By Lenore Vickrey
Resa Bates and Allan Bloodworth know a thing or two about running restaurants.
Resa started as a 12-year-old helping out on the farm and in her family’s famed restaurant, Bates House of Turkey in Greenville. She then continued to gain skills as a hostess, waiting tables and tending bar in Birmingham, Montgomery, Charleston, S.C, , Wyoming and New Orleans. Allan, who is also a carpenter, had opened a number of Montgomery restaurants over the years (Tomatino’s, the Olive Room and El Rey). Both of them learned much about the business while working for famed restaurant owners Harriet Crommelin of Kat & Harri’s and the late Bud Skinner, owner of Bud’s and Jubilee Seafood.
Resa taught art in Montgomery area schools and in other cities for 20 years before she and Allan decided to take on their latest project in 2018: reopening the Alabama Grill, a favorite restaurant in downtown Greenville for more than 70 years.
“It took us from August to October to tear this place apart,” she recalls. She and Allan did nearly all the work on the restaurant, originally built in the mid-1800s, themselves. “We did all the finish work, knocked the plaster off the walls, took up five layers of flooring and had to drop the ceiling,” she adds. “Just the two of us. Everything came out and the only thing we did not take off was the roof.”
The result was a totally reworked business, offering only fresh, healthy, local food prepared to order. “I run the front of the house and Allan runs the back of the house,” she says. “One is not more important than the other. It takes both of us to make it work.”
Asked what’s the most popular item on the menu, she replies, “It depends on what day it is. Sometimes it’s snapper and ribeyes. Sometimes it’s pizza.” They offer several different types of pizza, including the Liveakos (topped with Roma tomatoes, garlic, spinach, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and red onions), a tribute to the grill’s original owner, Greek immigrant Mack Liveakos, who opened it in 1947. He sold it in 1960 to James Arthur, who operated it until it closed in 2001.
“We sell a lot of burgers and we cut the fish every day,” says Resa. “Allan cuts steaks every night. There’s no food waste. There’s nothing fried on the menu. Everything is fresh.”
She buys locally sourced food, from Birmingham-based Domestique coffee and Alabama craft beers to ice cream from Cammie’s Old Dutch Ice Cream Shoppe in Mobile. Seafood comes from the Gulf, and of course, the turkey comes from her family’s business. If something is not listed on the menu, it means it’s not available that day. “Snapper is a special item because some weeks we can’t get it,” she explains. Plus, their storage space is limited and they don’t keep a lot of food on hand, preferring to sell it while it’s fresh.
The pandemic forced them to close on Tuesdays and go to takeout-only orders in March 2020. Fortunately, they had already been using an online ordering platform before COVID. “During our shutdown, I added a second online platform so gift cards could be used,” she says.
They were glad to reopen their doors last September and resume serving guests in person. Their customers generally are local residents from Butler and adjoining counties, but “we have acquired a lot of regulars from out of town,” Resa says, “especially during hunting season.” The restaurant is on a main street in Greenville, where fresh food options are limited. “People are tired of fast food,” she notes, and sitting down at a table of a locally owned restaurant has its appeal.
Business has been brisk, despite the pandemic-caused slowdown, and it’s not unusual for the staff to turn tables around three times in one night. “If you want a steak,” she advises, “come early.”
109 W. Commerce St., Greenville, Al 36037
11 a.m.- 2 p.m., 5 p.m.-8 p.m.
Saturday 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Closed Sunday, Monday and Tuesday
Find the restaurant on Facebook