Friday, August 9, 2013

Adventures in Montgomery

Alabama kind of gets a bad rap as a place to visit, which is unfortunate because there's a lot of history there, and fun stuff to do outside, and also lots of great food!  The capital city, Montgomery, has done a lot of sprucing up over the past decade.  If you find yourself passing through, stop for a bit and enjoy what the city has to offer because believe it or not, there are offerings worth your time.

Montgomery is home to possibly the most hilariously named minor league baseball team in the U.S.- the Montgomery Biscuits.  They have a very spiffy new stadium right along the river and there is always a good turnout for games.  You win some, you lose some, but Biscuits games are a good time regardless of the outcome.

If history is more up your alley, there are many options: First White House of the Confederacy, Rosa Parks Museum, Hank Williams Museum, Fitzgerald Museum, Fine Arts Museum.  And the zoo!

Downtown Montgomery has a variety of delicious restaurants.  My group had quite a bit of time to do some serious exploration too.  Our favorite BBQ place is called Country's BBQ, located on Zelda Road.  EVERYTHING was good, and we were there on multiple occasions.  Sample the fried okra and fried green tomatoes and fried pickles, enjoy the sweet tea, and gorge yourself on some amazing barbecue.

Our second favorite was Dreamland BBQ, just up the street from the baseball stadium.  More amazing food, better beer selection.  Bit more convenient location too.

We rank Jim n Nick's last, which is fantastic but technically a "chain" since there is one in Prattville too.  :)  Hey, we had to narrow it down somehow!  Jim n Nick's is a bit more commercialized, but still fantastic food.  Especially the cornbread!

If you are tired of BBQ, Sa Za is an amazing Italian place right around the corner from Dreamland.  The pizza was great, the pasta was great, the pasta with seafood was great.  Everything was great!

The Railyard Brewing Company is also near the baseball stadium.  It's a micro brewery with a neat interior and delicious food.  (Are we seeing a theme here .....)  If you've never had shrimp and grits before, this is a good place to check that one off.

Downtown Montgomery is also home to Chris' Hot Dogs, a laid-back famous place that's been around for ages.  96 years as of 2013!!  It's a good place to grab a snack or a light in-between meal while you're running around town.

If it's Mexican you crave, we recommend La Zona Rosa on Zelda Road.  The food was delicious, especially the seafood-based dishes, and the margaritas flow like water.

Thai food instead?  Okay, head over to the Green Papaya and they will totally satisfy that craving.  My introduction to Thai tea occurred here, and I might be hooked.

If you'd like to try somewhere a little more upscale, The Chophouse is great.  Excellent steaks and seafood options, and a more intricate drink menu than the average Montgomery eatery.  The interior décor is definitely more formal, with white tablecloths and dimmer lighting.

As always, I'm saving the best for last.  My absolute favorite place to eat is not actually even in Montgomery, but just a few miles north on I-65 in Prattville.  Uncle Mick's Cajun Restaurant is an amazing hidden gem tucked away in the old town of Prattville, after you skip past all the chain restaurants and strip malls when you get off the highway.  They are not open on Sundays, and are only open during the day for lunch times and dinner time.  It's a bit buffet-style, in the sense that you take a tray and walk down the line of food and then seat yourself afterwards.  The owners do the serving and cash-registering and they will give you samples if you're indecisive or just unsure whether you'll like something.  I ate shrimp a'la crème every single time because it was amazing.  But not a single dish that we tried received less than rave reviews.  The owners are really friendly and if you show up often enough or stick around long enough, they'll start handing out Italian ices just because.  Oh yes, and dessert.  I had never even heard of buttermilk pie before I walked into this place (shame on me, according to my friends from TN and TX), but my world has been rocked.

Okay, a quick rundown on some bars before my last adventure recommendation for fun in the Montgomery area.  Up the street from the Chophouse is a neat bar, looks pretty new and shiny, called Pine Bar.  They have tables outside which is great when the weather isn't sweltering, and a good beer selection.  Downtown near Dreamland and Sa Za is Aviator Bar, which is overwhelmingly aviation themed.  Not only are all the decorations aviation-based, but they have bookshelves with all sorts of coffee table books that you can check out while you're enjoying a beverage in a pseudo-Mason jar.  And the best bar of all is SandBAR, which is located on the riverwalk and is essentially a covered deck with bar stools.  Super casual, super fun!

Now that you're tired of eating and drinking and doing tourist things, go for a drive north to the town of Wetumpka and enjoy a river kayaking adventure on the Coosa.  It's a blast.  You can lash your kayaks together and just float along enjoying some beverages, although there are three separate areas of "rapids" that you'll want to navigate without being tied to all your friends.  None of us tipped out in the rapids, although we observed some hilarious overturns amongst the other groups on the river.  Depending on how much you float versus paddle, the trip can take as little as 2 hours or as many as 4 ... as long as you're back before the tour company shuts down their operations!  There are some islands in the river that you can stop at along the way for a break, or just to chuck rocks in the water, and swimming is definitely okay too.  We were warned about snakes (saw none) and advised that any gators in the river would be downstream from the pickup point, so nothing to worry about.

So.  Montgomery.  It's much better than you might have thought!!!  Eat, drink and be merry!

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