7 of Huntsville’s oldest eateries still going strong

Don’t you wish you could travel back in time to visit? (Gibson’s Bar-B-Q / Facebook)

Huntsville’s full of history—including our food scene.

We love exploring all the newest eateries around town, but there are some long-time favorites that never fail us.

All seven of these spots are over 50 years old—whether at their original location or a new one. So, not only can you enjoy some delicious eats at these spots, but you can also experience some Huntsville history while you’re at it.

1. Stanlieo’s Sub Villa

stanlieos edited
Home of the Kitchen Sink Sub. (Stanlieo’s of Huntsville / Facebook)

Stanlieo’s opened on Jordan Lane on May 1, 1971, when Glenn Watson introduced Boston-style subs to Huntsville. Over 50 years later, it’s still family-owned and operated.

Their extensive menu includes many different subs (including vegetarian options), all for $6 or $7 dollars. But, the most famous is the Kitchen Sink sub, loaded with Genoa and cotta salami, ham, turkey, roast beef, Capacolla, pepperoni, Swiss, American and provolone cheeses.

The Kitchen Sink and all the other subs have been made the same way for decades—hot or cold and topped with tomatoes, onions, dill pickles, salt, pepper, oregano and oil.

2. Big Spring Cafe

big spring cafe
These restaurants have been fueling Huntsville for decades. (Big Spring Cafe / Facebook)

This list would be far from complete without the oldest restaurant in Huntsville, Big Spring Cafe.

It’s the home of the greasy burger, which made its debut over a century ago in 1922. Big Spring Cafe originally opened its doors on Jefferson Street in downtown Huntsville before moving around a few times. In 2017, they landed at their current location.

On one side of Governors Drive, you have Stovehouse, one of the newest and hottest places to visit in Huntsville. But, on the other side of the street, you’ve got the oldest restaurant in Huntsville. It’s a remarkable juncture of the new and the old in Huntsville.

Big Spring Cafe serves up classic breakfast plates, hot dogs, lunch plates and, of course, greasy burgers.

3. Gibson’s BBQ

gibsons bbq
It doesn’t get more classic. (Gibson’s Bar-B-Q / Facebook)

When I was a little girl, going to Gibson’s was a special treat that usually happened on the weekends. I’d fill up on the delicious pancakes, feeling right at home in the cozy atmosphere.

But Gibson’s history goes back much farther than my childhood. They opened in 1956 as a family-owned restaurant, and they’ve kept it in the family for four generations. Throughout the years, they’ve received countless accolades for their mouthwatering barbecue. And, of course, their famous white sauce was a staple both at the restaurant and in many Huntsville fridges.

Unfortunately, last year, Gibson’s caught fire, leaving the kitchen in shambles. They remain closed, but have previously stated that they plan to reopen. Here’s to hoping Gibson’s returns soon.

4. Ol’ Heidelberg

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Chicken schnitzel on top of a waffle? Genius. (Ol’ Heidelberg Cafe / Facebook)

Huntsville has plenty of German food options, but Ol’ Heidelberg is the oldest and most famous of them all.

Its sister restaurant, Bavaria Delicatessen, opened in 1963. Nine years later, in 1972, Ol’ Heidelberg opened. Today, the latter is the surviving restaurant that continues to serve up authentic German cuisine in Huntsville.

On the menu, you’ll find bratwurst, schnitzel, spatzle and plenty of potato dishes to satisfy the heartiest of appetites.

5. Big Ed’s Pizza

big eds
That logo is iconically Huntsville. (Big Ed’s Pizza / Facebook)

Big Ed’s opened in 1961, when “Big Ed” Neusel started firing up pizza ovens in Huntsville. Steve Denton, a young employe who started working at the pizza joint two years later, took over the business in 1969. Today, Denton’s three children keep serving Huntsville some of the best local pizza around.

At Big Ed’s, they make everything from scratch—from the dough to the sauce—then cook them in the same ovens that they used in the ’60s.

If my grandfather was in charge of ordering pizza when I was little, it was going to be Big Ed’s—period. Since then, they’ve moved locations to a retro-looking building on Pratt Avenue that’s perfect for their brand.

6. Peggy Ann Bakery

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It’s so hard to choose. (Peggy Ann Bakery)

In 1953, Peggy Ann Bakery opened its doors, letting Huntsville into its little shop full of delicious scents and fresh-baked goods. 70 years later, they still satisfy Huntsville’s sweet tooth.

Henry and Nancy Erskine founded the bakery, then called Erskine Baking Company, in downtown Huntsville. Later, they moved to their current location that sits on Regal Drive with Parkway Place Mall towering over it.

They use the same cupcake recipe today as they did in the ’50s—and it’s a well-kept secret.

But they bake up many more confections than cupcakes. Their petit fours are a renowned local favorite with their delicate texture, sweetness and cute designs. I remember the first time I tried one—it blew my little mind.

7. Krispy Kreme

Now, I know that Krispy Kreme is far from being a local eatery. But, there’s a story at our North Memorial Parkway location here in Huntsville. It opened in 1968, which means they’ve been serving “Hot Doughnuts Now” for over 50 years.

The very first employee there was Cora Barber, who continued to work there for over 45 years until she retired in 2014. Ms. Barber just passed away last month, but her commitment to serving Huntsville donuts and coffee will continue to serve as an inspiration.

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Sarah Gronberg
Sarah Gronberg
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