- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - One of the best kept secrets about Montgomery is starting to become less hidden.

From barbecue joints to vegan-friendly eateries, from romantic date night destinations to quick bakery bites, there is something for everyone - no matter when hunger strikes (or whatever price point is ideal for you).

Montgomery plays host to events like chef takeovers, elegant pop-up dinners, tastings, and major food events such as the Farm-to-Fork invasion. The downtown restaurant Central is just around the corner from the EAT South farm, which is often used a source for the daily menu.

Recently, Chef Miguel Figueroa oversaw the transition of the True restaurant to the A&P; Social - a name to highlight the former market area in Cloverdale. Figueroa and the A&P; Social’s staff also run the neighboring Kudzu Noodle Bar, which aims to bring a “southern twist” to classic Asian dishes.

Other location highlights: The House, at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown, Michael’s Table on Zelda Road - an intimate place where Chef Michael Hochhalter offers beloved dishes inspired by his world travels - and out east offers Garrett’s, the upscale art-deco domain of Chef Gary Garner.

The emphasis on culturally diverse, farm-to-table fare isn’t exclusive to high-end eateries.

Just take a glimpse at a widespread handful of locally-owned eateries to see what’s being offered up for a day or night on the town at an affordable price.

El Rey Burrito Lounge in Cloverdale is a hip, vegan-friendly respite from the ordinary that serves up killer margaritas and guacamole and boasts one of the most extensive craft beer menus in town. It’s also home to non-GMO meats, regional seafood and dairy, and produce and other farm products that are procured locally.

D’Road Cafe on the Atlanta Highway has drawn a devoted fan base for its Caribbean, Latin American and Spanish/Basque cuisine, fresh ingredients and impeccably personal service, with Janett Malpartida introducing diners to new culinary experiences that they rave about online. (The place is also vegan- and gluten-free-friendly.)

Uncle Mick’s Cajun Cafe in Prattville puts you “one bite away from the bayou” with authentic cuisine from Cajun chef Amy Cambre, who has a vast repertoire including Crawfish Etouffee, Alligator & Sausage Sauce Piquante, Cajun Potato Salad and more.

In downtown, work has begun on the revamped “Market District” along Dexter Avenue. While the Irish Bred Pub formerly stood alone in the area, it is now joined by Cuco’s with a Momma Goldberg’s Deli as well as a second Island Delight location scheduled to open in 2015.

On Montgomery’s east side is Mr. Gus’ Ristorante (or Mr. G’s), specializing in Greek and Italian cuisine, as authentic as it gets with a variety of gyros, pizzas and more Mediterranean specialties served with old country flair.

Railyard Brewing Co. downtown offers up locally brewed craft beers, lagers and ale as well as signature burgers using with locally sourced ingredients and Southern favorites like chicken and waffles - great for a pre- or post-Montgomery Biscuits game meal (Riverwalk Stadium is right across the street).

Shashy’s Bakery and Fine Foods in the Mulberry District is a local favorite, famous for breakfast and brunch. The chic eatery offers an array of tempting sweets in the case up front and, for lunch, an assuring selection of “fresh from the Farmer’s Market” plates (alone or with meatloaf or fried catfish) plus a surprising Lebanese platter, with baked Kibby.

With the area’s growing Korean population has come a rush of Korean restaurants, many of them on and around East Boulevard. For fans of Asian food, there are plenty of Japanese steakhouses and sushi restaurants as well as Chinese eateries and now, with Saigon Bistro, Vietnamese cuisine.

Word has it that Chris’ Hot Dogs, a downtown Montgomery staple since 1917, has served up dogs to Hank Williams, Rosa Parks, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a couple of presidents. The dogs come with a special sauce that locals love, the burgers are worth a try, and the atmosphere can’t be duplicated.

Hamburger King on South Decatur Street is a blink-and-you-miss-it, unapologetic greasy spoon that Montgomerians young and old swear is makes the best dang hamburger in the world. More than one diner has marveled that for around $5, you get a big ol’ burger, chips and a can of soda.

Some locals wouldn’t let you leave Montgomery without a meal at Capitol Oyster Bar, a hot spot on the Alabama River, lazy lunch joint by day and hopping music joint by night.

At Martin’s Restaurant in the 1930’s you could get meat, three vegetables, cornbread and a cold drink for 25 cents. The prices and location have changed, but Martin’s, in midtown, is a mecca for the Southern meat-and-three lunch or dinner, and particularly famous for its fried chicken.

Mrs. B’s Home Cooking is another meat-and-three favorite, where you’ll find turkey and dressing, oxtails, smothered pork chops, fried chicken, chitterlings, collard greens, mac ‘n’ cheese, okra, corn bread and more.

Speaking of meat-and-threes, it doesn’t get much more Southern than Sugar B’s, a beautifully renovated grand, spacious antebellum house in downtown Prattville with an irresistible bakery tucked in a front room.

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Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com

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