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Worth the Drive: Rattlesnake Saloon

The Rattlesnake Saloon in Tuscumbia invites you to dine in the side of a mountain. Photo by Jennifer Kornegay
The Rattlesnake Saloon in Tuscumbia invites you to dine in the side of a mountain. Photo by Jennifer Kornegay

Hidden restaurant unlike any in Alabama

By Jennifer Kornegay

I’d wager that more than half of my Worth the Drive articles in the last few years have profiled eateries that are true hole-in-the-wall joints. But this time, I’m encouraging you to visit a place that’s a true hole-in-the-rock.

And not just encouraging you to go, imploring you. The Rattlesnake Saloon in Tuscumbia is unlike any other restaurant in the state, and its hidden location amid some of North Alabama’s most stunning scenery is a sight you must see. Opened in 2009, this one-of-a-kind spot draws folks by the thousands from all over the globe. Once you’re there, it won’t be hard to figure out why. Oh, and you can rustle up some good grub there, too.

Rattlesnake Saloon is a part of the Seven Springs Lodge on the outskirts of the city. The lodge is set on 200,000 acres at the bottom of the Appalachian Foothills and welcomes guests looking for a place to kick off their boots and relax, as well as those who are after some outdoor adventure. Trails for horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking cut through the property and lead to several historical markers designating ancient Native American sites. Accommodations at the lodge include cabins and rooms built into two concrete grain silos in addition to hookups for campers and RVs. There are also covered stalls to shelter visiting horses.

Your journey to Rattlesnake Saloon begins in the lodge’s dirt parking lot. Once you hop out of your car, hail the always-near Rattlesnake Taxi, an old pickup truck with wooden benches built into its bed. A kindly gentleman will help you up to your seat in the back and instruct you to hold on. Do as you are told.

The taxi drives along a dirt road toward a metal arch with the name of your destination across its top. As soon as you pass under it, the path angles down sharply, and the truck descends a steep hill, heading down into thick trees. The road winds deeper and deeper into the woods until it bottoms out in a flat. And then you see it, a geological gem. Up on your right is a massive rock ledge jutting out of the hillside. Layers of stone eons old are exposed, and tangled vines slip over the edge and hang down to form a green, growing curtain. If there’s been a recent rain, a waterfall ranging from thundering sheets to tinkling trickles flows over the ledge as well.

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It may take a minute for your eyes to adjust to the dim light in the forest shade, but you’ll soon make out chairs and tables set into the cavern that the overhang creates. To one side, a small building is set halfway into the cave, complete with swing doors and big hitching posts carved into coiled rattlesnake shapes. You’ve arrived at the Rattlesnake Saloon, a Western-style watering hole and a restaurant that takes full advantage of Mother Nature’s raw beauty and invites you to do the same.

No matter the weather outside, the air is always cool and calm under the sprawling stone ceiling. There are tables inside the building and on an adjacent deck, but unless it’s too crowded, you’ll want to grab a seat in the cave. A friendly waitress will bring you a menu featuring classic American bar food with catchy saloon-themed names. Choose from Skunk Rings (onion rings), Snake Eyes and Tails (fried jalapenos and green beans) and Cowboy Buttons (fried mushrooms) to start. But don’t fill up on these tasty vittles, or you’ll be unable to truly appreciate The Duke, an enormous and delicious half-pound burger topped with bacon, Snake Eyes and onion on a soft Kaiser roll. Finish with some Apple Fritters, and then just sit a spell and take in the view.

Saddle Up

The Rattlesnake Saloon
Open February through November, Thursday – Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
www.rattlesnakesaloon.net
1292 Mt Mills Rd., Tuscumbia, AL 256.370.7220

Jennifer Kornegay travels to an out-of-the way restaurant destination in Alabama every month. She may be reached for comment at j_kornegay@charter.net. Check out more of Jennifer’s food writing, recipes and recommendations on her blog, Chew on This at www.jenniferkornegay.com.