12 Best Restaurants in Madison, Alabama

Last Updated on February 29, 2024 by Emily Johnson


Madison is a vibrant city in Alabama offering a diverse food scene with international flavors and Southern specialties. From upscale modern cuisine to classic barbecue joints, Madison has top-notch restaurants to suit any palate and budget.

Restaurant NameCuisine TypeSpecialty
Tom Brown’s RestaurantAmericanUpscale dining with a Southern twist
Phuket Thai RestaurantThaiAuthentic Thai dishes and sushi
Old Black Bear Brewing Co.GastropubCraft beer and hearty American classics
Cork & CrustItalian/MediterraneanPizzas and Mediterranean dishes
Champy’s ChickenSouthern/AmericanFamous for fried chicken and sides
Saigon Vietnamese RestaurantVietnameseTraditional Vietnamese pho and banh mi
Fulin’s Asian CuisineAsianChinese and Japanese dishes
La Placita MexicanMexicanClassic Mexican fare and margaritas
Terra NovaAmericanLocally-sourced, innovative dishes
Main Street CafeCafe/AmericanHomestyle meals in a historic setting
306 BBQBarbecueTraditional Southern barbecue
Earth and Stone Wood Fired PizzaPizzaArtisanal wood-fired pizzas

Known for its technical and culinary innovation, the city provides distinctive dining options in a relaxing atmosphere. Whether you’re a long-time resident or just visiting, Madison’s eclectic restaurant selection allows you to embark on an exciting culinary journey.

In this article, we present the 12 best restaurants that capture the spirit of dining in Madison. From quaint bistros dishing out Creole favourites to steakhouses searing up prime cuts, you’ll discover the top foodie hotspots loved by locals and travellers alike. We’ve handpicked the highest-rated spots bursting with flavour, creativity, and charm – so get ready to tantalize your taste buds with the best that Madison has to offer!

Cotton Row Restaurant

Name and Location: Cotton Row Restaurant occupies a restored Huntsville, Alabama cotton trading warehouse at 108 Cleveland Avenue in downtown Huntsville’s entertainment district near Big Spring Park.

History and Significance: Dating from 1821, the rustic multi-level dining landmark exemplifies Alabama’s antebellum cotton prosperity supporting Huntsville’s emergence through repurposed architecture showcasing exposed beams, stacked stone and iron accents as a regional fine dining pioneer since 1989.

What to Expect: Dishes like pecan crusted rainbow trout and braised short ribs incorporate seasonal Southern ingredients under iron-chandelier lit exposed rafters or on the outdoor courtyard overlooking the adjacent natural springs. Impressive wine list and dessert menu.

Visitor Information: Dinner only Tuesday through Saturday plus Sunday Brunch. Closed Monday. Reservations recommended, especially for patio seating.

With a seasonal New Southern menu focused on fresh local ingredients, Cotton Row Restaurant provides a refined yet welcoming dining experience in Madison’s historic downtown district. Under the expert direction of Executive Chef James Boyce, who cut his teeth in acclaimed kitchens countrywide, Cotton Row serves creative takes on regional favorites sure to impress fellow foodies.

Standout starter picks include the sweet corn bisque topped with brown butter crumb and flash-fried okra with buttermilk ranch for dipping. Moving into the entrees, the cast-iron seared filet of beef topped with a glistening wild mushroom ragout makes a fine choice. Seafood lovers will delight in the pecan crusted rainbow trout served with a minted pea puree and roasted fingerling potatoes. End your meal on a high note with their signature dessert – a decadent bittersweet chocolate torte that will leave your taste buds thoroughly satisfied.

With its dedication to culinary excellence and personable hospitality, Cotton Row earns its reputation as one of the best restaurants in Madison for elevated Southern cuisine. Treat yourself to a memorable dining experience at this local gem.

The Bottle Tree Café

Name and Location: The Bottle Tree Café is located at 2411 Triana Boulevard Southwest in Huntsville, Alabama near the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

History and Significance: Open since 1998 in a bungalow style cottage, this breakfast and lunch fixture is renowned for signature crepe dishes, freshly baked pastries and an extensive Bloody Mary bar – earning acclaim as Huntsville’s original gourmet casual eatery with charming ambiance.

What to Expect: Light crepes, crisp salads, hearty sandwiches and French onion soup accompany bakery-fresh muffins, scones and cinnamon rolls while adults appreciate tailored bloody mary and mimosa beverages and smooth cappuccinos under the signature willow tree metal sculpture.

Visitor Information: Open daily 6:30am-2pm. Indoor and patio seating available first come, first served. Carry out available.

For a cozy neighborhood bistro bringing Tuscan charm to Madison, look no further than family-owned Bottle Tree Café. Their market-driven menu bursts with rustic Italian flavors, sourcing antipasti ingredients from artisanal Alabama food producers to craft shareable small plates perfect for pairing with one of their extensive wines or craft beers. Bright bruschetta, creamy polenta fries, and melt-in-your-mouth meatballs headline the starters, while the Spaghetti Carbonara takes the spotlight for house-made pastas.

Bottle Tree’s intimate atmosphere blends seamless indoor-outdoor spaces, with weatherproof clear walls enclosing the patio so guests can enjoy lake views in any season. String lights cast a warm glow as you sip wine and nibble focaccia among the café’s signature bottle trees lining the walls. This casually romantic spot makes date nights or catching up with friends over fabulous food effortlessly memorable. Don’t miss out on one of Madison’s beloved culinary institutions on your next night out.

The Freight House

Name and Location: The Freight House is situated at 320 Franklin Street in downtown Huntsville, Alabama near the Von Braun Center and historic Huntsville Depot train station site.

History and Significance: Set inside a meticulously restored 19th century train freight warehouse later utilized as an aviation school, this popular downtown restaurant bar since 2009 exhibits exposed brick walls adorned with railway machines alongside regional American dishes and specialty cocktails.

What to Expect: While dining on farm-to-table entrees like seared duck or braised pot roast, guests are transported into rustic industrial ambiance contrasted by modern artwork installations depicting iconic historical Huntsville scenes like cotton loading or depot activity just outside the original doors.

Visitor Information: Serving lunch, dinner plus Sunday brunch with gluten free and kids menu options. Reservations recommended for dinner groups. Closed Monday.

All aboard for an evening of elevated pub grub classics at The Freight House, a gastropub restaurant set in a historic railroad freight depot. With nearly two dozen craft drafts on tap, the beer list steals the show. Still, the Southern-inspired menu holds its own with dishes like fried green tomatoes topped with lump crab meat and charred pimento cheese showcasing regional ingredients. No matter if you opt for pub favorites like brick-oven pizzas or daily chef’s specials like sesame-crusted tuna, bold flavors shine through.

Inside the rustic industrial space, exposed brick walls, and iron beams play off the warm glow of hanging Edison bulbs, creating an inviting atmosphere for drinking and dining. On warmer nights, grab a table on the sprawling open-air deck overlooking a lush forest. With great food, incredible drinks, and laid-back ambiance, The Freight House is a Madison go-to any night of the week.

Viet Cuisine

Name and Location: Viet Cuisine serves authentic Vietnamese dishes at 6590 University Drive Northwest #18 in Harvest Plaza strip mall in Huntsville/Madison suburbia.

History and Significance: Operating since 2012 near Cummings Research Park tech centers, this unassuming storefront eatery skillfully executes traditional banh mi sandwiches, steaming noodle bowls, crispy spring rolls and stir fried entrees using family recipes – earning a fervent local following for quality, consistency and hospitality.

What to Expect: Signature pho noodle soups, bun rice vermicelli combos, grilled lemongrass pork chops and Vietnamese-style coffee please loyal regulars and newcomers alike in humble retro-decorated dining room supported solely by word-of-mouth buzz.

Visitor Information: Takeout friendly. Open Monday-Saturday 11am-9pm. Closed Sundays. Cash only payments.

The vibrant flavors of Vietnam find fresh expression at Viet Cuisine, Madison’s premiere spot for authentically adventurous Southeast Asian fare. Their menu tours regional curry, noodle and rice dishes flavors from the northern hill tribes to the herbaceous south. Peruse the expansive options or opt for Viet Cuisine’s specialty – pho. These aromatic beef noodle soups star ultra-tender brisket and meatballs in deeply savory broths perfect for slurping up every last morsel.

Beyond pho, Viet Cuisine’s lemongrass curries, garlic pepper shrimp and banana blossom salad offer glimpses into one of the world’s great culinary cultures. For the exceptionally culinarily daring, try items from the “food challenge” section, like boiled duck embryos. Viet Cuisine’s blend of iconic Vietnamese street food in unexpectedly mad-scientist combinations makes this Madison’s premiere destination for adventurous international dining. Come hungry, leave happy.

The Optimist

Name and Location: The Optimist restaurant overlooking Huntsville’s Big Spring Park is located downtown at 104 Washington Street SP10 at the Avenue mixed-use development built within the historic Dallas textile mill.

History and Significance: Merging a commitment to seasonal New Southern cuisine with community awareness, this kitchen opened in 2018 supports local farms, partners with job trainers and designs custom community dinner initiatives while receiving Fodor’s Best New Restaurant 2019 distinction.

What to Expect: Upscale yet unstuffy, the scratch kitchen excels at wood-grilled meats, inventive veggie sides and clever takes on traditional desserts utilizing area producers paired with a smart regional wine and cocktail lineup best enjoyed al fresco on the park vista patio.

Visitor Information: Dinner only Tuesday through Sunday plus brunch Sunday. Reservations recommended. Valet parking available during peak times.

Tucked away on a quiet side street, The Optimist has earned a reputation as one of Madison’s best-kept-secret restaurants serving elevated New American small plates and craft cocktails worthy of the trendiest urban eateries. Under soft pendant lighting, cozy lounge seating beckons you to linger over nibbles of hamachi crudo in yuzu ponzu or crispy Point Reyes Farmstead cheese curds with smoked honey. Share plates like coffee-ancho rubbed beef tenderloin tips or Thai red curry mussels depending on your mood and company.

In warmer months, nab a patio table to soak up the neighborhood vibes. Year-round, a thoughtfully curated bar menu built on artisanal spirits and housemade bitters and syrups level up the drinks list. Whether enjoying an impressive Ramos Gin Fizz or Barrel-aged Vieux Carre, you’ll find the attention to quality and craft matches the kitchen’s precise culinary vision. See why Optimist is considered a destination-worthy dining experience despite the minimalist trappings.

Commerce Kitchen

Name and Location: Commerce Kitchen is located on the second floor of The Avenue mixed-use development at 300 Franklin Street in downtown Huntsville overlooking Big Spring Park.

History and Significance: Opened in 2018 within a former early 20th century Madison County cotton textile mill since transformed into modern lofts and commercial space, this hip upscale restaurant takes cues from surrounding exposed brick and piping while focusing on contemporary scratch preparations showcasing fresh ingredients.

What to Expect: Chilled seafood towers, seared tuna, roasted game hen and plated desserts emerge from a theater-style open kitchen as attentive staff guide guests through chef-driven compositions, craft alcohol pairings and specialty malts best savored on the outdoor terrace against the property’s original power transformer structure.

Visitor Information: Dinner nightly, Sunday brunch. Reservations recommended. Street parking available, valet on occasions.

The airy fast-casual eatery Commerce Kitchen brings a healthy twist to Southern comfort food classics. Their menu bursts with veggie-loaded sandwiches, vitamin-packed salads and other nutritious takes on regional favorites perfect for today’s on-the-go lifestyle. While you’ll find lighter options like the Ancient Grain Bowl packed with quinoa, sweet potato and kale, Commerce doesn’t shy away from craveable decadence either. Their unexpectedly delicious BrusselKale Salad slaw combines crispy fried Brussel sprout “chips” tangled up with massaged kale, grated Parmesan and charred lemon vinaigrette for the ultimate veggie vehicle.

In keeping with Madison’s eco-conscious dining scene, Commerce Kitchen incorporates sustainable practices throughout its operation, using renewable and recyclable materials while supporting local agriculture. So when grabbing a quick lunch or take-out dinner, you can feel good choosing this vibrant community-centered eatery.

Rosie’s Mexican Cantina

Name and Location: Rosie’s original location is found at 9570 South Memorial Pkwy Northwest in Huntsville situated near the Target and waterside shopping plazas in South Huntsville along Cecil Ashburn drive.

History and Significance: Opened by the Hernandez family in 2006, the modest local chain has grown to over a half dozen area spots yet maintains friendly service and consistent Tex Mex favorites utilizing signature sauces, house margaritas and Mexican beers that spawned a local following through affordable prices and laid back decor.

What to Expect: Crispy tacos and enchiladas, sizzling fajitas platters and slow cooked chili con carne grace tables alongside freshly prepared salsa, guac and cinnamon churros as patrons appreciate no frills surroundings and attentive staff facilitating swift meals.

Visitor Information: Additional suburban branches across greater metro region. Open daily for lunch through late dinner. Online ordering available.

Madison’s top spot for traditional Tex-Mex shares its name and Southwestern spirit with owner Rosie Shears’ beloved late aunt. Aunt Rosie’s recipes live on through the Cantina’s signature salsas, tamales and vibrant dishes combining New Mexico’s Hatch chilies and smoky cumin-chili rubs with the brightness of lime and cilantro. This rustic yet lively cantina prides itself on cooking from scratch, hand-prepping tortillas, marinating meats in house blends and building complex layers of flavor.

Start your visit with homemade guacamole made table-side and a classic Margarita highlighting 100% Blue Agave tequilas. Move into one of Rosie’s DIY style platters like fajitas or the Navajo Taco, a puffy fried bread bowl mounded with chili, beans and all your favorite taco fixings. And wherever you see Hatch chilies on the menu, order that! Rosie’s does them best, kicking the heat up to just the right spice level. With its festive colorfully decorated dining room and killer traditional dishes, a visit to Aunt Rosie’s namesake is a must on your Madison Mexican food quest.

Blue Plate Café

Name and Location: Blue Plate Cafe is located at 3210 Governors Drive Southwest adjacent to Governors Place office buildings in West Huntsville’s expanding suburban corridor.

History and Significance: Opened by Huntsville natives in 2009, the restaurant rapidly earned word-of-mouth praise plus critical attention for signature Southern cooking traditions coupled with contemporary twists and welcoming hospitality perfect for power lunch meetings or casual family meals.

What to Expect: Daily specials highlight seasonal fare and regional cuisine spanning hearty options like chicken and dumplings, country fried steak, salvaged iron skillet cornbread, fresh vegetables working breakfast through homespun dinner preparations.

Visitor Information: Open daily Monday-Friday 6am-8pm, Saturday 7am-8pm, Sunday 7am-3pm. Reservations for large groups advised. Outdoor patio seating pending weather.

This cozy breakfast and lunch spot brings a retro diner vibe to downtown Madison serving scratch-made Southern comforts from award-winning Chef Laura Zapalowski. From first light, you’ll find a mix of businesspeople jumping-starting their days and friends languidly refueling over stacks of pillowy, butter-soaked biscuit pot pie while clutching mugs of dark-as-night coffee. Obviously, those scratch biscuits star throughout the menu, whether split, topped with sausage gravy or stuffed with oozy fried eggs in signature biscuit sandwiches.

Crowd favorites like chicken & waffles and shrimp ‘n cheesy grits have earned Blue Plate repeat visitor status thanks to Chef Laura’s deft touch uniting the saver and sweet. And whatever you do, save room for their Hummingbird Cake – an ambrosial banana-pineapple rich cake smothered in cream cheese icing. Its honeyed sweetness provides the perfect pick-me-up with your cup of joe. Well-worn counter seats, vintage soda shop stools and homespun hospitality make Blue Plate a Madison go-to for the best way to start the day.

Madison Seafood Station

Name and Location: Madison Seafood Station overlooking a pond is located at 6728 Hwy 72 West just off I-565 within an outparcel of the Westbury Square shopping plaza in Madison.

History and Significance: Part of the popular regional Platte River Seafood casual dining chain since 2011, the eatery brings fresh Gulf caught specialties to inland Alabama through signature fried platters, po’ boys, seafood pasta and boiled buckets allowing area families to savor coastal cuisine without leaving town.

What to Expect: Daily rotating specials like grilled mahi tacos, seared ahi tuna or jumbo lump crab cakes accompany southern sides like hushpuppies, slaw, baked potatoes and scratch made desserts like so-good-it’s-bad chocolate cake best enjoyed on the lakeside patio.

Visitor Information: Additional metro locations in Harvest, Madison and New Hope. Open Monday – Saturday. Reservations advised for groups.

For the city’s freshest New England-style seafood classics, head just west of downtown to family-owned Madison Seafood Station. Their simply prepared plates spotlight ultra-fresh catches like lobster, Alaskan snow crab and Gulf shrimp seemingly teleported from dock to table. Pick your protein then peruse boatload of enhancements – drawn butter, housemade remoulade, zesty cocktail sauce – before wandering waterfront patios drink-in-hand awaiting your spread.

While straight-off-the-trawler classics like fried oyster po ‘boys and shrimp baskets headline here, don’t sleep on MSS’s overlooked menu gems. Their subtle Greek-style bronzino charred with lemon and oregano lets clean, delicate flavors shine. And the off-menu lobster mac ‘n cheese special (when available), takes rich, cheesy decadence over the top with sweet hunks of lobster swirled throughout.

Grab some napkins and go hands-on with Madison Seafood Station’s heaping platters of crispy fried seafood goodness – it’s the best catch in town.

Moe’s Original BBQ

Name and Location: Moe’s Original BBQ joint is located at 6275 University Drive inside the developing MidCity district at the former Madison Square Mall property in suburban Huntsville.

History and Significance: Founded in Colorado, this emerging national chain bringing authentic smoked meats and creative recipes across the Southeast opened its first Alabama outlet as an anchor eatery within massive MidCity redevelopment in 2020 as developers transform the defunct mall into a modern live/work/play urban space.

What to Expect: Smoked for hours over local white oak and hickory, consumers devour tender pulled pork, smoked chicken, Memphis ribs, turkey, sausage and tri-tip steak plates with tasty rubs and house marinades matched with homemade sides like jalapeno slaw, beans, mac and cheese at indoor farm tables or the outdoor park.

Visitor Information: Additional locations in Meridianville and South Huntsville. Open daily 11am-9pm. Order online for pickup or delivery.

Since its founding in Colorado, Moe’s Original BBQ has earned fame for exceptional smoked meats, award-winning sauces, and welcoming casual vibe, all of which its Madison location embodies. Nestled among local joints in an early 20th century historic brick building downtown, Moe’s dark wood and red metal décor signals you’ve arrived. Greeted with the sweet smoky perfume of hickory woodchip fires stoking brisket, ribs and pulled pork paired with classic blues rock, your mouth starts watering before even glimpsing the menus.

Moe’s barbecue shines with slow smoking locking in juices before a quick char at the end to add texture. Pair tender smoked turkey, chopped pork and dry-rubbed ribs with any of Moe’s five signature sauces like the molasses-tangy Black BBQ or mellow honey-citrus Carolina Sweet. And don’t miss out on traditional sides like fluffy-centered bacon mac ‘n cheese, crisp onion rings or cool and herby cucumber-cabbage slaw. Bring your appetite when visiting Moe’s —between juicy melt-off-the bone ribs, moreish sides and good times atmosphere, you’ll want to loosen your belt before you leave.

Mei Wei Asian Bistro

Name and Location: Mei Wei Asian Bistro by Chef Tai occupies 6810 US-72 suite 106 within the Shoppes at Redstone Square plaza opposite the Walmart Supercenter in western Madison off Wall Triana Highway.

History and Significance: Open since 2016, owner and lead culinary talent Chef Tai honed his trade at acclaimed restaurants across Asia through decades abroad before settling locally to offer authentic renditions of homeland Taiwanese and Chinese street fare traditions with fresh regional tweaks in modest minimalist surrounds.

What to Expect: Savory signature creations like five spice duck, eggplant clay pot, Singapore street noodles and basil fried rice satisfy loyal regulars seeking bold flavors without additives plus specialty Taiwanese teas, Tsingtao beers pairing nicely with the creative made-to-order dishes Chef Tai meticulously executes behind the exhibition counter space.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner. Closed Monday. Reservations recommended for groups 6+.

Touting an extensive Pan-Asian menu rivaling cities twice its size, Mei Wei transports guests from its sleepy suburban strip mall location through Shanghai soup dumplings, sweet-savory Korean bulgogi and Chinatown roast duck. This family-owned Madison staple excels particularly at Chinese favorites from General Tso’s chicken to crispy honey walnut prawns and scallion pancakes. Regulars swear by their twice-cooked pork belly with garlic sauce, while vegetarians adore the Garlic Eggplant.

Beyond American-style Chinese fare, Mei Wei offers glimpses into regional Asian cuisines via Malaysian laksa curry udon soup and poached ginger-scallion lobster. Their sushi menu amazes as well with unusual rolls starring spicy mangos, kinky kale or creamy avocados contrasting clean raw fish. Topping it off, Mei Wei nails the little touches too, with steaming hot jasmine tea, crunchy fortune cookies and charm. Madison diners agree this local gem can compete with top Asian restaurants in major metropolises any night.

Del Sur Empanadas

Name and Location: Del Sur artisan empanada outlet is located inside Stovehouse food hall at 3414 Governors Drive Southwest in Huntsville.

History and Significance: Founded in 2019 by an Argentinian couple, the stall handcrafts traditional crispy South American stuffed pastries using family recipes plus creative twists with local sourced ingredients at Stovehouse, a restored 1940s stove factory now housing an eclectic collection of dining and entertainment options.

What to Expect: Savory empanada options like chimichurri steak, humita sweet corn, chicken apple and rotating vegetarian combinations emerge piping hot from the griddle to enjoy while seated within the bustling marketplace or ordered to-go by the half-dozen with dipping sauces.

Visitor Information: Open daily following Stovehouse hours – Typically Monday-Saturday 11am-9pm and Sunday 11am-4pm.

Latin American flavors find fresh expression Del Sur Empanadas’ flaky hot pocket-like pastries bursting with sweet, savory and spicy fillings. Their flagship location in downtown Huntsville has launched an empanada craze across North Alabama, sending locals scurrying south for their fix. Madisonians needn’t travel far, though, as Del Sur’s second location now graces Research Park.

Argentine owner Marianella channels her grandmother’s recipes into craveable handheld meals. Savory options range from traditional ground beef heightened by olives and egg to out-there combinations like BLT loaded with crispy bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo. Those craving something sweet can bite into fruity Apple Pie or silky Dulce de Leche fillings. With a dozen styles on offer beyond Marianella’s daily creative whims, the hardest part is deciding which to try first. Luckily, Del Sur’s freshly fried empanada sampler offers tastes of four so you can discover new favorites. Perfectly pocket-sized, these little Latin American deals satisfy a quick snack attack or an easy takeout dinner on the run.

Conclusion


Madison offers an embarrassment of fantastic dining opportunities to discover your new go-to spot. From the refined regional cuisine of Cotton Row Restaurant to Viet Cuisine’s mouthwatering pho, the city’s top eateries create memorable meals that nourish body and soul. Neighborhood bistros like Bottle Tree Café and Blue Plate Café offer cozy atmospheres to relax over wine and comfort foods with friends. And seafood institutions like Madison Seafood Station and innovators like The Optimist prove you needn’t leave town for destination-worthy dining.

Throw in empanada joints slinging Latin American street food and barbecue titans smoking melt-off-the-bone ribs, and your Madison eating adventures overflow with variety and flavor. Whether celebrating a special occasion or simply looking to eat extraordinarily well, you’ll discover the city’s welcoming vibe and talented chefs turning out tomorrow’s classics today. Now pull up a chair and dig in to Madison’s amazing culinary scene!

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