Blast to the past. 5 treasured restaurants across Alabama

Bright Star Treasured Restaurant
Stacy and Galen bump elbows to welcome you to The Bright Star. Photo via Bright Star’s Facebook

Alabama’s oldest saloon has an artifact from the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. However, they are not the only old establishment in Alabama with a claim to fame. Read more to find these five treasured restaurants across Alabama.

1. The Ark

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When news of The Ark closing spread across town, one of their regulars, Shirley Abts, bought the restaurant. She is the third owner in the restaurant’s ninety year history. Because of her, The Ark continues to serve their famous catfish and welcome new guests. This treasured restaurant was even a film location for the movie Devil All the Time staring Tom Holland. Stop by, grab a meal and listen to the stories the regulars have to tell.

  • Hours: Monday-Saturday 11AM-8PM | Sunday 11AM-7:30PM
  • Location: 13030 US-78, Riverside, AL 35135
  • Contact: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Call

2. The Bright Star

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Bright Star first opened in Bessemer in 1907. In 1923, the Koikos brothers emigrated from Greece and bought the treasured restaurant from Tom Bonduris in 1925. Since then, Bright Star continues to stay in the Koikos family and treats its customers like family. They can seat up to 330 guests and are recognized as an “American Classic” by the James Beard Foundation.

  • Hours: Tuesday-Sunday lunch 11AM-3PM | Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday dinner 4:30-8:30PM | Friday-Saturday dinner 4:30-9PM
  • Location: 304 19th St N, Bessemer, AL 35020 
  • Contact: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Call

3. C.F. Penn Hamburgers

C. F. Penns Burger Treasured Restaurant
I’m going to need to make a trip to Decatur. Photo via Tara Harris’ Facebook

This hamburger shop has cult following on Facebook. Since 1927, C.F. Penn Hamburgers served their famous slugburgers. While the original location closed, everything at their new location in Decatur (opened in 1973) stayed the same. The new owner William Vandiver did not change a single thing about C.F. Penn Hamburgers when he bought the restaurant in 2010. You can find C.F. Penn Hamburgers in episode two of Food Network’s Southern Fried Road Trip and their recipe for their all the way slugburgers.

  • Hours: Monday-Saturday 9AM-6PM
  • Location: 214 6th Ave SE, Decatur, AL 35601
  • Contact: Call

4. Busy Bee Café

Busy Bee Cafe'S Plate Treasured Restaurant
Breakfast potatoes are my favorite potatoes. Photo via Busy Bee Cafe’s Facebook

Disaster struck the Busy Bee Café in 2011. Busy Bee Café has stayed open since 1919, but in 2011, a tornado ripping through Cullman destroyed downtown. This treasured restaurant did not stay down for long though. The Spears family opened their café again within a year. Instead of just serving breakfast, they decided to serve dinner and beer as well. According to the Cullman Times, it is the companionship between owners and customers that keeps people coming back for generations.

  • Hours: Monday-Saturday 6AM-3PM
  • Location: 101 5th St SE, Cullman, AL 35055
  • Contact: Facebook | Call

5. Payne’s Sandwich Shop & Soda Fountain

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2021 will mark Payne’s Sandwich Shop & Soda Fountains 152nd anniversary. William Henry Payne opened his drug store in 1869 and added the soda fountain in 1939 when they moved to their permeant location. The pharmacy closed in 1991, but the treasured restaurant continues to serve sodas and hot dogs. The most impressive part about their diner is their commitment to the 1950s—it looks like it could be used for the set of Grease.

  • Hours: Monday-Wednesday 10AM-4PM | Thursday-Saturday 10AM-6PM
  • Location: 101 E Laurel St, Scottsboro, AL 35768
  • Contact: Facebook | Call

What are your city’s oldest gems? Let us know on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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Cheyenne Trujillo
Curiosity gets the best of me over everything else. Passionate about writing, editing and adventuring.
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