Pike County recognized in the Year of Alabama Food

Published 9:37 am Saturday, February 4, 2012

The South is known for its home-style cooking – from soul food to seafood.

And the “sweet” in Alabama’s state slogan, Sweet Home Alabama, just might be banana puddin’ at Sisters in Troy, coconut cream pie at Tiny Diny in Mobile or donuts at Loyless in Dothan.

The Alabama Tourism Department reached back to past promotions for its 2012 tourism campaign and pulled out the most successful “Year of …” campaign – The Year of Alabama Foods.

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“‘The Year of Alabama Foods’ was an awarding winning campaign in 2005 and the most popular tourism promotion that we have launched, said Marilyn Stamps, Alabama Tourism Department. “Everybody loves to eat and Alabama has some of the best restaurants with the greatest variety that you can find anywhere. And, we have great cooks and award-winning chefs including Frank Stitt and Chris Hastings in Birmingham, Wesley True in Mobile and James Boyce in Huntsville, just to name a few.”

Once again, the Alabama Tourism Department scanned and scoured the state looking for the ‘dishes to die for.’ From the foothills of the Appalachians to the Gulf Coast from the Georgia state line to the fringes of Mississippi, they came up with a list of “100 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die.”

“Actually, there are more than 100 dishes listed in the brochure and there could have been more,” Stamps said. “There are just so many great dishes to die for here in Alabama.”

Five of those “100 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die” are right here in Pike County and that’s says a lot about what’s cooking in Pike County and quite a compliment to the local restaurant industry business, said Shelia Jackson, Troy director of tourism.

“Three restaurants in Troy, Sisters, Mossy Grove Schoolhouse Restaurant and Crowe’s and Sit N Sip in Brundidge and the Old Barn Restaurant in Goshen were all selected,” Jackson said.

Sisters was noted for its banana pudding, Mossy Grove for its beans and cornbread and Crowe’s for its chicken fingers and dipping sauce.

Sit N Sip in Brundidge got the nod for its chicken salad and the Old Barn Restaurant for its rum bread pudding. Sit N Sip restaurant in Brundidge was not listed in the 2005 “100 Dishes” brochure. Had Jamie Sanders and Mark Kinster been in business in 2005, they might have been among the honored but they only opened their business five years ago.

“We started at a different location in town and moved here on the backstreet four years ago,” Sanders said. “We like it here. It’s got character.”

Sit N Sip is located behind town on what was once called “Little Wall Street” because of the fast and furious cotton trading business that went on there. So, the backstreet has history.

Sit N Sip has the appearance of a beachside sandwich shop – a yellow block building with flamingos, lady bug banners and white wooden benches and a chalk board menu on the outside wall set the tone for what’s inside.

“It’s a little bit of everything and a lot of flamingos,” Sanders said of the restaurant décor. “Some time back, somebody stuck a flamingo in the ground and that’s how it got started. People started bringing us flamingos of all kinds and then all kinds of things. We started putting things one place and then the other and that’s how we decorate.”

The restaurant is unique to say the least. The salad bar is tucked away in a room of its own. There are booths and tables and a bar stool or two. A great place to sit and sip.

But it’s the chicken salad that people come seeking.

“It’s my granny’s recipe,” Sanders said. “She taught me to make it. The ingredients are important. She made chicken salad with homemade sweet relish and fresh chicken breast.

“I make it as close to hers as I can. I use pecans and celery and always fresh chicken, never canned.”

Sanders didn’t share that secret ingredient that sets his and his granny’s chicken salad apart but he did say that a secret to great chicken salad is found in how it’s made.

“You have to mix the ingredients at certain temperatures and in certain ways,” he said.

“That’s the real secret to Sit N Sip’s chicken salad.”

Sisters, the Old Barn, Mossy Grove and Crowe’s all have their secret recipes, some of them were handed down through the generations and others were the result of trial and error and successful experimentation.

“Every dish on the list of ‘100 dishes’ is extraordinary,” Stamps said. “The hope of the Alabama Tourism Department is that tourists will seek out these restaurants and try the dishes to die for. And, also, that Alabamians will use the brochure as a guide when they are traveling or just to make a restaurant a destination.

“With the Year of Alabama Food campaign, we want to reinforce the farm-to-table concept. We have included more restaurants that feature locally grown products such as peach ice cream at Durbin Farms Market and the peach pie at Peach Park and the pecan pie at Heaton Farms in Clanton.”

Stamps said the “100 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die” brochure includes barbecue, burgers and squash blossoms, seafood, sweets and swiggin’s.

“No matter what your favorite dish is, the brochure includes a restaurant the features that very dish,” Stamps said. “There are 100 and more dishes to try and what better time to ride the restaurant tail than during the Year of Alabama Food.”