Off the Beaten Path: 11 Little Known Montgomery Restaurants

When I go to a new city, one of the first things I do is try and seek out tiny, locally owned restaurants. Yelp, Urbanspoon and Tripadvisor are good places to start, but some of the best neighborhood spots are either completely missing or underrepresented. The key is to figure out where locals eat, but if you don’t know anyone in the area that can be difficult. This post is an attempt to round up some of Montgomery’s best hole -in-the wall spots, both to remind locals of the great food we have here, and to give visitors and transplants a chance to explore some of our lesser known restaurants.

1) Rico’s Tacos — Located in the deli section of Capitol Supermarket (2256 E. South Blvd), Rico’s tacos can be easy to miss. You won’t find Americanized Mexican food here, just great, fresh tacos, burritos, tamales and elote (corn). There is a fantastic salsa bar that includes pickled vegetables, incredibly spicy salsa, pico, cilantro, onions, limes and more. The barbacoa (beef) is my favorite, but the corn (elote and esquites) is really delicious as well.  Rico’s Tacos is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day except Wednesday.

2) Mr. Chen’s — Mr. Chen’s was a surprise for me. I love shopping in ethnic food markets, so when I noticed that there was a new one on Atlanta Highway (5461 Atlanta hwy near Burlington Coat Factory), I had to stop. The market is probably the largest Asian market in Montgomery, with lots of fresh produce and a fantastic freezer section. Everything is bright, clean, well-stocked and well organized. The surprise here was the attached restaurant. Typically Chinese food is just not something I seek out — I am more of a Thai or Indian girl. Apparently that was because I have never had really great Chinese! Mr. Chen’s has lots of fantastic, authentic dishes. The cumin lamb, basil chicken,beef with bamboo shoots and ginger tea were especially delicious, and the chicken and vegetable lettuce wraps make a wonderful lunch. Mr. Chen’s is open every day of the week for lunch and dinner.

MrChens3) La Coronilla — Since the closing of my favorite taqueria (El Cantaro), I have been on the hunt for another sit down Mexican restaurant that serves authentic cuisine. After eating at La Coronilla a couple of weeks ago, I can say that I have found my new favorite! First, the owner is fantastic. I went by and had no idea what I wanted. He spent about 10 minutes chatting with me and suggesting options (most of which were not on the menu!). I ended up with beef cheek tacos, guacamole that they made specifically for me, and pineapple water and horchata. They make all of their horchata and fruit waters daily, and you can absolutely tell. Everything served felt incredibly fresh. As a warning, the food is spicy, so if you don’t like heat, be sure to let them know. La Coronilla is located in front of Sunshine Village Mobile Home Park at 425 North Eastern Blvd. They are open every day of the week from 9-9.

4) Sam’s BBQ — Sam’s BBQ has been a favorite BBQ spot in Montgomery as long as I have lived here. They keep it simple — pulled pork, sausage and a few sides — and when they sell out, they sell out (go early on the weekends!) They aren’t as fancy as Jim and Nick’s or Dreamland, but if you are looking for good pulled pork, cooked low and slow, it is hard to beat Sam’s! They are located at  3510 Atlanta Highway, and are open from 11-2 Monday through Thursday and until 6 on Friday and Saturday.

Sams5) K&J’s Rib Shack —  I just found out about K&J’s last week from my friends on the Facebook group Lunch in the Gump. From the outside the place doesn’t look like much. I actually drove past it completely on my first attempt at locating it. My second pass by I noticed the large smoker outside, and that clued me in. K&J’s, like Sam’s keeps it simple: ribs, pulled pork and a few sides. Soul food cooking at its best! K&J’s is open from 10:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tues-Thurs and Saturday. Fridays they are open until 9. You can find them at 4255 S. Court street, which is right before you hit the bypass on the left if you are coming from the Cloverdale area. Visit Wright’s Produce and Plants when you leave — they’re directly across the bypass and the selection of Alabama grown plants is hard to beat.

KJ's6) Panda Wok — As I mentioned before, Chinese is not really my cup of tea, so I was a bit hesitant to try Panda Wok. It came highly recommended though, was in midtown (always a plus for me), and had a ton of lunch specials in the $5.95 range. Since most fast food lunches are at least six bucks these days, I figured that it was worth a try. The menu is pretty basic and has most of the same dishes that are on every Chinese menu in town. The surprise was in the preparation. Lunch started off with an egg roll and your choice of egg drop, hot and sour or wonton soup. I had hot and sour and my husband had won ton. Both were delicious, well balanced and had some depth to them. My husband had Mongolian Beef and I had Hong Kong Chicken. The preparation of each dish was perfect. There was just the right amount of vegetable and sauce, and the sauces didn’t rely heavily on sweet or spicy. There was also care taken with the decor so you didn’t feel like dine-in was an afterthought. Panda Wok can be found at 3044 McGehee Rd, in the same shopping center as Ligers Bakery (where you should go by and grab an almond crescent or petit four for dessert). Lunch specials are available from 11-3, and dinner until 9 during the week and 10 on the weekends. They are closed on Sunday.

PandaWok7) Island Delight — Montgomery’s only Caribbean restaurant! I have heard it mentioned for years as a must-try lunch spot, but rarely find myself near the base around lunch. Finally, a couple of months ago a friend and I stopped in for a late lunch, and I were thrilled to find delicious food that feels both familiar and exotic all at the same time. The menu changes daily, and when they run out of things they don’t always make more, so go by early for the best selection. Be warned, many of the meat dishes do have bones. Be sure and grab a ginger beer to go along with your meal. Prices are fantastic. You get enough food that you likely will have leftovers, and lunches range mostly between $5.50 and $8. Island Delight is located near the main gate at Maxwell, at 323 Air Base Blvd. They are open from 11-4 Monday through Friday.

8) D’ Road Cafe — What can I say about D’Road? I wish it were closer to Cloverdale! Janet is a one woman powerhouse. She takes the orders, cooks the food, waits on all of the customers, and still manages to come across as warm and friendly! Janet wants you to feel cared for when you come to visit her, and she will go out of her way to customize each meal to your taste. I have no idea how she manages, but I am glad that she does! Her food is a blend of cuisines. Before opening D’Road, she worked on cruise ships for much of her life and was exposed to a lot of different cultures, and her food reflects that. Every Friday night she chooses a different country to feature, so follow her on FB for updates. She  is open from 9-2 Monday through Friday and 5:30-9 Tuesday through Friday, but if you are starving and it is 3:30, stop in and she will whip you up something. She is currently located at 6250 Atlanta Highway next to Virginia College.

9) Saigon Bistro — I have been a fan of Saigon Bistro since they were Saigon deli, located in the TJ Maxx shopping center. Located next to Sam’s Club, this new location is considerably larger than either of their previous locations. Saigon Bistro is one of the few places that you can get Pho and noodles in this town. They have amazing lemongrass beef and fresh spring rolls. My only complaint is that they don’t have bahn mi’s. Still a great option for lunch or dinner, they are open for lunch only during the week (11-2:30) and lunch and dinner on Friday and Saturday (dinner is 4:30-10)

10) Green Papaya  — Most people think of Thai when they think of the Green Papaya, but the real stars of their menu are the Laotian dishes. Try the pad kee mao or the lard na with a fresh basil roll. The chicken and rice soup (with a little added lime and spice) is the perfect comfort food when you are sick. Green Papaya is located at 409 Coliseum Blvd, in the same shopping center as Eastbrook Flea Market. They are open Mon-Sat  11-2 and 5:30-8:30.


11) Destin Connection —  You might know that Destin Connection sells gulf fresh fish, shrimp and other seafood to the public and also to many local restaurants. What you may not know is that they also serve hot, fresh, delicious fish, shrimp and oyster po-boys and onion rings! They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and are located at 3750 Norman Bridge Road, right before the bypass.

DestinConnThere are a number of places that are Montgomery traditions that I didn’t mention because they are well represented on Yelp and Urbanspoon.  Chris’ Hot dogs downtown on Dexter Avenue I believe holds the record for the oldest restaurant still in operation. Martin’s fried chicken is famous in the tri-county area. Hamburger King is where downtown lunch people go when they just want a really great burger. Shashy’s brunch (especially their tenderloin benedict) is a perfect way to start a Saturday. Filet and Vine has the most popular and delicious meat and three lunch and dinner, hands-down. India Palace is back, so you can get your Indian buffet fix at lunch again.

Above all, go out, support local businesses. I constantly hear people complain about “another chain restaurant” opening up. We have some wonderfully diverse and amazing food choices here, you just have to look in out of the way spots!

Heather Coleman is a freelance writer and part-time DIY’er who mostly manages to fit her projects in around her family and her volunteer work. She lives with her husband, two boys and two pets in Midtown. She is on Google+, Linked In, Twitter and Pinterest.

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There Are 21 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Wren says:

    Don’t forget Corsino’s!!

  2. Rebecca Bell Hall says:

    I would also like to add the Farmer’s Market Cafe located in downtown on North McDonough Street. It is actually the second oldest restaurant in Montgomery.

  3. Kayla says:

    Another awesome place is Asia Bistro on Vaughn next to sinclairs!

  4. Ashley D says:

    Another little known restaurant that has really good food is a small Mexican place inside the Marathon gas station on Troy Hwy next to Car Quest. Try it cause it’s really good! 🙂

  5. Jay Croft says:

    Panda Wok, India Palace, Saigon Bistro–my favorites!

    Yesterday at India Palace the zucchini and potatoes was especially wonderful–and I don’t even like zucchini very much!

    We’re fortunate to have restaurants like these in Montgomery.

  6. Kay M. says:

    May I add Jan’s Beach House Grill on Eastern Blvd.? Locally owned, fresh seafood and many other great foods. Daily meat & 3. Senior-sized and priced entrees.

  7. Julie says:

    I’ve been to a few of the places mentioned and would agree they are gems (Sam’s, Saigon Bistro, D’Road & Destin Connection). I will definitely have to try the others you recommend when I’m in town next.

  8. Johnny V says:

    FYI – Taqueria El Cantero is reopening as “Cowboy Cafe” at 6200 old Selma Rd.

  9. Jo says:

    You forgot Wishbone Café on Atlanta Hwy in the Publix shopping center. They are great, peach tea is wonderful and the staff are very friendly!

  10. tommy says:

    O.C. is also great Chinese food in Charlotte,NC.

  11. Paul R says:

    Soda Shoppe has best onion rings in my opinion

  12. Shari says:

    Don’t forget Rooster on Decatur they make awesome wings and the Front Porch Grill in Millbrook.

    • 840 says:

      “This post is an attempt to round up some of Montgomery’s best hole -in-the wall spots…”

      (not Millbrook’s best, not the River Region’s best))

  13. Dana says:

    Please check out the Stockyard Grill on Mobile Hwy. They’re open 10:30 -2:00 M-F. They serve a meat & veggies, salads, sandwiches, or burgers & fantastic steaks hot off the grill. Don’t forget to try dessert early! Go early, the place fills up fast.

  14. Damien Barber says:

    We really liked Midori Sushi on Woodmere (we were fans of Ichiban before it changed up). They serve a handful of authentic Korean side dishes when you go there to get sushi, which gives it a unique experience. We also like the donut shop in the same shopping center for breakfast foods (It has been a while since I don’t live in the Gump anymore. I think it is K&S donuts).

    • Reel Duel says:

      G&S Donuts is the name you are looking for. Great breakfast items also. Like bacon or sausage tacos that are more like burritos and Kolachies that can only be found there.

  15. will golson says:

    Locally owned Wing Master on Atlanta Highway has by far the best Philly AND chicken philly in town. Also some of the best wings. Go get a number six, philly and wing combo, and you will thank me.

  16. This is a fantastic food essay. The best I have read on food in The Gump. I appreciate the comments, too. I am originally from and have lived in Mexico. I highly recommend el Cantaro, whenever it opens up again, for two things: mole and their caldos (stews). If you want tacos, though, go to Rico’s. -Gabe

  17. Phillip sides says:

    Why is Micael’a Table not at the top of the list? It is the only truly fine food in Montgomery! And prepared by the finest chef in Montgomery.

  18. Pamela Norris says:

    Deaux Boys doughnuts are awesome. Great choice of original and special doughnuts at 2880 Main Street, Millbrook, Al.

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