If you’re looking for ways to keep the kids active, take this summer as an opportunity to relax, reconnect, unplug, and have fun-filled day trips with them before summer’s end. Here are a few locations across our state that are day trip or weekend-worthy for some quality family time.
Point Mallard Park: Located in Decatur, Point Mallard Park includes a water park, golf course, an ice complex, and batting cages. This place is a jack-of-all-trades for whatever type of experience your family is looking for, including hiking/ walking trails, outdoor pavilions, and baseball fields. For ticket information, hours and more visit pointmallardpark.com.
Southern Adventures is a family friendly water amusement park located in Huntsville. It offers year-round entertainment ranging from a go-kart racetrack, rock climbing walls, golf courses and carnival rides. Even better news . . . there is no entrance fee. Take the family for the day and simply pay as you play! southern-adventures.com.
U.S. Space and Rocket Center: This center in Huntsville has a large variety of programs for the science savvy including Rocket Park, a rocket collection, and a Main Exhibit Area filled with information and memorabilia from NASA’s space program. This trip is also one for the senses with its 67-foot IMAX Spacedome Theater. rocketcenter.com.
The Children’s Museum of the Shoals offers hands-on exhibits geared to children at all development stages. Children can play and learn in a safe environment that stimulates the imagination and expands cultural literacy and science. For more information go to shoalschildrensmuseum.org.
Sci-Quest Hands on Science Center in Huntsville offers a variety of experiences including daily summer camps, Full-Spectrum Science for children on every color of the autism spectrum, and daily activities for general admission fees. sci-quest.org.
McWane Science Center: Open daily, the McWane Science Center in Birmingham is known for giving children a place to “see, hear, touch and experience science every day.” The Science Center has four floors of interactive exhibits and an IMAX dome theater that brings images to life. mcwane.org.
Desoto Caverns Family Fun Park is a historic show cave located in Childersburg. The cave offers tours that teach the history of the Indians that lived and died in the caverns, Confederate soldiers who mined gunpowder and early Indian traders. Each tour includes a laser light, sound and water show as well as gem panning, crystal find, water golf and paddle boats. desotocavernspark.com.
Alabama Splash Adventures in Bessemer is a family trip just minutes away from Birmingham. The venue offers water adventures including a “Misti-cal” water maze, the Splashdown that sends riders on a 50-foot plunge into the water pool, an adventure course and more. alabamasplash.com.
Adventure Land Theme Park in Dothan offers quite the adrenaline rush with attractions like batting cages, go-karts, bumper boats and mini golf. Fuel the family with treats from the snack bar, and send them back out for some wholesome family interaction. For more information on pricing and hours go to adventurelandthemepark.com.
Adventure Island in Orange Beach caters to … well, the adventurous! This location features a giant volcano, go-karts, laser tag, mini-golf, and more. The Alligator Arcade features rollercoaster simulators and a rock-climbing wall and more than 100 video games. adventure-island.com.
Sharky’s Family Adventure Park in Orange Beach offers two Sky Trails Adventure Ropes Courses for participants to test their agility and balance. They also have four Skyline Zip line connections and Sky Tykes, a smaller version of Sky Trails for smaller children. alwharf.com.
Waterville U.S.A. in Gulf Shores is less than a mile away from the beach. Travellers can enjoy the 20-acre water and amusement park for one entry fee. The amusement park includes a House of Bounce, Cannonball Run roller coaster, and NASCAR go-karts. The water park includes 17 water slides, a lazy pool, Flowrider and more. watervilleusa.com.
Last year was the first year of the “Final Four” for the college football playoffs. It proved to be the most popular year EVER for college football (according to the ratings). Every Tuesday night that Jeff Long, the playoff chairman, came on TV to disclose the standings, we were all glued to our sets for the drama and controversy that accompanied his announcement. Ohio State should send Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss a bottle of wine. They were able to “back in” to the playoffs when No. 4 Mississippi State lost to the Rebels.
My Final Four picks in Alabama Living last year were Alabama, Oregon, FSU and Auburn (instead of Ohio State). If the old BCS had been in place, Alabama would have played undefeated Florida State for the National Championship.
2014: I drank the orange and blue Kool-Aid and picked the Tigers to win the national championship. That drink got bitter as the defense gave up more than 400 yards in its last seven SEC games and lost its last four games that counted (forget about Samford) to finish 8-5.
They did not play with the passion, physicality and energy that Auburn is known for. How could a team beat LSU by 34, then lose to Mississippi State by 15, and lose to Georgia 34-7? The offense became too one-dimensional and finished 66th in the nation in passing. (They were ranked 106th and 112th nationally in this category the previous two years.)
TIGER TIDBITS: Ask any Auburn fan why 2015 is going to be better and the answer will always be these two names in this order: Will Muschamp and Jeremy Johnson. Muschamp, the new defensive coordinator and past head coach at Florida, will restore the enthusiasm and proven scheme that has been missing. He is an excellent coach but the front seven are going to have to get more physical. Getting Carl Lawson back from knee surgery gives them the pass rusher who was missing last year. The starting corners, Jonathan Jones and Joshua Holsey, are both seniors and experienced leaders. The fact that they are short (less than 6 feet tall) could be a factor when playing man to man against taller receivers. Senior linebackers Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy are better suited for Muschamp’s scheme.
At quarterback, Jeremy Johnson has all the physical tools: 6 foot 5 inches tall, great arm, and excellent leader. He is being judged based on two starts: Western Carolina and last year’s opener against Arkansas. He will bring a passing threat that has been missing. Losing dependable WR Sammie Coates will put more pressure on Duke Williams to pick up the slack. All-purpose kicker Daniel Carlson hit all 57 PATs without a miss and 62 percent of his kickoffs were touchbacks.
SCHEDULE: The opener against Louisville is going to be a major challenge. U of L will bring a large, loud crowd to Atlanta. Two weeks later, the Tigers’ first SEC game is against LSU on the road. LSU has a tough road game the week before they meet Auburn, against Mississippi State. This could be the “make or break” game for both sets of Tigers. An LSU loss could send Les Miles eating grass in a different pasture next year. Auburn catches a schedule break this year by drawing Kentucky and playing traditional rival Georgia at home. Kentucky could be a Thursday night trap game (looking ahead) since the next three weeks in a row are against West foes Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
2014: When you win three national championships in four years, anything short of the crystal football is a down year. The Tide won the West, won the SEC championship, and was ranked No. 1 heading into the semifinal playoff game against Ohio State. Alabama found a way to win close games against Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn while being outplayed and losing to Ole Miss and the Buckeyes. Lane Kiffin worked miracles with Blake Sims last year at quarterback and seemed to draw up plays in the dirt to get the ball to Bama’s most prolific weapon: Amari Cooper. Unfortunately, both have graduated. The Tide’s defense fell to No. 11 in the nation because its pass defense was ranked 58th.
TIDE TIDBITS: Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart moves back to coach his natural position: linebackers. The secondary has been a weakness for the Tide. Nick Saban hired former NFL defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to shore up this group that earned the nickname of “Toast” last year since it was burned so many times. Alabama’s defensive front seven may be the best in the country. A’Shawn Robinson will draw double teams to free up linebacker Reggie Ragland.
The huge question on offense is the same as it was last year: Who will be the quarterback? Jake Coker finished the spring with a slight edge over freshman David Cornwell. However, this could change quickly. Kiffin’s favorite playmaker is RB Kenyon Drake (lost last year to knee injury). His versatility as a runner and receiver will cause matchup problems. (Reminder: he split out on the opening play against Florida last year and caught an 87-yard touchdown pass.) The offense returns only two starters. Junior running back Derrick Henry has to emerge as a leader and force teams to play eight in the box. Bama’s MVP again will be All-American punter J.K. Scott. More than 56 percent of his punts were downed inside the 20, causing a long field for the opponent’s offense.
SCHEDULE:Bama’s opponents won more than 62 percent of their games last year, the fourth best in the country. The Tide plays Texas A&M, Tennessee and LSU in a row. Tough enough. The fact that ALL three have open dates before playing Bama makes it even tougher. The fifth game of the year, at Georgia, will be a barnburner. The Dogs have four easy games before the Oct. 3 matchup. The Iron Bowl is in Auburn this year and should decide the West.
2015 IRONBOWL: This will be one for the ages in Auburn. Both teams will be either undefeated or have no more than one loss. It will all come down to previous injuries to key players, depth and ball control. Gus Malzahn’s strength is a power running game. Bama’s defensive strength is stopping the run. Bama 36-Auburn 30.
SEC EAST PREDICTION: 1. Tennessee 2. Georgia 3. Missouri 4. Florida 5. South Carolina 6. Kentucky 7. Vanderbilt. The Vols get the nod over the Dogs for three reasons: Their quarterback, Josh Dobbs, is solid while Georgia will be starting their third QB in three
years; Georgia has to play both Alabama and Auburn; and the Tennessee-Georgia game is in Knoxville. As always, Gary Pinkel and Missouri could sneak in.
SEC WEST PREDICTION: 1. Alabama 2. Auburn 3. Texas A&M 4. Arkansas 5. LSU 6. Ole Miss 7. Mississippi State. The race will come down to the Iron Bowl. Every year that Saban has had a dominating front seven, they limit the opponent’s chances and play ball control. That will be this year’s blueprint. If Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson stays healthy and the defense develops, the Tigers will be there. After these top two, anybody with a pulse could pick any of the other 5 teams and have a good argument. All seven teams from the West could finish in the top 20.
FINAL FOUR POSSIBILITIES: Every magazine, TV talking head, radio talk show host, Yankee and SEC hater is picking Ohio State to win it all again. IT WILL NOT HAPPEN. Since the BCS started in 1998, only one team has repeated as National Champions: Alabama in 2011 and 2012. The Buckeyes have been hearing since January that they will repeat in a walkover. Any team that has three different starting quarterbacks will have locker room problems. Remember, we are dealing with 18- to 22-year olds.
They open at Virginia Tech, a team that beat OSU by two touchdowns last year. Ten teams have a chance to make the playoffs: (SEC) Auburn, Alabama; (ACC) Florida State, Clemson; (PAC 12) Oregon, Southern Cal; (BIG 12) Baylor, TCU; (BIG 10) Ohio State, Michigan State.
FINAL FOUR PREDICTION: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Auburn in Cotton Bowl. Ohio State 41-Auburn 37. No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 TCU in Orange Bowl. Alabama 31-TCU 21.
National Championship game in Glendale, Arizona: Bama vs. Ohio State. The Tide has been waiting a year for this revenge game against the Buckeyes. Since Nick Saban came to Alabama in 2007, they have NEVER gone 3 years without a national championship. This makes the third year: Alabama 42-Ohio State 33.
Brad Bradford retired from coaching football at the high school and college level after 21 years. He is the author of the humorous book “Hang In There Like Hair In A Biscuit” (hairinabiscuit.com) and is the president and retirement income specialist for Bradford Consulting Group (coachbradfinancial.com). Brad and his wife, Susan, split time between their homes in Wetumpka and Destin, Florida. He can be reached at coachbradbradford.com.
Share your Iron Bowl memories!
For many Alabamians, the annual Auburn-Alabama game is more than just a gridiron contest. If you have an Iron Bowl story to share, send us a note and a photo by Sept. 30 to Allison Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org. We may use your story in the November issue (just in time for the big game!)
Alabama farmers grow a wide variety of fruits and veggies; they raise chickens, beef and pork; and our fishermen and shrimpers catch and net huge harvests of Gulf seafood, making it fairly easy to find and eat Alabama foods. But thanks to some innovative cooks and companies transforming our state’s agricultural bounty into all manner of edible products, you can take the idea of “eating local” far beyond meat and produce. Check out these snacks, sauces, sweets and more that are Alabama born and bred.
Golden Flake Thin & Crispy Chips: The granddaddy of Alabama snacks, these paper-thin, fried potato slices are descendants of the chips that started it all for Birmingham’s Magic City Foods, founded in 1923.
Wickles Pickles: Salty and tangy with a little sweet and a nice punch of spice, Wickles Pickles are “wickedly delicious.” Based in Dadeville, this pickle purveyor relies on a decades-old family recipe to create pickled products including traditional pickles, okra, pepper strips and jalapenos.
Dayspring Dairy: The only licensed sheep dairy in the state, this all-natural farm in Gallant creates several artisanal cheeses from the milk produced by the “girls” in its flock of 80 sheep that roam and graze on the grassy hills of Northeast Alabama. It’s a true family business; Greg Kelly is the shepherd, and his wife Ana, the cheesemaker. Their young kids pitch in too, helping the farm craft its Ewetopia, a raw milk-aged Gouda, its Halloumi and its Farmhouse Feta.
Hummus People: When you think of Southern foods, hummus may not be on your list, but that’s just what this Athens company is turning out. Handmade in small batches, Hummus People’s smooth, creamy versions of this condiment range from the classic to the truly creative, like Voodoo Jalapeno Hummus and Roasted Garlic Masala Hummus.
Jala-Jala Salsa: Some like it hot, and if you’re in this fiery faction, Jala-Jala relishes and salsas were made with you in mind. This Huntsville company is doing delicious things with jalapeno peppers grown in nearby Meridianville. Try the Texacan Salsa or the Amarillo Gold jalapeno-corn relish.
Get Some: At specialty markets around the state or order from the website, jalajalafoods.com.
Alabama Sunshine Hot Sauce: In Fayette, Fred and Sally Smith have been making their Alabama Sunshine hot sauces from fresh peppers for more than 20 years. The company offers 50 products, but with a well-rounded heat that won’t burn but will add a noticeable kick, its original sauce is still the fan favorite.
Dale’s Seasoning: This dark concoction is the perfect partner for steaks, burgers, chicken and more. It began as the “house marinade” for Dale’s Cellar Restaurant in Birmingham. Patrons so loved the salty sauce with a tang, in the 1940s, they started begging for some to take home, which they did, in washed-out soda bottles. Now Dale’s marinade is a staple in many a Southern kitchen.
Get Some: In grocery stores throughout the Southeast or order from the website, dalesseasoning.com.
Dreamland BBQ Sauce: This Tuscaloosa barbecue legend may be best known for its ribs, but the glistening red sauce that clings to the meat is equally famous. The recipe has never changed and likely never will.
Get Some: At one of the Dreamland locations around the state or order from the website, dreamlandbbq.com.
Moore’s Buffalo Wing Sauce: Like lightning in a bottle, this pout-puckering brilliantly orange sauce will electrify your taste buds. A cousin to the Moore’s Original Marinade, introduced more than 30 years ago at restaurant in Jasper, Moore’s Wing Sauce has gained nationwide acclaim.
ALAGA Syrup: Made in Montgomery by the ALAGA/Whitfield Foods company (still family owned), this sticky stuff celebrated a century of pure cane goodness in 2006, and this Deep-South delicacy is best enjoyed drizzled on a fat buttermilk biscuit.
Get Some: At grocery stores in Alabama or order from the website, alagasyrup.com.
Hot Damn Jelly Company: Pepper jelly is pretty simple stuff, but the folks at Hot Damn in Auburn have take the time-honored tradition blending sweet and heat and elevated it to an art form. Using peppers they grow and other ingredients that they always source locally, Hot Damn is embellishing their tongue tantalizing products with fruits like peaches, strawberries and raspberries.
Get Some: At specialty stores around Alabama and in Georgia or order on the website, hotdamnjelly.com.
Fox Point Farm Caramels: Buttery, sugary, chewy (but not enough to stick to your teeth), the caramels crafted at Fox Point Farm in the Lake Martin area can credit their delicate but definite hint of something extra to the goat’s milk they use, which comes from their resident goats.
Get Some: At specialty stores around the state including the Governor’s Mansion Gift Shop and Goat Hill Museum Store in Montgomery or order from the website, thefoxpointfarm.com.
G Mommas Cookies: Named for owner Robert Armstrong’s grandmother “Gammy,” and inspired by her recipes and her belief that good food can nourish more than your body, G Mommas Cookies are thin, crispy, bite-sized bits of love. Made in Selma by Armstrong’s Selma Good Co., the cookies come in a variety of flavors including butterscotch oatmeal and chocolate chip pecan.
Get Some: At Cracker Barrel restaurants, World Markets across the United States or order from the website, gmommas.com.
Punta Clara Kitchen Divinity: Made in Point Clear at this candy kitchen that’s been using old-fashioned techniques to turn out a wide variety of treats since 1952, these dreamy white drops of heavenly delight melt in your mouth.
Get Some: At the Punta Clara Kitchen in Point Clear or order from the website, puntaclara.com.
Priester’s Pralines: The family pecan shelling and gourmet candy company in Fort Deposit uses the iconic Southern nut in many ways (in addition to selling them shelled and plain), but enrobed in a coat of cooked butter and sugar is one of the most satisfying ways to enjoy them.
Get Some: At Priester’s retail shop in Fort Deposit or order from the website, priesters.com.
Buy the Bottle
Be it sweet, spicy, red, white or orange, there’s no denying that Alabama is home to some of the best barbecue sauces around. And many of the most famous savory sidekicks for slow-smoked meats can be mailed right to your door, making it easy for you to always have your favorite at hand. In honor of the Year of Alabama Barbecue, here are a few we think you know and can almost guarantee you’ll like.
Restaurants open and close, come and go, sometimes as quickly as a delicious dish gets devoured. So what keeps things cooking? Is it location, décor, service, selection or food? Hard work or dumb luck? The recipe for success has many ingredients, and probably includes at least a dash of everything above.
But when an eatery brings people back year after year, generation after generation, you know they’re doing something right. Many places fit this description across Alabama, so many, in fact, that we didn’t have the space to list them all. But we invite you to plan a visit to one of the historic restaurants we’ve featured and take a taste of our state’s rich food heritage.
The oldest restaurant in Alabama, the Bright Star is a bright spot in the state’s culinary scene, pleasing patrons’ palates for 108 years. Owners Jimmy and Nicky Koikos have followed in the footsteps of their father Bill and their uncle Pete, who came to Bessemer from Greece in 1923. In 1925, they bought The Bright Star from its founder, Tom Bonduris. By that time, the restaurant had outgrown its original space (and two subsequent spots) and moved to its current location on a downtown corner, the neon glow of its star-shaped sign beckoning hungry visitors inside to find swanky décor and Greek-influenced seafood and steak specialties inspired by the owners’ origins, a kind of Dixie-meets-Mediterranean cuisine.
The bold, vibrant flavors of olive oil, lemon and pungent oregano mingle quite comfortably with Southern veggies and fish, coming together to create dishes that have continually delighted diners as evidenced by a century of accolades and continued expansion. The Bright Star can now seat more than 300 people. Yet the interior looks much as it did 100 years ago. In fact, Jimmy and Nicky have recently been returning the main dining area to its former glory, pulling up carpet (installed in the 1960s) to reveal intricate patterns on tile floors, tearing out wood paneling to uncover white Alabama-marble walls, and restoring massive painted murals that depict scenes from their ancestors’ ancient homeland.
But while the dining rooms are a throwback, featuring cozy, intimate booths, each with their own sconces, and the professional wait staff in crisp white shirts and black ties provide the stellar service common in the restaurants of yesteryear, the chance to travel back in time is only one part of the Bright Star’s appeal. Another key element is a commitment to make every guest feel special; it’s what Nicky believes has led to the restaurant’s longevity.
This dedication earned the brothers and their restaurant recognition as “An American Classic Restaurant” by the James Beard Foundation in 2010, and CNN called The Bright Star one of America’s best historic restaurants.
Jimmy and Nicky also credit their loyal employees, many who have been with them for more than 20 years. “We just had someone retire that had been with us 48 years,” Jimmy said.
The Bright Star is known for its steaks and fresh seafood, especially its snapper, as Chef Andreas Anastassakis, Jimmy’s and Nicky’s second cousin, explained.
“We bring in more than 1,000 pounds of Gulf snapper each week,” he said. “And we buy it direct from the fishermen, bring in the whole fish, and break them down here so we have them just how we like them.”
And they do like them. In addition to being at the top of most customers’ lists, the fried snapper is Nicky’s favorite dish (with turnip greens and Greek potatoes), and Jimmy loves the Greek snapper.
Bright Star’s steaks have won acclaim too; the zesty Greek-style beef tenderloin, infused with a savory zest thanks to a soak in a multi-layered marinade, was named the best steak in the state by the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association.
The Bright Star, 304 19th Street North, Bessemer, AL
205-424-9444 • thebrightstar.com
C. F. Penn Hamburgers
For 88 years, C.F. Penn Hamburgers has been doing its signature hamburgers the same way, yet using a technique that definitely sets them apart. “We deep fry them, and folks either love them or they don’t.” Owner William Vandiver was matter of fact about the method but emphatic that “everybody should try one at least once.”
The greasy spoon first began in 1927 in Hartselle and opened a location in Decatur in 1936. The Hartselle location closed, but C.F. Penn thrived in its second home and has been in its current spot in Decatur since 1973. It remained in the Penn family until just a few years ago, when Vandiver bought it from an aging Penn who was ready to slow down. “They never changed anything, and I’m not going to,” he said. “People value our consistent quality.”
Beef is brought in fresh every morning, hand-fashioned into patties and still topped only with onions and mustard. “That’s it,” Vandiver said. “Folks sometimes get confused by no mayo or lettuce, but that’s not what goes on our burgers.” You can customize your order a bit by adding a sprinkle or two of the red-pepper mix found on each table. “It’s not too spicy and good on fries too,” Vandiver said.
He bought the place because he didn’t want to see it close. “I’m proud to be preserving this piece of Alabama history,” he said.
C. F. Penn Hamburgers, 121 Moulton St. East, Decatur, AL
Busy Bee Cafe
In April 2011, a massive tornado tore through Cullman, leveling much of downtown. Along with many other businesses and homes, the storm destroyed the Busy Bee Café, opened in 1919. One of its menus was found wet and torn but intact 70 miles away. But the beloved restaurant, known for its diner standards, wasn’t gone for long. Owner Kyle Spears and his family built it back within a year of the disaster.
In 2007, Spears started running the café his parents bought in 1967, and he and his sister are now keeping the legacy alive. He stressed why they chose to come back. “We knew that people wanted us back. We have folks who come here daily, and they come because we treat people like family, not like customers,” he said.
The building may be new, but some of the food is decidedly old school, really old. The Busy Bee is famous for its breaded burgers, black Angus ground beef patties augmented with bread crumbs to create a crispy exterior and juicy interior. It’s one of only a few places left in the country still making hamburgers this way.
The fried bologna sandwich is another of the café’s claims to fame: thick-cut, salty bologna grilled on a flat-top grill gains a thin brown crust and is layered with a smear of mayo and a bit of lettuce between two slices of white bread toast. Locals also rave about the café’s breakfast items and desserts.
The city of Fairhope draws tourists in droves with its proximity to Mobile Bay and downtown’s charming flower-lined sidewalks filled with shopping and eating options. But sitting unassumingly down the street from the public library, Julwin’s, opened in 1945, is Baldwin County’s oldest restaurant, and is, by itself, reason enough to travel to this tiny town, especially if you agree with the old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
According to owner David Jewett, their morning-time offerings are their forte, and almost every item on the breakfast menu is a feast. After a plate of bigger-than-your-face pancakes or an omelette large enough to feed a small army, you may not even need another meal. “We are just a part of many people’s wake-up routine; they come in here, have coffee and some good food and visit,” he said. While David often opts for the French toast, which strikes that sought-after balance of crisp and soft, the No. 1 seller is the spinach omelet.
Julwin’s, 411 Fairhope Ave., Fairhope, AL
Payne’s Soda Fountain & Sandwich Shop
The sodas your grandfather grew up slurping are still served with bites of old-fashioned lunch counter fare at Payne’s Soda Fountain & Sandwich Shop, which opened in 1869 as a drug store and moved to where it is now in 1891.
The Payne family retains ownership of the building, but Lisa Garrett and her daughter Jessica Walton own and operate the restaurant. “Payne’s was the first place to have a soda water fountain in the state, and the soda fountain we use today
is from 1939,” Jessica said. They’ve added a few things, but she and her mom have kept the menu relevant to Payne’s soda shop roots. Ice cream floats and vanilla Cokes bring in the crowds, as do Reubens, chicken salad croissants and Payne’s signature red-slaw hotdog, an offering Jessica says they could never stop making. “They are a part of this place’s history,” she said.
And they’re bringing back a bit of Payne’s heritage with a fun addition to its décor. “In the old days, lots of soda fountains had their ceilings covered with the thin paper wrappers that straws come in, so we’re in the process of doing that now, and our customers think that’s really cool.”
Payne’s Soda Fountain & Sandwich Shop, 101 East Laurel St., Scottsboro, AL
Hunt’s Seafood Restaurant
Hunt’s has evolved from a three-stool oyster bar on the side of a gas station, first shucking and serving in 1956, to a full-service steak and seafood restaurant that seats 350 people and is a major point of pride in the Wiregrass area. Tim Reeves took over after his dad, Billy Joe, who opened it, passed away, and believes that being personable has kept the restaurant going. “I know 80 percent of our customers, not just by name, but I know their entire family story,” he said. “And people like that; everyone likes to feel special and not like they’re just a number, especially when they go to eat out.”
Always serving fresh, never frozen, food and paying attention to the details has grown the business too. “We are known for our oysters; that’s what made us,” Tim said, “but I really like our shrimp as well, and any way we do them, fried, grilled, we do them right.” Tim also praised his restaurant’s steaks. “I know people say don’t order seafood at a steak place or the opposite, but we do a great steak.”
Some other longtime Alabama restaurants and their best known dishes:
Eat: Fried Pulley Bones
Come lunchtime on Sunday, this popular meat-n-three joint is hopping with hungry locals ready for heaping helpings of comfort food. There’s a weekly race from church services all over the capital city to Martin’s unassuming building. Family-owned and operated since first opening, the restaurant stays plenty busy the rest of the week, too, thanks to tried and true favorites like fried chicken, including the highly sought-after pulley bone cut, meatloaf, fried chicken livers, chopped steak, greens, black-eyed peas, fried okra, sweet potato casserole, cornbread muffins and more.
Chris’ Hot Dogs’ green and white striped awning is an iconic landmark on Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue downtown. For almost a century, Chris’ has been drenching dogs in a thin, ruddy red secret-recipe sauce, sautéed onions and wisps of pale kraut that can count country crooning legend Hank Williams among its legions of fans.
This Irondale institution is best known as the “original Whistle Stop Café,” as its ambiance and now-famous fried green tomatoes provided some of the inspiration for Fannie Flagg’s novel of the same name, which was also made into a movie. Today, the restaurant serves up to 70 pounds of the golden crisp-tart discs every weekday, and even more on weekends.
Eat: Orange rolls (they’re served to everyone at the end of the meal)
Serving a wide range of American classics as well as Southern staples, All Steak was supposed to be named All Steak Hamburgers, but when its original owner couldn’t afford the extra letters to spell “Hamburger” for its sign, he settled with simply All Steak. It’s changed ownership and locations in Cullman through the years, but has remained a local hangout.
In a little cabin on the banks of the Tombigbee River, Ezell’s has been frying up fresh catfish for more than 80 years. Its rendition of this mainstay of Alabama’s agricultural culture, which also comes grilled or blackened, as well as its golden hushpuppies and cole slaw have earned the devotion of locals and visitors and led to numerous Ezell’s locations opening all over the state. The original spot is still run by an Ezell.