Al Reese smiled a big smile as he sat in a sunlit booth at the South Sauty Resort Café with his wife, Debbie. It is one of the couple’s favorite places to eat and visit with their friends and neighbors.
“This is the ‘Cheers’ of South Sauty,” he said, referring to the NBC sitcom that ran from 1982-1993. “When you come in, everybody knows your name.”
At that, Debbie flashed a smile of her own. “That’s true,” she said. “And if they don’t, just give them about five minutes and they will. This is the friendliest place around.”
While the atmosphere is easy and friendly, the customers say they do not just come for the conversation. They come for the food, and owners, Amy and Manuel Aldana, along with their staff, make sure they get plenty of it.
“You don’t leave here hungry,” Amy said. “We’ve got everything from homemade biscuits and gravy to some of the best cheeseburgers you will ever eat.
“The biscuits are made with my mother’s recipe,” she continued. “We make them by hand every morning and the customers love them.”
Since 2012, the Aldanas have run the café and country store as a team. Amy greets customers and handles the front, while Manuel cooks.
“I don’t cook,” she said with a laugh. “I know how, and I know what goes into everything, I just don’t do it. I get to see all the people and talk all day. That’s the best job in the world.
“Manuel is an amazing cook,” she continued. “So I just leave that part to him.”
“On Sunday,” said customer, Betty Yell, “Manuel makes some of the best Mexican food you’ve ever put in your mouth for the buffet.”
Debbie Reese agrees. “Manuel’s chicken fajitas are the best,” she said. “Of course, everything here is good. I’ve tried it all.”
The staff and customers at the café are vital when it comes to being the ‘Cheers’ of South Sauty, and they are as vital to the Aldanas as the café is to the community.
“Every two months,” Amy said, “we host some kind of cooking contest and give the proceeds to a good cause.
“The contests are always fun and the community really turns out to support us,” she continued. “So far, we’ve had a biscuit-making contest, a cornbread contest, and a pie-making contest. Everyone who enters pays a $10 fee, and then we have judges who decide the winners.”
So far, the contests have benefitted the Langston Volunteer Fire Department, the Marshall Baptist Disaster Relief Unit, and the South Sauty Volunteer Fire Department.
But the Aldanas, and the wonderful community that stands behind them are not finished yet.
“We saw a story in The Daily Sentinel about Josh Chapman,” Amy said, “and we all want to help him.”
As reported in the story, Josh Chapman, a four-year-old Scottsboro child with Autism, is in need of a service dog so he can eventually attend public school.
When the Aldanas read the story, Amy and her friends at the café, formed a plan.
“We are going to host a barbecue cook-off on Sept. 27, 2014 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. here at the café for Josh,” she said. “Everyone is welcome to enter and all the proceeds go toward helping this little boy.
“Any barbecue dish can be entered,” she continued. “We will have a category for the judges’ pick, and a category for the public’s favorite.”
Entry fee for the contest is $10, and tickets to taste and vote for your favorite dish are just $1.
Rainsville business, Number 1 Party.com will also be on-hand with a dunking booth and Moon Walk for the kids.
“They saw the article posted on the register at Katy’s Katfish in Rainsville,” said Kayla Chapman. “They are donating the dunking booth and the Moon Walk for the entire afternoon for Josh.
“I’m so grateful to them and to Amy,” she said. “This means the world to me and Josh. I also wanted to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who has seen the article and helped us.”
The South Sauty Resort Café is open daily from 6 a.m. – 3 p.m., featuring daily lunch specials and unlimited salad buffet.
The café also features Saturday and Sunday buffets and hand-cut steaks on Friday evenings.
For more information about The South Sauty Resort Café’s barbecue benefit cook-off, contact them at: 256-582-3367.
For more information about Josh Chapman, contact Kayla Chapman at: 256-503-4133.