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Gastronomic ecstasy in Huntsville, Ala.

LYSA ALLMAN-BALDWIN | 5/25/2012, 12:42 p.m.
Gastronomic ecstasy in Huntsville, Ala.

I hope that although you're reading this, you can somehow sense the excitement in my voice. I'm like a little kid on Christmas morning--just itching to tear open the packages and see what's inside! And that's just how I feel about sharing more about the amazing gastronomic adventures to be had in Huntsville.

Well, day two was a doozie, starting out at a long-standing city favorite, the Blue Plate Cafe. A quintessential diner that takes "pride in preparing classic southern dishes with our mother's and grandmother's recipes," the Blue Plate invites diners to "come on home." Breakfast here is a must. From retirees to businessmen and women, families with children and first-timers like us, the folks at the Blue Plate treat them all like family.

Big eaters will do well here, as each dish is enough to satisfy most any appetite until close to dinner. Everything from the chocolate Chiquita pancakes (pancakes with chocolate chips and bananas topped with whipped cream) to the omelets with your choice of one, two, three or more ingredients (i.e., cheese, bacon, sausage, ham, bologna, onions, green peppers, jalapenos, mushrooms, or tomatoes), homemade French toast and their special Blue Plate Breakfast with two eggs, hash or cheesy browns, grits or cheese grits, oatmeal and biscuit and gravy or toast, bacon, sausage, bologna or country fried steak or country ham is outrageously delicious.

Before we even sat down, one of the reps from the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau taking us around kept repeating emphatically, "Cheesy browns! Cheesy browns!" And I have to say they are amazing, although not for the "cardiac challenged"--your classic hash browns layered throughout with savory cheese and seasonings with a light crunch. And if you desire a little dessert with your morning meal, don't miss the Cocoa Biscuits--a hot biscuit topped with a scoop of butter and covered with made-from-scratch chocolate sauce. It was well worth the calories and not having any "points" left for the rest of the day!

Open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Blue Plate Cafe is also known for its daily comfort food specials encompassing home-style meat loaf, pot roast, chicken fried steak, catfish, chicken and dumplings or dressing, pork chops and certified Angus chopped steak, plus sides like butter beans, mashed potatoes, mac 'n' cheese, turnip greens, hash brown casserole, slaw and others.

LOCALLY GROWN, OWNED AND ADORED

I hate to play favorites, but overall I think my favorite knife and fork experience during this "Year of Alabama Food" tour was 1892 East Restaurant and Tavern. The food was exceptional, but as I came to find out, the historic setting, ambiance and focus on community is what sets it apart.

Located in Huntsville's historic Five Points neighborhood--a quaint, century-plus-old enclave representing the city's first true suburb, chock full of English-style cottages, vernacular Victorian and bungalow homes still set in the original 19th century grid, with broad, parallel streets, deep, narrow lots and rear service alleys--the focus here is on locally grown and owned farm fresh, primarily organic ingredients from the surrounding Tennessee Valley.