8 JUL 10: Martha's Scoop
It has the feel of a turnaround point at the edge of town. In fact, I've used it for that purpose several times. When it takes six or seven turnarounds before I finally feel guilty enough to visit the business, maybe I'm more head-headed than I realize....
The place where I turned used to be known as J.R.'s Steakhouse, on U.S. 80 in Ladonia. It's a short distance beyond the last fast-food restaurant, as you head west. East Alabama Motor Speedway and a Seventh-Day Adventist Church are beyond the steak house. That's not really falling off the edge of civilization, but the good "reward food" after running was gone.
I decided to pay J.R.'s Steakhouse a visit for weekend dinner several weeks ago. But I was surprised to find its name had changed to Martha's Place. It's apparently NOT connected with a Montgomery restaurant which made a list of "100 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die." How many people have succeeded in eating all 100 -- even if it meant ordering only yams in Tuskegee?
Don't even think of comparing the decor of this former steak house with Ruth's Chris or Morton's. The furniture and atmosphere are more like a low-budget diner, with mismatched booths and tables. This Martha certainly can't have the last name Stewart.
But the service is much friendlier at Martha's Place than at top-dollar steakhouses. The entire restaurant staff said hello when I walked in the door -- as if no customers had left tips in the last three hours.
A server told me J.R.'s Steakhouse changed its name to Martha's Place in April. But the memory of the old name certainly lingers -- with photos of a man I assume is J.R. on napkin boxes at the tables. The new owner apparently removed any pictures of J.R. Ewing from "Dallas" days.
Did I mention Martha's Place is low-budget? You'll notice it on the menu -- not so much due to the prices, but because the menu includes ads for several Phenix City businesses. Someone must have realized hardly anyone pays attention to business cards on a bulletin board anymore.
But as I said, Martha's Place is a friendly place. A man at the booth behind mine recommended hamburger steak for dinner, before I'd completely scanned the menu. But that wasn't quite what I had in mind on this night - not when McDonald's was across U.S. 80, throwing in free buns with their burgers for a lower price.
I wound up selecting grilled chicken from the menu, and it was good and meaty. But what I'll always remember about Martha's Place are the side orders -- two vegetables served in portions which nearly filled a standard cereal bowl. Perhaps that was because I arrived around closing time, and the large portions made cleanup a little easier.
One vegetable bowl had sweet carrots, prepared in a way even skeptical children would enjoy eating. The other bowl was filled with "English peas." The Martha's Place menu didn't seem to get much more international than this.
The main course and all the vegetables left me with no need for dessert. Add a big glass of soda, and I dined at Martha's Place on a weekend night for less than ten dollars (tip not included). It was a good old-fashioned, down-home "Mom and Pop" dinner that sometimes can be hard to find. And if the restaurant is named after Martha, hopefully Pop isn't protesting somewhere.
Now that I've made you hungry, let's chew on some Wednesday news headlines:
+ The high temperature in Columbus was 96 degrees F. A large cloud covered my neighborhood during the afternoon, to make things a little cooler -- and it had nothing to do with any clouds of scandal at the Government Center.
+ Columbus Police reported someone broke into Big O's Package Store on Cusseta Road, and stole 50 bottles of peach tea. There must be a better way of preparing for an "I love Georgia" party....
+ A man appeared in Recorder's Court on charges of attempting to run over his wife in the parking lot of Sam's Club. This is why married couples need two club cards -- so if one spouse forgets to bring a billfold, there's a backup to keep peace in the home.
+ Callaway Gardens announced it will present a free fireworks show Friday night. Spokesperson Rachel Crumbley explained to WTVM last Sunday's show had "technical difficulties," and was not a "100-percent show." So exactly what percentage was it? If a fireworks show gets more than halfway through the shells, does that make it official -- like a NASCAR race?
+ WTVM showed the inside of a new terminal at Auburn University Regional Airport. It may bring Lee County an economic boost - especially if managers get permission to use the jingle, "War Eagles: Fly TO the field."
+ A national survey determined Alabama has the best pre-Kindergarten programs for the fourth year in a row. Of course, this is only possible when most Alabama school districts cannot afford to have one....
+ Instant Message to all the major broadcast networks: What gives here? Why aren't you canceling or adjusting your prime-time schedules tonight? Everyone needs to hear that critical speech to the nation - you know, the one LeBron James is giving.
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