Today you're in for a treat. Sandi, a Birmingham blogger, who has a food blog called Whistle Stop Cooking and I met a few weeks ago at the Irondale Cafe ( the Whistlestop Cafe). Of course we both had fried green tomatoes and more!! Well Sandi's husband's family goes way back with the Irondale Cafe. I told her she could tell the story much better than I could, so today, Sandi is in charge of BADP. The top photo is hers as well. The Wall of Fame is a tribute to Fannie Flagg and the cast of the movie. Thanks Sandi for the day off!
"My friend Virginia and I met at the Whistle Stop 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 surprized. 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 insitent. 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 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.
My plate of fried green tomatoes and black eyed peas. Scrumptious macaroni and cheese just out of the photo.