Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, Huntsville, AL is best known as the home of Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. However, while Rocket City offers a range of experiences for the space-curious, Huntsville is also home to a burgeoning vegan community and growing art and technology scenes. With cruelty-free options popping up across the region, we decided it was time to highlight this booming vegan scene. Here are a few places every vegan should visit when they’re not training to be an astronaut.
Where to dine
For quick food, Chef Will The Palate runs a plant-based truck outside of Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment most afternoons of the week (call ahead to make sure the truck will be open). Consider a plate of black bean and quinoa soft tacos with fresh vegetables, blackened portabello mushrooms or tofu over rice, or the daily vegetable stir-fry. Next, Mason Dixon Bakery serves a house salad with mixed greens, shaved red onion, fennel, apples, and candied pecans with smoked maple vinaigrette; a black bean veggie burger with Daiya cheese; a grilled vegetable sandwich; homemade garlic pickles; vegan biscuits; and loaves of vegan ancient-grain bread. Our advice? Sit outside! If you’re in the mood for a wrap, try the fresh daily wraps such as the spicy Jerk Tofu and the My Muy Grande Greek Salad, and sandwiches such as the Stars Falafel on Alabama at Happy Tummy (housed inside Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment). Furthermore, Bandito Burrito is a Huntsville mainstay for affordable Mexican food with a California flair. Order the Raven (beans and rice burrito), chips and salsa, and a vegetable chalupa, and don’t worry about the guacamole because it’s free of sour cream. However, if you’re looking for a more upscale experience with a fine dining ambiance, visit 1892 East Restaurant & Tavern in the quirky historic Five Points neighborhood, where plant-based items such as seasonal vegetable soups, crispy tofu on lemon couscous, grilled portabello on rice (or in a burger), or a grilled tempeh sandwich with fresh-cut fries are available. Or, if you’re craving chickpea potato curry, dhal, fried plantains, black-eyed pea stew, pineapple peach crisp, or vegan “chicken” sticks, opt for Mango’s Caribbean Restaurant.
What to do
U.S. Space and Rocket Center features numerous indoor and outdoor displays, as well as traveling STEM exhibits, and even if you’re not interested in traveling to space, you’ll be charmed by the opportunity to walk across the surface of the moon or explore the rockets and technology that got us there. The Center also features a Mars-like climbing wall and several amusement park-style rides that mimic space travel. Even better? There’s an on-site fresh salad bar and a build-your-own burrito counter! If you’re more of an arts and music person, check out Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment, a renovated cotton mill that houses a variety of working artists, musicians, and performance spaces. Outdoor enthusiasts can take in local history and phenomenal views at the mountaintop Burritt on the Mountain, a mansion and park with seasonal special events, outdoor concerts, a historic house tour, a forest hike, and a barnyard. Expand your exploration of history with a trip to the EarlyWorks Family of Museums in historic downtown Huntsville, and visit the Huntsville Botanical Garden, which has a café that also offers fresh plant-based meals, offers scenic vistas, shaded walks through themed gardens, a large butterfly house, and an interactive children’s garden (with water play!).
Pizzelle’s Confections (located in Lowe Mill A&E) offers two or three handcrafted, artisanal vegan chocolates made with coconut milk or coconut oil instead of dairy. Pizzelle’s also has at least one dairy-free sorbet such as mango coconut in the ice cream freezer. Not far from Pizzelle’s is the tea company Piper & Leaf, where you can enjoy refreshing locally sourced and blended iced or hot teas, including Front Porch loose-leaf black tea, Sassyfras Strawberry loose leaf green teas, and caffeine-free blends such as the Piper Mint Blues and the Sweet Dixie blend. In addition, Mason Dixon Bakery offers offers vegan and gluten-free cupcakes with a variety of themes and flavor options, such as the Cloud 9 and Chocolate Heaven cupcakes or the Cookie Monster cupcake, complete with a hidden Oreo cookie inside. If you’re craving a specific baked treat or planning an event you’d like catered (with, say, several dozen vegan cupcakes), Honeypie Bakery will prepare and deliver your treats to you (with a few days’ notice, of course). You can ask them for almost anything you fancy, but consider the ginger lemon bar, vanilla or chocolate cupcakes, or oat and fruit bars. Finally, during summer, visitors will find a wide range of seasonal fruit and treats such as fresh blueberries or strawberries or locally made goods such as Betty Jo’s Slaw (hot, mild, or original—it’s all addictive!) at the Saturday farmers’ market at Lowe Mill or the Thursday afternoon Greene Street Market.
Madeline Vann, MPH, is a freelance writer based in Williamsburg, VA.