscape.

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