Navigate / search

Worth the Drive: Greenbrier Restaurant

 

wtd_greenbrier-exterior
A spray-painted mural depicts the farmland surrounding the restaurant.

Serving catfish and barbecue at the crossroads of three counties

Story and photos by Jennifer Crossley Howard

You don’t even have to squint your eyes to see that Greenbrier Restaurant would look as at home in the 1950s as it does in 2016. Across the street, a cotton gin once operated, and the restaurant is still housed in its original squat cinder-block building. A spray painted mural wraps around its outside walls depicting the flat, green farmland that surrounds it. At first glance, it looks like high-class camouflage.

Greenbrier Restaurant sits at the rural crossroads of Morgan, Limestone and Madison counties, resistant to the pressures of chains and change since 1952.

This place is all about the food. Greenbrier has thrived by serving simple dishes, and most ingredients are from Alabama, says owner Jerry Evans.

“If it works and it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he says.

Regular customers drive from as far as southern Tennessee to dine on catfish and barbecue plates and hushpuppies. Greenbrier’s location on the edge of Madison County attracts local farmers, as well as players in Huntsville’s digital and aerospace industries. Silos and industrial parks pave the way to Greenbrier, which stands 30 feet from Rocket City limits.

wtd_catfish-plate
Fried catfish is one of the menu’s bestsellers.

“We have blue collar, white collar, you name it,” Evans says. “We have a lot of people who eat with us basically every day.” The nearest competition is a postage-stamp sized Subway just off the I-565 Greenbrier exit.

Evans’ restaurant was once the grandparent of seven other area restaurants, which have all since closed. The average Greenbrier Restaurant employee is loyal. Evans figures that they spend an average of 22 years working there.

Artist Chandler Hayes of Decatur spray-painted Greenbrier’s distinct mural.

“I got accused of not doing anything different, and the guy who did that approached me, and he liked the way the light shined down the side of the building,” Evans says.

Hayes’ work also covers the businesses of Julia’s Pools and Wheeler Lake Storage in Decatur.

Perhaps the lone way Greenbrier has kept with the times is expanding to four dining rooms, altogether capable of seating 320. Each has a distinct feel and none betray the humble decor of corrugated tin, deer heads, wood booths and flatscreen TVs that adorn the main dining room.

“Most people like to be comfortable when they go and eat,” Evans says. “You don’t have to have a coat and tie to eat in here, but lots of people do.”

That Greenbrier Restaurant sits in the middle of an extension of Alabama history perhaps explains its solid endurance. The descendants of Judge James Horton, who presided over a retrial of the Scottsboro Boys case in Decatur in the 1930s, own most of the land surrounding the restaurant, according to Evans. Horton set aside the jury’s guilty verdict and demanded a retrial. That made him none too popular in his town of Athens, so he moved his antebellum house to Greenbrier. It sits on the other side of a field next to the restaurant.

Jack Webb started Greenbrier as a one-room takeout joint that once attracted customers with singers atop the roof. Evans’ family acquired it in 1987 after running Catfish Inn, just outside of Athens.

For all its history, change is coming to the community of Greenbrier. Old Highway 20, which runs in front of the restaurant, will soon be expanded to five lanes that lead to a planned Tennessee Valley Authority Megasite.

“It’s just a matter of time before all this land is bought up,” Evans says. “This land is so fertile you could grow babies in it.”


Greenbrier Restaurant
27028 Old Highway 20, Madison, AL 35756
256-351-1800

Hours: 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m., seven days a week
www.oldgreenbrier.com

Outdoors: Attention deer hunters – State laws have changed

hdl_hunt-phone

Several new laws affect deer hunters taking to the fields and forests of Alabama this fall and winter

For the past three years, sportsmen in southern Alabama could hunt deer through Feb. 10 each year after a 10-day season closure in December. For the 2016-17 season, however, the state extended deer season into February statewide and reopened the December days.

The state also changed archery season from Oct. 25 to Oct. 15. Archery season remains open through Feb. 10, 2017. A muzzleloader season runs from Nov. 14 to Nov. 18. In most of the state, the modern firearms season begins on Nov. 19 and continues through Feb. 10, 2017, but season dates may vary by hunting zone.

In addition, young Alabama sportsmen can get a jump on the adults. The state holds a special youth deer season on Nov. 12-13 before the regular season starts. Anyone 15 years old or younger can participate in the youth hunts as long as they are accompanied by licensed hunters at least 21 years old. Adults may not fire at deer during youth hunts.

In addition, the state established new standards for permitting the use of dogs to hunt deer and placed Baldwin and Marengo counties on the permit system. Since the 1980s, clubs that run dogs for deer in certain counties must apply for special permits. Dog clubs need at least 500 contiguous acres and must provide maps of the hunting area to the state. Dog owners must also mark all their dogs so people will know who owns them. Owners of dogs that cross property lines could face fines.

“We are not trying to eliminate dog hunting in Alabama,” explained Chuck Sykes, director of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. “I grew up hunting with dogs. The problem is not dog hunting, but dogs encroaching on neighboring private properties. We are working very closely with the leadership of the Alabama Dog Hunters Association to find amicable solutions to issues. We’re trying to protect the rights of dog hunters to do what they enjoy doing and we’re trying to protect the rights of property owners.”

Game Check now mandatory

In probably the biggest change, the state made Game Check mandatory. For the past three seasons, hunters could voluntarily report their deer and turkey kills. Few did. However, all hunters must now report their deer and turkey harvest data.

“The mandatory Game Check program should prove to be one the most progressive management tools implemented by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in decades,” Sykes says. “For the first time in history, all hunters in Alabama will be a part of the data collection process. Near real-time harvest data will be gathered on deer and turkey throughout the state. This data will be accessible to all hunters as well as our biologists. We are confident that over the next few years, trends observed in the harvest data will allow us to better set seasons and bag limits for Alabama hunters.”

Under the old system, each hunter could kill three bucks and five turkeys per season. The state required anyone who bagged a deer or turkey to record that kill on a harvest record form that comes with any hunting license, but that’s all. The paper harvest record did not provide state biologists with any information that they could use to manage the resources.

“A voluntary Game Check reporting system has been in use for the past three seasons with dismal participation,” Sykes says. “Game Check is not a novel idea created by the department. Many states throughout the country have similar systems. In fact, some states still require hunters to physically carry harvested game to a centralized check station where a biologist gathers valuable biological information.”

Now, hunters must report all their deer or turkey kills to the state within 48 hours. Sportsmen can do this with three methods: They can download the free Game Check app to a smartphone and report kills; or they can call 800-888-7690; or they can report online at www.outdooralabama.com/gamecheck.

“The primary reason for implementing the Game Check system is to collect harvest information on deer and turkeys in order to better manage those resources of our state for the sustainable benefit of all Alabamians,” Sykes says. “The data derived from Game Check will be available to anyone through the Outdoor Alabama website. Hunters will be able to access this information in almost real time to see the deer or turkey harvest in each county throughout the state.”

Some public areas may set different season dates or other regulations so check before hunting anywhere. For specific hunting zone boundaries, special regulations and other information on deer hunting in the Cotton State, see www.outdooralabama.com.


John N. Felsher is a freelance writer and photographer who writes from Semmes, Ala. Contact him through his website at www.JohnNFelsher.com

“Vaping” increases in Alabama, especially among high school students

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alabama high school students are following a growing trend of using e-cigarettes, also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems, or ENDS. Their use among high-school students more than tripled from 2013 to 2014. The 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that nearly a quarter of high school students are regular users.

vape

ENDS are devices that deliver nicotine to the user through “vapor” rather than smoke. They do not require a flame and may be used one puff at a time. Actually, the “vapor” isn’t vapor at all. It is a concentrated aerosol that is created when a liquid containing mostly vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, flavoring, and nicotine is heated by a battery-powered atomizer. This aerosol mixture is then inhaled by the user.

Today, the more popular ENDS products are refillable and reusable and can be customized with different flavored liquids, commonly known as e-juice or vape juice, different levels of nicotine, and other features that make these products appealing to youth and young adults.

Much debate centers on whether these products are “safe.” Currently, Alabama does not regulate ENDS in any way. We may not know the harmful ramifications of this product for decades, and there is every chance that their use may be a gateway for users to develop an addiction to nicotine that could last a lifetime. ENDS are not necessarily an alternative to cigarettes; some people use both products.

In Alabama, ENDS purchasers must be at least 19 years of age. However, unlike tobacco products, retailers currently are not required to obtain a permit to sell them. Therefore, these products are not subject to the same compliance checks as traditional cigarettes.

In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized a rule extending its regulatory authority to cover all tobacco products, including vaporizers, vape pens, hookah pens, e-cigarettes, e-pipes, and all other ENDS. FDA now regulates the manufacture, import, packaging, labeling, advertising, promotion, sale, and distribution of ENDS. This includes components and parts of ENDS, but excludes accessories.

More research needs to be conducted on the long-term health effects from the use of these products. While it is true that ENDS do not contain the same cancer-causing chemicals as traditional cigarettes, some health risks are still involved with their use.

Alabama Snapshots: Cuddly Cats

Jonathan Lamons with his cats Shadow and Sandy. SUBMITTED BY Andrea Lamons, Hollytree.
Jonathan Lamons with his cats Shadow and Sandy. SUBMITTED BY Andrea Lamons, Hollytree.
Michael Montgomery and Smokey. SUBMITTED BY Patty Montgomery, Somerville.
Michael Montgomery and Smokey. SUBMITTED BY Patty Montgomery, Somerville.
Kaleb loves his cat, Kit Kat. SUBMITTED BY Kayla Smith, Jones
Kaleb loves his cat, Kit Kat. SUBMITTED BY Kayla Smith, Jones.

 KayliGayle Hope White. SUBMITTED BY Kelli White, Deatsville.

KayliGayle Hope White. SUBMITTED BY Kelli White, Deatsville.

Heidi and Patches. SUBMITTED BY Margaret Jean Philpott.
Heidi and Patches. SUBMITTED BY Margaret Jean Philpott.
Best friends, Bear and Taco. SUBMITTED BY Cindy Clark, Prattville.
Best friends, Bear and Taco. SUBMITTED BY Cindy Clark, Prattville.
Jax Riley and Snowball. SUBMITTED BY Tammy Riley, Brewton.
Jax Riley and Snowball. SUBMITTED BY Tammy Riley, Brewton.