Our great state turns 202 this year, so in celebration, we’ve put together a guide to the five oldest restaurants in Alabama. From a soda shop in Scottsboro to a hot dog spot in Montgomery, we’ve got the history behind these Alabama eateries.
1. The Bright Star
Alabama’s oldest restaurant, and America’s oldest family-owned restaurant, is The Bright Star in historic downtown Bessemer. Originally a 25-seat cafe, The Bright Star grew to 330-seats but continues to serve its famous Greek-style food to crowds of patrons each year.
Among its most famous guests are Bear Bryant, Nick Saban, and a slew of other coaches and Alabama legislators. It has also been established as an Alabama historical landmark.
- Location: 304 19th Street North, Bessemer, Alabama 35020
- Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11AM-8:30PM
- Website | Facebook
2. Payne’s Soda Fountain
Payne’s Soda Fountain is a Scottsboro must-see. William Henry Payne built the first Payne’s in 1869 just a few blocks away from the current location. In 1891, after the construction of the Jackson County Courthouse, the shop moved to where it currently stands.
Today, like it has for over 100 years, Payne’s serves up a mean lunch, and a large variety of ice creams, floats and shakes. One of the local favorite features of the shop is the Coca-Cola mural on the side, which is a popular spot for photoshoots.
- Location: 101 E Laurel St, Scottsboro, AL 35768
- Hours: Monday-Saturday 10AM-6PM
A local note: I recommend the blueberry cheesecake ice cream paired with a grilled cheese, and my best friend swears by their “slaw dogs” with a coke float.
Located in downtown Florence, Trowbridge’s came about in 1918 as an ice cream and sandwich shop. The cute restaurant was founded by Paul Trowbridge, and was originally named Trowbridge Creamery. Now, it is a staple of anyone’s visit to Florence and a great spot for lunch.
- Location: 316 N Court St., Florence, AL 35630
4. Toomer’s Drugs
If you live in Alabama and haven’t heard the name Toomer’s before, you might be living under a rock. Quite literally the cornerstone of historic Auburn, both the town and the college, Toomer’s is the place for a refreshing lemonade and a view of the most famous corner in college football history.
Toomer’s story begins in 1896, when it was founded by Sheldon Toomer, a halfback on Auburn’s first football team. Since then, the store has been serving food, drinks and some of the best lemonade in the state for over 100 years. In 1999, the restaurant was renovated to its current look.
- Location: 100 N. College Street, Auburn AL 36830
- Hours: Monday-Friday 10AM-6PM, Saturday 10AM-7PM, Sunday 12PM-5PM
- Website | Facebook | Instagram
5. Chris’s Hot Dogs
Yes, you read it right, a hot dog stand in Montgomery is one of the oldest restaurants in Alabama. I always thought hot dogs were a relatively new food, created sometime before color TV but after the Roaring 20s. In fact, hot dogs were first created in 1870, and Chris’ Hot Dogs was established in Montgomery in 1917 on historic Dexter Avenue.
Some of Chris’s most famous patrons include President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Tallulah Bankhead and Hank Williams. I mean it’s only fair, who doesn’t love a hot dog?