Okay, so everybody’s toddler says hilarious things. But ours really impressed us as we drove into downtown Florence. We crossed the Tennessee River via the completely terrific and beautiful O’Neal Bridge and went looking for the offices of Florence Main Street. This organization had invited us to spend the weekend in their good city to kick off Florence Restaurant Week, as I’m sure all y’all who follow us on Facebook and Twitter already know, and treated us to four meals in the city.
If you missed all that buzz on our social media accounts, or the announcement last month, this was a great event to benefit local charities by eating at some local restaurants. Five charities got press and publicity while competing for a $5000 prize via votes at the restaurants that were part of the event.
Anyway, we needed to swing by the office and pick up our gift certificates and meet our hosts. As ever, the toddler was baffled and asking questions. “We’re meeting a person?” he asked. “Is the person on fire?” Wait, what?
No, nobody was on fire, but we said our hellos and our hosts pointed us to our first participating destination. We’d hoped to visit six of the fifteen restaurants on the trip, plus a few others that I wanted to try. Fate moved its huge hand and we missed one of the six, but we enjoyed the other five a lot. First of these was the aptly named Poplar South Deli & Grille, which is on Poplar, right by the intersection with Tennessee Street. I’d read The Brown Bag Review’s story about this sandwich and burger joint while deciding which restaurants to visit on this trip, and, by chance, that very blogger was enjoying a meal there when we arrived!
In fact, the stars were all lined up for our visit, as not only did we get to share a few words about good barbecue in the region with Dave from Brown Bag, but three of the women from the SCOPE 310 office were having lunch as well. SCOPE – the Shoals Committee on Programs & Employment – “provides assistance for psychiatric and substance abuse patients, and provides services for people with intellectual disabilities that cannot help themselves. The program is underfunded and worthy of financial assistance.” Each of the five of the charities is very important, but this team got our votes. (The prize was given to the top vote-getter, Safeplace, a few days ago. Our sincere congratulations to them, and thanks to everybody who supported the week and voted!)
At Poplar South, we all enjoyed some quite good food. Brown Bag’s initial review of this restaurant was a little hesitant, as the joint, which opened in July of last year, was finding its feet. Karen Ledford and her children Christa and Daniel run the place and are making quite good burgers and fries, drawing crowds a good deal larger than their space allows for the lunch rush. Most of their business is carry-out by default, as they only have four tables.
This was a good trip for Marie to sample some foods that she’d never tried before. She’ll tell you about one in a chapter next week, but first up was the Monte Cristo sandwich here. I’ve only had these a time or two myself – the dearly missed Red Hen in Alpharetta GA made a wonderful one – but it’s a ham and cheese sandwich on French toast with powdered sugar. It’s served with a little cup of a strawberry habanero sauce – some sort of fruit dressing or compote is traditional with this sandwich – that Marie completely loved. As our fellow diners finished their meals and moved on to the rest of their day, the Ledfords began mixing up a new batch of the sauce. They wouldn’t be moved to share the secrets of their recipe, but they did tease that when they have cheesecake available, this sauce makes a fabulous topping.
I confess that I could not quite finish my really good burger after the epic meal that I’d promised myself at Brooks just a short time earlier, but I was very satisfied with it. I’m so glad that the Ledfords are hand-cutting their fries now instead of going with industry service frozen ones. They’re so much better, and they taste terrific dipped in the strawberry habanero sauce!
We made our way to the hotel after this. Florence Main Street put us up at the region’s best, the Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa, and we enjoyed a few hours of relaxation before going out to our next appointment.
(As noted, this was a media event held by Florence Main Street. A portion of our meal was complimentary, and accommodations were provided. It’s our policy to always note when we’ve received our meal without charge. If you would like to invite us to your restaurant or your city’s media events, please drop Grant a line at firstname.lastname@example.org .)
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