Delicious Down Home Southern Cookin' and Naked Dogs at Red Bay Grocery
May 10, 2013 by Gwen Break
You can’t buy a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread at Red Bay Grocery but you certainly can get some good eats there. That’s because despite its name, it’s really a restaurant.
Tucked in the woods, seven miles north of State Highway 20 on Highway 81, the log and plank building sits behind a blue hitching post, where instead of horses, you’re just as likely to see a Harley hog waiting on its rider.
Perhaps it’s because it is a community-owned business that makes it, well, so much like home. The grocery shelves have been stripped away and replaced with a long communal table down the center of the room, and a scattering of smaller tables around it. On a busy day, folks can use the screened-in porch or the tables on the big wrap-around porch. On opposite walls, wooden shelves are stocked with the many jams, jellies and condiments manufactured under the “Red Bay” label. A cooler at the back of the room offers a variety of cold drinks.
But the heart of the business is the tiny kitchen where daily blue plate specials are made in addition to the regular menu items. For just $6.99, you can get good Southern cooking like fried catfish, cheese grits, coleslaw, hushpuppies and banana pudding ... or ... fried chicken, country steak with gravy, broccoli casserole, collard greens, key lime pie and fries. Oh, the fries! They are like your momma used to make, hand cut with the skins left on with just a sprinkling of salt and fried ‘til they’re a little crispy and a little soft, more fried taters than “French fries.”
End of the week features all-you-can-eat dinners from 5 p.m. until closing. Thursday it’s fried shrimp, $15.99; Friday BBQ ribs and pulled pork, $14.99; and Saturday, fried mullet, $11.99. Sometimes, it’s prime rib. Specials are posted daily at www.facebook.com/RedBayGrocery.
Much of the food and many of the ingredients are provided by 64 local residents who live within spitting distance of the restaurant. These 64 joined business principal Charles Morgan, also a Red Bay resident, in reopening the business in 2009, after its long-time owner retired. Cooperatively, they own and operate the business. A hand-carved wooden plaque on the front porch lists the owners and a picture of the red bay tree after which the community is named.
Morgan organized the eatery’s come back when locals were left with nowhere to congregate for their morning coffee and breakfast fare. He is owner of seven other restaurants in Alabama and Florida, including Camille’s and Harbor Docks in Destin.
As if the good food and interesting conversation wasn’t enough to bring people to Red Bay’s dining table, there are a number of special events throughout the year, such as a Boar Squirrel Blast-Off and a wrestling match. All events are held in partnership with Nick’s On The Bay, in Freeport. Coming up June 15, 2013, is the “Bream World Championship,” where organizers “don’t take no crappie.” For details, see www.tinyurl.com/redbaybream.
Red Bay Grocery opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m. Thursday – Saturday, and 6 p.m. all other days. It is a simple country diner, no frills, no fancy cloth napkins, just a plain wooden building with a splashy barn-red front door. The food it serves is based on some of the South’s best loved dishes prepared by the skilled hands of local residents. It is a destination unto itself, almost like going home to grandma’s.
Oh, and they asked that we point out their number is incorrectly listed in the phone book. The correct number is (850) 836-2220.
THE PARTICULARS Red Bay Grocery is located at 8704 Hwy 81S, Ponce de Leon, FL
(850) 836-2220, www.facebook.com/RedBayGrocery
Catering available. Visa and MasterCard accepted.
Normally open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., except end of the week, and then it’s 8 p.m.