In May, we all set off on a four-day trip to Memphis, where Marie’s sister was graduating from college. I’d been planning and charting and getting ideas together for weeks, and decided that we’d take a slight detour by going north across Alabama instead of fighting the rush hour traffic into and around Atlanta to use the interstates. That route, through Birmingham and Tupelo, is the most direct, but taking GA-140 to Huntsville and using US-72 ALT took us back to the Shoals, which is probably my favorite region of Alabama.
Going this way allowed us to revisit the beautiful city of Florence, which I love, and stop by Staggs, an old, former grocery store that now sells breakfast and burgers. I wish I had paid attention and visited this great little place the last time we were here! Continue reading “Staggs Grocery, Florence AL”
This is Marie, contributing an article about twin restaurants in Alabama: Montagu’s and its older sister Frostbite. We visited as a part of Florence Restaurant Week, using a gift card that the restaurant had given to our hosts, Florence Main Street; I like sandwiches and the girlchild is passionate about froyo, so the pair became an obvious choice. These were the fourth and fifth participating restaurants that we visited. Continue reading “Montagu’s, Florence AL (CLOSED)”
We have a very long way to go before accurately documenting the story of barbecue in northwest Alabama, but one point that seems clear is that all of the joints in this neck of the woods are following in Dick Howell’s footprints. He opened the first roadside barbecue stand here in 1946, smoking shoulders in an open pit over hickory woods, using techniques and recipes that he had learned from working in Memphis. He introduced mustard slaw to the region, for one major example. While I prefer the taste and the flavors of the pork and the sides at Brooks Barbeque, a few miles away in Muscle Shoals, just one look at the meals shows that back in the ’60s, Sammie Brooks Sr. made the deliberate decision to replicate Howell’s product. He just did it better, in my mind. (This isn’t unheard of. Old Clinton Bar-B-Q in Gray GA is undoubtedly a clone of the nearby Fresh Air, and a superior one.) Continue reading “Dick Howell Bar-B-Q, Florence AL”
There was a lot more to do and see in the Shoals than merely eat!
Continue reading “Photo Post 18: Photos of Florence”
This is Marie, talking about a cute little restaurant in Florence, Alabama called Bookmarks that we visited as a part of Florence Restaurant Week. It’s located in the same building as the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library, and more libraries need to do this. My goodness, how are you going to compete with a bookstore if you don’t have caffeine attached physically to the building, people? Make it hip! Plus, 100% of the proceeds from the shop go directly to fund library books, materials and programs. Continue reading “Bookmarks Coffee Shop, Florence AL”
As you may have gathered, this was my second trip to Florence and the Shoals. I was there last year on a circumnavigation, and one of my stops, then, was a few minutes spent taking some photos of Trowbridge’s, a simply wonderful old ice cream and sandwich parlor that opened in 1918. Many hours later, as readers who followed the stories about that circumnavigation read, I got home to find that my SD card had screwed up and I lost heaven-only-knows how many pictures. Three different recovery programs pulled some of the data from the card, but every single picture that I took of Trowbridge’s was lost. I was so disappointed by the experience that I actually visited this lovely old place twice on this trip. On Friday afternoon, after I did a little digging in the UNA Library, I stopped by to snap some pictures and took them straight back to the hotel. Just to be superstitiously careful, you understand. Then we all went back Saturday morning to have ice cream for breakfast. Continue reading “Trowbridge’s, Florence AL”
Florence may be a small city, but it has a few larger-than-life characters. One of the most fun characters is a fictional one. “Ricatoni Valentino” is the alter ego of restaurateur Rick Elliott. In the mid-1990s, he opened a very popular Italian-themed restaurant called Ricatoni’s, which is still packing in the downtown crowds. Elliott has starred in several dozen very silly, very knowing zero-budget commercials on local television, adeptly parodying all of the clueless zero-budget ads that fill the airwaves of small-market teevee. While hawking his restaurant, “Ricatoni Valentino” has lip-synched old hit songs, run a psychic hotline, and offered tips to financial freedom. Continue reading “City Hardware, Florence AL”