Food and Fellowship

Virginia Miller enjoys a plate of frog legs and a chat with the Liberty Restaurant’s new owner, Barry Nichols.

About two months ago, Barry Nichols quietly purchased a piece of his past and with it, a piece of Scottsboro’s history.

The Liberty Restaurant on East Willow Street was built around 1951 and was first operated by Katie Allen.

“Katie didn’t own the building. I think the same person built the restaurant and the motel across the street,” Nichols said, “but the two are not connected even though they share the name, ‘Liberty.’ The restaurant actually started in the old Scottsboro Hotel across from Word Lumber Company.”

Nichols father, Dwan, purchased the business in the 1970s and owned it for 20 years.

“I was traveling with my job and busy all the time,” Nichols said. “I never thought I’d come back and buy it. I was planning to move to Bolivia where my girlfriend is originally from.”

Nichols retired in 2011 from his job in the technical industrial coating industry.

“I’ve traveled all over the world,” he said. “Sometimes with my job, and sometimes just for the pleasure of seeing different places. I’ve been to Germany, The Netherlands, Greece, France and Chile.

“I spent this past Christmas and New Year’s in Spain, London, Amsterdam and Paris,” he said. “My dad passed away this past year, so I bought the restaurant from Edna and Pleasey Talley, partly for sentimental reasons but also because I saw a good business opportunity. Scottsboro is a beautiful place and it is home.

“I’ve had food from everywhere, he said, “But I’m a country boy. I like pinto beans, cornbread and fried potatoes. The menu here is all about good country cooking. We’ve stuck with it and also added a few things in the past couple of months like Caribbean Chicken.”

Besides asking them outright, Nichols has a unique way of finding out just what things his customers enjoy.

“I like to bus the tables myself,” he said. “That way I can see firsthand what it is the customers like and don’t like.”

Nichols said pleasing customers is his highest goal.

“You can’t do that with canned foods,” he said. “Very little of our products come from a can.

“We hand pat our burgers and each one is made to order with more than a quarter-pound of fresh beef,” he said.

“Our lunch menu is served daily with a choice of at least two meats, and home cooked vegetables. We don’t make it difficult. Just order what you want.”

The atmosphere at the Liberty is tied to its history – it is a place where friends meet and talk as casually as they would at home.

“We tell everyone to kick back and relax,” he said. “If you’ve got your phone, just enjoy it and chat up a storm if that’s what you want to do. We’ll take care of the rest.”

Each day at the restaurant begins with down-home breakfast that includes thick slices of Applewood Smoked Bacon, slabs of real country ham and what Nichols said are some of the best hash browns in town.

“We make our own hash browns,” he said. “There’s no pre-fab or frozen.

“We’ve expanded and grown our breakfast menu,” he said. “Our omelets are fabulous. Our ‘Logger’s Omelet,’ includes sausage, bacon, ham, hashbrowns loaded into it and even a little gravy on top if you’d like.

“You also can’t find a better pancake in town than ours, in my opinion,” he added with a grin.

Wednesdays feature special items like frog legs, shrimp or catfish.

“I love the frog legs,” said Virginia Miller, longtime customer and friend of Nichols. “They are delicious and this is the only place to get them.”

Nichols is particularly proud of the Liberty’s famous hushpuppies.

“We don’t make the traditional hushpuppies,” he said. “Ours are quite large and have just a touch of jalapeno in them. They are not too hot, just zesty.

“Our catfish is great too,” he said. “We bread it ourselves. It’s not like everyone else’s. It’s only served like this at the Liberty.”

Nichols believes high consistency is essential, but knows home cooking varies from time to time.

“We season things and we test things to make sure everything tastes good,” he said. “We also treat every day like an inspection day. We pride ourselves on cleanliness and we strive to meet customer expectations.”

The staff at the restaurant includes nine to 10 people that Nichols depends on to make things run smoothly.

“We have a strong staff,” he said. “They are a good team and I want them to feel pride and ownership in the business. I appreciate and respect them and I thing they return that in kind.”

The Liberty is open Monday – Thursday, 6 a.m. – 2 p.m., Friday, 6 a.m – 9 p.m., Saturday 6 a.m – 2 p.m., and Sunday, 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.

“Friday nights feature Karaoke from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.,” he said. “Customers love it and we have a good time.

“One of my goals is to expand our hours to include more evenings,” he said. “But we are moving along slowly to get things just right. The adjustments we’ve made so far have been good. I appreciate all of our longtime customers and welcome new ones. There are several good places to eat in and around Scottsboro and I strongly support locally owned businesses. I hope everyone will come and give us a try.”

For take-out or call ahead orders call: 256-574-3455.

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