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Worth the Drive: McLin’s

Steaks and seafood star at Daleville mainstay

Story and photos by Lori Quiller

If you’re heading out for dinner in the Wiregrass, but you can’t decide between steak or seafood, at McLin’s Restaurant in Daleville, you don’t have to.

McLin’s Restaurant opened in 1968 in the old Daleville Baptist Church building by Evelyn and James McLin, parents of the current owner, Ricky McLin.

“My father had the idea to open the restaurant, but my mother was the mainstay here. This was her baby,” Ricky says. “She was the one who stayed here when the rest of us were out doing other things. She was the only one always here taking care of things, but it really is a family business. My mother worked here for about 42 years. My sister, brother and I have all worked here. My wife has worked here for about 35 years, and my son and daughter have worked here, too. I have a nephew working here now, and my granddaughter just started.”

Until late last year, James McLin was a fixture in the restaurant as well. He would often be seen greeting customers as they entered, and sitting with them on the wooden bench beside the front door as they waited for a table. The family patriarch suffered a stroke after Thanksgiving, but the family said he is doing much better these days.

As guests enter, they are asked to take part in a family tradition that is as old as the restaurant…signing the guestbook.

“Our customers have become our good friends. We know our customers by their first names. My wife, for the 35 years that she worked up here, knew everyone by names, their children, she would send them cards on their birthdays, and my son is really good at that, too! I know a lot of our customers, but I don’t know as many as they do!” Ricky laughs.

He can probably tell you his customer’s favorite meals as well. Although McLin’s has always been known primarily as a seafood restaurant, about 20 years ago, Ricky asked his father, who was a cattle farmer, about the possibility of serving a better grade of steak for the restaurant. His father suggested certified Angus beef, and the rest is history.

“Shrimp, ribeye and catfish, in that order,” Ricky said. “But, it can vary from time to time.”

Shrimp, ribeye and catfish aren’t the only delicious options you’ll find on the McLin’s menu. Southern fried chicken, livers and gizzards, flounder, oysters and scallops round out the menu. Appetizers of crab claws and onion rings will surely get your meal going in the right direction. For dessert, don’t forget the pie – coconut or key lime. But, you’ll probably be full, so get a slice to go.

And, if you’re with a small group, no worries. There are several private dining areas where you and your guests can dine away from the two large dining rooms.

From left, Matt, Zach and Ricky McLin continue to operate their family’s restaurant.

“I feel like I’ve been blessed all my life. I had Christian parents who believed in serving good, quality food at a reasonable price, something that people can afford. That was my mother’s philosophy, and I think it still holds true today,” Ricky says.

McLin’s Restaurant may have been his father’s vision, driven by his mother’s philosophy of great customer service, but it has been the life’s work of the entire McLin family that has kept the doors of the restaurant open for nearly 50 years. There’s a sign over the door that James McLin hung years ago to remind the family of the reason why those doors will remain open. It reads: “Thru these doors walk the finest people in the world, our customers. Thank you!”

“My dad put that up over the door,” Ricky says. “We had a fire in 1993, and I really thought that was the worst night of my life. I had never been where I couldn’t take care of my family, but the Lord takes care of things. We were closed for four months, but we were able to expand during that time. We were worried whether the community would come back to us after being closed for so long, but they did…probably about 80-90 percent of them are still with us from back then. It’s a great feeling to know that our customers love us that much! My son has tried to get me to walk through the parking lot to see where all our customers come from. There are tags from Troy, Elba, Geneva, Florida. In my opinion, especially on the weekends, people like to go out and enjoy good food, so they don’t mind driving a piece to get it. That’s why we take great care in the food we serve. We want our customers to have a great meal every time they visit with us!”


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McLin’s Restaurant

2 Old Newton Road, Daleville, AL 36322

Phone: (334) 598-2774

Hours:

Closed Sunday & Monday

Open Tuesday – Friday

11 a.m. to 1 p.m.;

4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Open Saturday

4:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.