On the Menu—Alabama & Georgia
By Pamela Selbert
Seeking out restaurants that offer fine Southern cooking, also known as “comfort” food or “soul” food, is as good a reason as any to travel – and RVers could literally eat their way across the Deep South, so plentiful are such establishments. The following are among the best, and all are convenient to Highway 80.
1023 U.S. Highway 80 W
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Smokin’ Jack’s, a family-style eatery that opened in 2004 at the west edge of town, is popular with locals, who claim the barbecue served “is the best you’ll eat anywhere.” Owner Jacky Poole says the restaurant, which can seat 92, specializes in barbecued ribs and beef, pulled pork, fried or grilled catfish, and on Fridays, smoked half-chickens.
Meals range in price from $7 for lunch that includes a choice of meat, two “sides,” toast or cornbread and tea, to $11.45 for the combo meal that features two meats plus two sides. The menu lists more than half a dozen sides to choose from, including red-skin potato salad, baked beans, French fries, marinated cole slaw (a house specialty), and perennial Southern favorites, fried tomatoes and deep-fried okra, among others. Poole adds that there’s plenty of RV parking.
Farmers Market Café
315 North McDonough Street
Hours: Monday-Friday 5:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Farmers Market Café, in downtown Montgomery, opened nearly 50 years ago, says owner Phil Norton, who with his wife, JoAnn, has owned the popular restaurant for the past 26 years. For breakfast, which costs about $5, diners choose from grits, eggs and omelettes, pancakes, bacon, country link sausage, smoked ham, cheese biscuits and more.
The lunch menu is more varied, and includes fried or roast chicken, fried catfish, flounder and shrimp, hamburger steaks, cube steaks with gravy and grilled pork. A different specialty is featured each day.
The restaurant, which can seat 295, offers a nearly unlimited number of Southern-style “sides” to choose from: green beans, breaded okra, fried green tomatoes, peas, turnips, collard greens, mashed potatoes, rutabagas, pork barbecue and others. The restaurant’s squash casserole, corn casserole and pineapple casserole are especially popular “sides,” said Norton. Sandwiches, soup (in winter), tuna salad and chicken salad are also available. Bread pudding is a favorite on the dessert menu.
To get to Farmers Market Café take Highway 80/I-65 north to Exit 172. Turn right (east) on Herron Street, which becomes Bibb Street; turn right on Commerce, left on Tallapoosa, right on West Jefferson and left on North McDonough (the route is well-marked and easy to follow). RV parking is available.
3947 Houston Avenue
Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Fincher’s Barbecue, founded by Douglas “Dude” Fincher in 1935, has been owned by the Fincher family ever since, said Jake Fincher, Dude’s grandson, who currently runs the popular facility with his parents, brother and sister-in-law.
Fincher’s “claim to fame,” he said, is the pulled chipped pork, although barbecued ribs, chicken, pork chops and old-fashioned hamburgers (prepared with “secret” seasonings) also appear on the menu. Diners choose from a variety of “sides,” including cole slaw, baked beans, potato salad and Georgia-specialty Brunswick Stew, a beef, pork, corn, tomato and potato medley. Meals at the restaurant, which serves lunch and dinner and can seat 70 diners, cost between $6 and $8.
Fincher noted that the “pulled chipped pork has gone into space – on board the STS-33 mission in 1989,” thanks to local astronaut Sonny Carter. Astronauts choose a meal for their flight, and Carter selected Fincher’s pork dish, which was sent to Houston and freeze-dried by NASA for the meal-in-space.
To get to Fincher’s from Highway 80, drive right on Houston Avenue for about two miles. RV parking is available.
524 Mulberry Street
Hours: Monday-Friday 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Jeaneane’s, open since 1989, is famous locally for its varied breakfast menu, which averages about $5, and includes omelettes, pancakes, biscuits, grits and more, everything “from scratch,” says owner Abby Gordon, whose sister, Jeaneane is the restaurant founder (and owner of nearby Jeaneane’s Café at Pinebrook). But the eatery, which can seat 100, comes even more highly recommended for the “to die for” fried chicken available at lunch every day.
The selection varies, but diners choose from five entrees every day: fried catfish, chipped beef and rice, and baked chicken and dressing among others. Two “sides” from a choice of eight come with the meal, which costs about $7.
Favorites include rutabagas, corn-on-the-cob, collard or turnip greens, butter beans, fried squash, sweet potato soufflé and field peas. Diners, Gordon notes, come here to enjoy “comfort food, soul food, food-like-your-grandmother-used to make.”
To get to Jeaneane’s from Highway 80 (Eisenhower Parkway) turn left on Broadway, which becomes Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, then left on Mulberry. RV parking is
102 West Congress Street
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 5:00-9:30 p.m., Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The Lady and Sons, which specializes in Southern cooking, was founded in 1989 by renowned chef/cookbook author/television personality Paula Deen, says Qwintasha Smith, the restaurant’s director of booking. Deen’s sons, Bobby and Jamie, were also active in running the establishment – though all three are mostly occupied these days with other aspects of Deen’s career, she said. However, if Paula Deen is in town – Savannah is her home – diners, who choose from the menu or buffet (Sunday buffet only) may expect to see her at the restaurant, which seats 200.
The most popular dishes are fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, black-eyed peas, creamed corn and mashed potatoes, but many other items are also available, such as lasagna, baked and fried fish and other seafood, pork and beef dishes. A variety of pies are on the dessert menu: pecan, Key lime, chocolate mousse and others. Smith notes that many of the dishes the restaurant serves are Paula Deen family originals. Lunch costs $10-$16, dinner $18-$30.
To get there from Highway 80 (Bay Street) turn right on Whitaker Street; the restaurant is at the corner of Whitaker and West Congress. Parking is limited, so RVers might want to park at the Savannah Visitor Center, 301 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. (from Bay Street turn right on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.) and take the shuttle, which departs every 20 minutes, to the restaurant.