When it comes to fried green tomatoes, I thank God Alabama and Georgia are sister states! However, this weekend was about more than just food.
There are days I crave a road trip, and when I can’t take a long one I pick something I’m interested in, do a little research and take a short one (or two related ones) instead.
Now being a Southern woman, it goes without saying that I am a Fannie Flagg fan. If the name does not ring any bells, please let me try to ring them. Fannie Flagg is the professional name for Patricia Neal, an Alabama native, actress/writer/comedian. You may remember her for co-hosting our local “Morning Show” on WBRC-TV or her appearances on Allen Funt’s Candid Camera & the game show Match Game. OH, and let’s not forget that little Southern book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café and the amazing movie Fried Green Tomatoes!
The Irondale Café, also known as The Original Whistlestop Café is not new to me. Located in Irondale, Alabama in the greater Birmingham area, it is a short 45 minute drive from our house. And the food is worth every minute of it! Originally begun in 1928, the business was ran after WWII by three women -Bess Fortenberry, Sue Lovelace & Lizzie Cunningham-who together turned the café into a sensation. It just so happens that our author, Fannie Flagg, is Bess Fortenberry’s niece.
The idea of visiting both the Irondale location and then driving over to Juliette, Georgia where the movie was filmed struck me as something fun to do. The trip would take two and a half hours there, two and a half back. Just far enough to get away for a while and fill my tank (creativity tank/ happy tank & the bottomless pit/hunger tank). You know what I’m talking about! I just needed to get lost a while, enjoy some soul food and smile.
Knowing how everyone likes to hear how the food tastes and see how it looks, I decided to revisit the Irondale Café first and order a few things I don’t normally get. Being out of school last Friday because Talladega County schools can’t run buses for all the race traffic was a plus I took advantage of. It was also my excuse to hit the road!
When my husband, Travis, overheard my plans he decided to join me for lunch. The place was packed and plates were fully loaded! We grabbed a tray and got in line.
The pies are always my weakness! The special was smothered chicken livers~ a Southern favorite! I’m not sure what it is about cafeteria style restaurants, but I love how they bring out the little girl in me -I just get so excited about all the choices right there within arms reach! You get to see the food before you choose…
It is extremely difficult for me to give up something I love in order to try something new. So, I went for a few -a very limited few- of my favorites…
…cornbread dressing, fried green tomatoes & a huge slice of toasted coconut pie! Travis chose the fried catfish, hush-puppies & coleslaw –and a slice of the coconut pie.
The dressing and the fried catfish are now at the top of the list as the best things they serve! Their chocolate pie is still my favorite dessert.
Sunday Morning, arrived and it could not have been a more beautiful day -70 degrees and sunny! When I drove down Hwy 78 to I-20, Talladega race fans were already crowding the roads. I cruised along with my windows down enjoying a little Tony Bennett & Frank Sinatra, constantly checking my speedometer because every State Trooper in Bama was out and about.
Lost in a daydream I was in Atlanta, Georgia before I realized it!
As I exited I-75 South and entered Forsyth, Georgia my heart began to sing. There is nothing as wonderful as a drive in the country on a pretty day! I was nine miles from Juliette and I was beyond ravenous!
A farmhouse in Forsyth filled me with envy!
JULIETTE & THE WHISTLE STOP CAFE at last~
When I arrived, there were only a few tables taken by families having Sunday dinner; church had just let out. (In the South, dinner is your biggest meal on Sunday, taken at lunch & supper is your evening meal.)
I chose a little table in the front corner near the door where I could people watch and snap photos without being too intrusive 😉
Leslie brought me the menu, a big glass of sweet tea and a plate of hot fried green tomatoes to munch on while I looked over the menu.
“You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto…”
Too many things called to me; I was so hungry I couldn’t think clearly. Oh, what a lie!
I just wanted what I wanted: fried okra, macaroni and cheese, collards & cornbread. And, that is exactly what I got.
*The macaroni and cheese was so good I could have made a meal on it and the cornbread alone!
When Leslie returned to refill my tea glass and ask if I wanted dessert, I was ready! As usual, I felt the need to explain that I want to sample, and no, please do not bring me smaller portions! That’s what a carry-home box is for! 🙂
I followed my heart and ordered the peach cobbler.
Then I ordered the pecan cobbler & the apple dumpling.
“Are you trying all of these?” She asked, trying not to smile. When I nodded yes, she simply grinned and said, “Yes, ma’am. I’ll warm them all up!”
I tried the peach cobbler first. It was perfectly creamy with dumpling-like breading in some spots and flaky crust in others!
I set aside my spoon, saving it for last and tried the pecan cobbler. It had the same flavor as a pecan pie but less of the custardy filling. Like the peach, it was also heavenly and so sweet it made my teeth hurt! I decided to box it for Travis. I took one bite of the apple cobbler and boxed it as well. It was good, but I was filling up fast.
The peach cobbler and the dense lightly vanilla flavored ice cream was all I wanted. If a group of bikers had not come in and filled the cafe and the table next to mine, I’d have ran my finger through the bowl to get the rest of it! But, I’d already garnered enough raised brows and smirks for one day.
After lunch I decided to walk around, see the sites and browse the antique and novelty shops.
Before the filming of Fried Green Tomatoes began, many of the buildings in Juliette were run-down and overgrown with ivy and vines. Needless to say, Hollywood gussied it up. If you pay attention, at the end of the film when Ninny returns to her home and finds it is not the quaint little town she remembers, you will see Juliette as it was before the clean-up and filming began. Today, the little town remains as it did during filming -quite picturesque and very Southern.
Directly across the street from the restaurant is Vern Cora’s Antiques.
I loved the interior of this store as it was so bright and colorful. I also found too many things I wanted~
My daughter, Anderson, would love Purple Hayes which is next door! The shop was opened by Delores Hayes after her husband passed away. She came up with the name by combining his favorite color and their last name.
As I walked from store to store, I stopped and spoke with the owners. It’s amazing how personable everyone was, how willing and eager they were to talk about their little town. I met Shelley George and Jennifer Yozviak at Ruth & Idgie’s Gift Shop, where they happily showed off the back room as it is featured in one of the scenes in the film. Gives me an excuse to watch it yet again and look for matching wallpaper!
At The Blackberry Patch I found a turquoise colored mixer I should have purchased, but told myself I didn’t need!
And, all about are the quirky props from the film! Like Smokey Lonesome’s cabin, and the gravestone of Frank Bennett. The town of Juliette really is a lot of fun!
The old buildings are the prettiest.
The last store I stopped in was Tommy Moon’s store, The Honey Comb. What can I say, I just have a thing for honey…
Before I left Juliette, I drove out to get a pic or two of the dam.
And fell hard for a little white house!
Every once in a while it’s nice to just get out of town! By the time I made it back to Oxford, Alabama the race was over and Nascar fans were again filing onto I-20. Talk about perfect timing~
The Irondale Cafe: http://www.irondalecafe.com
The Whistle Stop Cafe, Juliette: http://www.thewhistlestopcafe.com
If you enjoy fall festivals you should head to Juliette this weekend for the Fried Green Tomato Festival! You’ve just missed the Whistle Stop Festival in Irondale, AL.
The grandbaby and I highly recommend it!
Me & Elizabeth Rileigh enjoying the annual Whistle Stop Festival!
ELIZABETH MOZLEY MCGRADY
WE SHARE THE SAME SKY, a memoir