The Straw Hat's congenial owners, Charlene and Randa, curate a multihued microcosm of women's machine-washable threads. Tribal sleeveless T-shirts ($49) ward off heat and pesky cufflink salesmen by eschewing arm coverings entirely. Slip into the relaxed embrace of Not Your Daughter's capris in black, yellow, or white ($79), or caper through the shop's leg-liberating bouquet of dresses. A cornucopia of jewelry and duds by Brighton, Spanx, Pure Handknit, and a variety of other brands orbits around a lounge perched atop an ornate oriental rug. Personalized service allows patrons to opt for independent shopping jaunts or stylish support as trustworthy as Audrey Hepburn's rebounding game.
The first Golden Rule Bar-B-Q and Grill—a roadside joint frequented by locals and travelers alike—served its first heaping plate of lovingly smoked barbecue in 1891. The restaurant has since adapted with the times, acquiring a car-repair garage, neon signs, and a hovercar dock, in addition to nearly a dozen saucy outposts across Alabama and Mississippi. Now the various locations serve slow-cooked, hickory-smoked meats served with a variety of secret-recipe sauces and sides such as collards or mac 'n' cheese. Guests can also forgo the sauce and order surf 'n' turf dishes such as a hand-cut charbroiled steak or a creole grilled fresh catfish fillet.
The Chocolate Biscuit takes its name from its signature dessert—a warm, buttered biscuit split in two and drizzled with a homemade chocolate sauce. This salty-sweet treat might be all it takes to get customers in the door, but the eatery's chefs create a host of other goodies as well, including fresh chicken salad, creative sandwiches, and sides that include broccoli salad, mandarin orange salad, and an ever-changing salad of the day. Open Tuesday through Saturday, the restaurant also features take-out casseroles, cakes, and specialty groceries.
Drawing inspiration from the more traditional Mexican cuisine and its European influences, the chefs at La Catrina Mexican Cantina create specialties that pair exotic meat choices under a layer of fine European cheeses. They fill tacos with marinated pork tossed with chunks of pineapple, shredded chicken in a drizzle of queso, or fish fillets fried in a Pacifico beer batter. Outside of street food classics, they also stuff chilies with marinated rice and beans and toss linguini in a light almond cream sauce and queso fresco.
At Cooper’s Corner, diners relax and refuel with a bevy of classic breakfast dishes and lunchtime grab-able grub beloved by workingmen and retired blimp spotters alike. Dive into rib-sticking plates such as the 1/3-pound Lanny’s big burger ($6.99), country-fried steak sandwich ($6.99), or Who’s Your Daddy chicken patty ($7.25). Or, inaugurate the a.m. with an egg and cheese breakfast burrito ($2.99), french toast ($3.99), or a biscuit and gravy ($1.79 each) to avoid jump-starting mornings by licking car batteries. Cooper’s Corner’s staff, which consists solely of a former magician and a chef known as “The Grill Ninja,” can slice and dice with supernatural prowess, all while teaching each other the meaning of friendship.
In 1928, Emmett Montgomery opened up a small hot-dog stand in Irondale. Hamburgers, barbecue, and a variety of sandwiches were added to the menu shortly thereafter, as was a proper location and a new name: Irondale Cafe. Although the ownership and staff has changed, the restaurant is still around more than eight decades later, and cooks still serve an estimated 600–800 slices of their famous fried green tomatoes every day. In addition to those tomatoes, a long counter displays the day's fresh assortment of food. Diners load up their plates with the likes of Gulf seafood, country fried steak, and desserts such as housemade vanilla ice cream and pie, a classic combination that almost won the presidential election of 1932.