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Worth the Drive

Huggin’ Molly’s embraces visitors with great food, warm service

By Jennifer Kornegay

The cheese biscuits at Huggin' Molly's are served with cinnamon butter.
The cheese biscuits at Huggin’ Molly’s are served with cinnamon butter.

If you’re anything like me, you love food. But has your food ever loved you back? More specifically, have you ever gotten a big ole hug from your food? If not, stop into Huggin’ Molly’s the next time you’re any where near Abbeville.

The tree-lined main street in Abbeville’s downtown area is bustling with life. Almost every storefront is filled with an office or shop or eatery of some sort. An awning pushing its way between branches announces the entrance to Huggin’ Molly’s. While the restaurant was opened in 2006, it lives up to the motto on its menus: “frozen in the fifties.”

The restaurant’s old-fashioned soda fountain — complete with a marble top and red vinyl stool seats that spin on polished chrome stalks — was plucked out of an early-20th century drug store in Pennsylvania and has been perfectly preserved; it is so authentic, a Hollywood set dresser preparing the site for a period film would have very little work to do. Glass cases display antique pharmacy items and penny-candy promotions, and vintage signs, mostly marketing Coca Cola, adorn the walls. Through the fountain area and to the left is the dining room, a space decorated with old movie posters and a few bits of “yella fella” marketing materials, alluding to Huggin’ Molly’s owner and Abbeville native Jimmy Ranes.

Owner of Great Southern Wood Preserving, which is headquartered in Abbeville, Ranes made selling pressure-treated wood fun when he adopted the “yella fella” persona. The oversized cowboy clothed completely in yellow is the spokesman for the company’s YellaWood brand pressure-treated products, and despite his strong resemblance to a big banana, “yella fella” works. Great Southern Wood has been successful, maintaining 15 stand-alone treating and distribution facilities servicing markets across the country and distributing YellaWood all over the world.

Patrons at Huggin' Molly's sit in front of the authentic soda fountain.
Patrons at Huggin’ Molly’s sit in front of the authentic soda fountain.

While donning his yella hat and running a huge business no doubt keeps Ranes busy, he added one more thing to his “to-do” list, when, following in his grandfather Anthony’s footsteps (who worked in food all his life) he opened Huggin’ Molly’s. Ranes took the name from a ghost that he’d heard tales of as a kid. Local legend says that a seven-foot-tall woman who is as “big around as a bale of hay” roams the streets of Abbeville at night, searching for victims to sweep up and squeeze tight. The story was most often used by parents hoping to scare their kids home well before dark.

But the hug I mentioned before has nothing to do with an overly affectionate specter; at Huggin’ Molly’s, the entire dining experience can be compared to an embrace.

Exhibit A: Hugs are welcoming. (What’s more welcoming than open arms beckoning you in?) So, too, is Huggin’ Molly’s. You’re greeted with a smile right inside the door as the hostess smiles hello. The friendly servers threaten to put you in a sugar coma, routinely dropping “sweetie,” “hon” and “darling” at the end of basic wait staff inquiries like “need more tea?” or “everything all right?”

Exhibit B: Hugs are warm and comforting. So is Huggin’ Molly’s food. Diner classics like club sandwiches, French dips, burgers and chicken fingers (at lunch) or steaks, chicken pot pie and pork chops (at dinner) are done right (homemade with fresh ingredients) and deliver exactly what your taste buds are expecting and anticipating. That’s not to say the fare is ordinary. Special touches like a spiced-up kick in the “comeback sauce” served with hand-battered chicken fingers, plus a few unexpected items like crisp and chewy fried cheese biscuits served with cinnamon butter keep things plenty interesting.

Final Exhibit: Hugs are sweet. Serving yesterday’s soda-fountain favorites like Brown and Black Cows (root beer and Coke floats), milkshakes, malts, sundaes and cherry or vanilla Cokes with the syrup added in, as well as a dessert menu boasting huge brownies, blondies and the pie of the day, Huggin’ Molly’s draws plenty of folks who come in for the sweet stuff alone.

I encourage you to make a trip to Abbeville when you find some extra time; you can enjoy the delicious food, plus get something extra for your drive over. At Huggin’ Molly’s, a little nuzzle and some nostalgia are always on the menu.


Need a Hug?

Visit Huggin’ Molly’s for breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a sweet treat at 129 Kirkland St., Abbeville, Ala. 334-585-7000. www.hugginmollys