Irondale Cafe

From Bhamwiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Irondale Cafe in 2010
1990s postcard view of the Irondale Cafe
Typical meal complete with the famous fried green tomatoes at center.

Irondale Café is located at 1906 1st Avenue North in Irondale.

The restaurant began as Emmett Montgomery's hot dog stand in 1928. He was joined by Maggie Prentice who expanded the menu with barbecue, hamburgers and other sandwiches. Bess Fortenberry purchased the business in 1932 and converted it into a home style restaurant as the Irondale Café. She leased it out in order to join the war effort in the early 1940s. When she returned after the war, she brought her friend Sue Lovelace and a cook, Lizzie Cunningham back to Irondale to help run the cafe. Though small, the café prospered by selling sandwiches to railroad workers to take with them.

In December 1972, after Fortenberry had suffered a stroke, former railroad worker Billy McMichael and his wife Mary Jo purchased the 31-seat restaurant, reopening on January 2, 1973. In 1979 the café building was demolished and rebuilt on the same site to meet health department requirements and to allow for expansion. It reopened with 100 seats on July 22, 1980. In December 1990 the dining area was expanded into an adjoining space which had housed the Daly Hardware Store, creating a total capacity of 300 diners.

The Irondale Cafe was the inspiration for the 1987 novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, which was adapted into a screenplay for the film Fried Green Tomatoes. Author Fannie Flagg was Fortenberry's grandniece and she adapted numerous real-life stories from the café's history for her book. The popularity of the book and film brought new customers from all over as well as a sudden high demand for fried green tomatoes. To keep up with demand, a batter suitable for deep frying was developed.

In June 2000 the McMichaels sold the café to Jim Dolan while keeping the rights to the name for marketing batter mixes, seasonings and other products. Billy McMichael Jr currently runs WhistleStop Products. Dolan obtained a liquor license as part of plans to offer a cooked-to-order evening menu in April 2012.

Besides fried green tomatoes, Irondale Café is known for its chicken and dumplings, fried chicken, and other Southern staples.


External links