Big Spring Cafe

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Big Spring Cafe
White single story building with a red car parked in front, also the restaurant's sign at photo right
Big Spring Cafe in April 2011
Restaurant information
Established 1928
Current owner(s) Pam Milam
Food type Diner
Dress code Casual
Street address 3507 Governors Drive SW
City Huntsville
County Madison
State Alabama
Postal/ZIP code 35805-3723
Country United States
Coordinates 34°43′14″N 86°36′17″W / 34.720486°N 86.604806°W / 34.720486; -86.604806Coordinates: 34°43′14″N 86°36′17″W / 34.720486°N 86.604806°W / 34.720486; -86.604806
Seating capacity 2 tables, 16 bar stools
Reservations No

Big Spring Cafe is a greasy spoon restaurant located in Huntsville, Alabama. It opened in 1928, and is the oldest restaurant in the city.[1][2] It is often noted as a landmark in the city and as one of Huntsville's "signature" restaurants.[3][4]


The original Big Spring Cafe opened in 1928 at 119 Jefferson Street.[5] It was located in a railroad boxcar near the Big Spring Canal.[6] It then moved to 115 Gallatin Street (where the Von Braun Center parking garage now stands), and then to its current location on Governors Drive in 1970.[7] This location provides 16 bar stools at the counter and two long tables for customers.

Troy Baucom opened the original location in downtown Huntsville in Spring 1928.[2] The restaurant was sold to Hazel Beene in 1946 and, as business left the downtown core for the Memorial Parkway corridor, joined the exodus in 1970. Two years later, Beene turned the restaurant over to her sister and brother-in-law, Doris and Howard Cowley.[5] The Cowleys operated Big Spring Cafe until selling it to their daughter, Pam Milam, in 1992.[8] Citing the age and condition of the current building, Milam announced in March 2008 that she planned to relocate Big Spring Cafe just west on Governors Drive, in "a year or so", taking care to replicate the interior of the cafe in the new location.[8] As of June 2014, that move has yet to take place.


When the original location opened in 1928, it served only hamburgers consisting of ground beef, salt, mustard, and onions on a roll.[2] The current location, tucked between a meat market and a bait shop, offers both breakfast and lunch six days a week and is closed on Sundays.[8] The menu now includes diner staples including hamburgers, hot dogs, and no-bean chili plus Southern specialties like Brunswick stew, slaw dogs, and fried bologna biscuits.[9] The diner has its own special language for ordering some items. For example, a "hamburger with cheese" is a ground beef patty with mustard and onions on a square bun while a "cheeseburger" is a ground beef patty plus lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise on a round bun.[8] A bowl with equal portions of chili and Brunswick stew is ordered as "half and half" while that mix with slightly more chili is a "60–40".[8]

Awards and honors[edit]

In February 2010, the Alabama Department of Tourism added the Big Spring Cafe's "chili burger & slaw dog" to their list of "100 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die".[10][11] In July 2010, The Huntsville Times ranked Big Spring Cafe's "hamburger with cheese" at #5 on its list of "Huntsville's 20 most distinctive dishes".[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Marshall, Mike (March 29, 1998). "Another day at the old cafe". The Huntsville Times. p. F1. 
  2. ^ a b c Marshall, Mike (July 31, 2008). "Big Spring Cafe celebrates 80 years of good eating". The Huntsville Times. p. 1C. Retrieved July 27, 2010. 
  3. ^ Kaylor, Mike (October 21, 1993). "Talking tradition sparks memories". The Huntsville Times. p. F9. 
  4. ^ Kaylor, Mike (May 9, 2002). "Locally operated restaurants show staying power over two decades". The Huntsville Times. p. C1. 
  5. ^ a b Marshall, Mike (August 23, 2011). "Big Spring Cafe: 'We're all in the family in here'". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved January 6, 2014. 
  6. ^ Hawkins, Kari (July 18, 1999). "Big Spring the center of an explosive history". The Huntsville Times. p. S17. 
  7. ^ Kaylor, Mike (February 15, 1996). "Tradition continues at simple Governors Drive diner". The Huntsville Times. p. C8. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Kaylor, Mike (March 13, 2008). "City's No. 1 greasy spoon plans to move". The Huntsville Times. p. 20G. Retrieved July 27, 2010. 
  9. ^ Cuthbert, Matt (November 13, 2008). "Loosen the belt on your pants while tightening the belt on your wallet". The Huntsville Times. p. 14G. Retrieved July 28, 2010. 
  10. ^ "100 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die." (PDF). Alabama Tourism Department. February 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 17, 2010. Retrieved July 27, 2010. 
  11. ^ Busdeker, Jon (February 11, 2010). "Four Huntsville dishes added to list of "100 Dishes To Eat In Alabama Before You Die"". The Huntsville Times. Archived from the original on 10 July 2010. Retrieved July 27, 2010. 
  12. ^ Busdeker, Jon (July 22, 2010). "Huntsville's 20 most distinctive dishes include coconut pie, hush puppies and Hot Damn sauce". The Huntsville Times. p. 10G. Archived from the original on 25 July 2010. Retrieved July 28, 2010.