Sandi is blogging from the WhistleStop Cafe kitchen. It's all about good home cooking; food, family and fun. Thousands of posts . . .

~In the south and around the world.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A little history

Usually my sunday's are full of recipes. We are taking a day off from our Sunday Slow Suppers~ since all the other cooks are in San Diego for the great get together. We will resume with our sunday suppers next week.

My friend Virginia and I met at the WhistleStop Cafe in Irondale a week or so ago for lunch. It got me to thinking, and I remembered to ask Bill about how his family came to own the cafe. His dad was a railroad man, his mom was raising 3 kids... neither knew much about running a resturant.
So the story goes~~ Mr. Mac ate at this little cafe by the tracks in Irondale frequently. He loved the meat and veggies and sandwiches that Bess served. Miss Bess Fortenberry ran the small cafe with her friend Sue and a black cook named Lizzie. It was a thriving business, although small, with only enough seating inside for 31. Mr. Mac had talked to Bess about buying her cafe... before she would agree, she insisted that he have his wife come and talk to her. (smart woman!)

Mary Jo was busy on the other side of town raising kids and really didn't know much about Irondale or the cafe. She remembers walking into the tiny dim cafe to meet with Bess and was a little surprised. The cafe was in a small green framed building, with four booths and a counter for seating. There was a big Coca-Cola sign over the door and a couple of small dingy windows. Bess asked her "what in the world do you want to buy this cafe for?" Mary Jo assured her it was Mr. Mac's idea and she would only be working with him.

She remembers thinking she knew nothing about running a business but Dad was insistent. She drove back to Huffman, and prayed that Bess would decide to sell it to someone else. Instead... They became the owners of a cafe in Irondale. (or as Bill would say... the cafe owned them) Soon after they took over, the manager became sick and had to shorten her hours. The 'batter was made' and Mary Jo became a full time cafe owner/manager. Someone else's dream, became her reality.

By the 1980's the cafe was a booming success, the old building had to be torn down to meet health department standards, and a new cafe was built. This new building seated 100 and had an automatic dishwasher, 5 deep fryers, and a modern kitchen. It wasn't long before they were busting at the seams again.

Then... one day in 1983, a local TV personality and author, named Fannie Flagg walked in and said she wanted to write a book based on her Great-Aunt Bess and her old cafe. Many of the stories from the novel 'Fried Green Tomatoes at the WhistleStop Cafe' are based on real life stories from the early days at the cafe.
Our family sold the cafe in 2000, but Sunday's at Mom's still involve lots of yummy food and occasionally some Fried Green Tomatoes.
Y'all enjoy!


Naturegirl said...

I enjoyed reading this bit of history about the WhisteStop Cafe!!
Interesting fact about Fannie Flag!

The Split Pea Cottage said...

Such a great story...and no calories!

Glenda/MidSouth said...

Thanks for the history on the restaurant. I do remember the movie. :-D
Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I plan on loading Photoscape also - almost did today. I really need to have something else to play around with on this computer. :-D

Chef Aimee said...

Thanks for sharing such wonderful culinary history! :)

Char said...

what a wonderful place - i've had many a wonderful meal there over the past 15-16 years

Virginia said...

I hope your dear readers will come by my blog this week when I will republish you great family history on my B'ham blog. Thanks Sandi for sharing with me. I knew when you were telling me all of it that I would never be able to do it justice. It had to be YOU! We really need to go back for another lunch one day very soon. I"m thinking fried chicken or at the very least, some fried okra!!! :)..........or maybe both?

Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

Split Pea~ I am posting every day...and not cooking. What was I thinking?
Virginia~ you photos put mine to shame... and it is not just the camera!

Cora said...

I love reading about the Whistle Stop!! I am currently reading the book, you know the one personally signed by Fannie...loving it!! yes sir :)
Thanks for this bit of history! I did not know that it had been torn down and rebuilt but I can understand why!
Have a great week!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

What a great story!

girasoli said...

Great story! I will have to watch that movie again now and hope to someday eat fried green tomatoes!

Cherrie said...

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story....loved it!

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