4 months ago

Alabama’s Rattlesnake Saloon is a restaurant with a truly cavernous dining room

The Rattlesnake Saloon, in a cavern under an enormous rock bluff in north Alabama, has been called one of the most unusual restaurants in the United States. The Duke Burger at this cave café is on the list of “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.” If you haven’t yet been there and eaten that, thousands of people from around the world have already beaten you to it. The guest books show visitors from all 50 states and more than 30 countries.

The restaurant is only part of what the Foster family has built on their thousands of acres of beautiful forested land with miles of trails, stunning views, places to fish and several ancient Native American shelters, one of which houses a burial place dating back 8,000 years.

The Seven Springs Lodge came first. For years, Danny Foster worked this land, which has been in his family since 1916, before creating the lodge. It’s undergoing renovations after a fire this past summer, but soon you’ll be able to spend the night in repurposed grain silos or comfortably rustic cabins. Camping is still available, and there are stalls for horses, too.

Rattlesnake Saloon strikes a perfect balance between vittles and vibe from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

People come here to hike, hunt, camp, craft, attend concerts, and ride four-wheelers, side-by-side vehicles, ATVs, dirt bikes and horses on the woodland trails. Schoolchildren show up for nature adventures and motorcycle enthusiasts gather for bike rallies. SHiFT Design (a community of builders, makers, designers and creators) has a summer camp here. Resident artists Gabriel and Robin Sellers carve and paint one-of-a-kind wood and stone sculptures. This also is a place for racking horse races, frontier days with chuck wagon races, bonfires, rodeos with bull riding and simply sitting on a porch.

Danny and his younger son, William, realized that every lodge needs a saloon, and the cavern was the perfect place. During construction, workers found a nest of rattlesnakes under a piece of tin, and the place got a name.

The Sidewinder’s Trading Post was the final element of this family enterprise. Danny’s wife, Momma Faye, runs this (sometimes with her beloved granddaughter, Willow, nearby), and her genuine hospitality is as much of a draw as the camping supplies, souvenirs, tack, postcards, handcrafted jewelry and unique T-shirts.

The popularity of all this, and perhaps the restaurant in particular, comes down to “curiosity,” says Danny. “They always say, ‘If you build something unusual …’ and another thing, we make it hard to get to.” (The restaurant is open three days a week seasonally.) He says, “If it’s easy, people will put it off. You only have certain hours, so people have to make arrangements to get to it; it’s a challenge. … They have to be deliberate about it.

“It really, really took off,” he says of the restaurant, “more than I expected.” He, Momma Faye and William ran the restaurant at the beginning; now William employs 20 people.

“On a Saturday, usually, we’ll have a couple thousand come through here,” Danny says. “We don’t count until 5 to 10 (p.m.), and a lot of times we’ll have seven or eight hundred down there. So, there will be easily 2,000 on a Saturday.”

“It’s one of the most unusual places you’ll ever see,” Momma Faye says. “We close down in December and January because it’s so cold and we have icicles; they can get up to 18 feet. But everybody enjoys it, and it’s a family-orientated thing. We don’t serve any alcohol … until after five o’clock, and it’s just a nice place to come. We have a lot of schools to come, a lot of churches to come. And the food’s good, too.”

It’s a destination worth the trip.

The cavern that houses Rattlesnake Saloon was a hog pen several decades ago. Today, an air-conditioned kitchen, bar and dining room is built right alongside the rock walls. This is an atmosphere like none other, with swinging saloon doors, antlers, a pressed-tin ceiling, chandeliers and some shockingly large rattlesnake skins (we counted eight that are stretched down rough-hewn columns in the middle of the dining area). There’s a stuffed rattler and an unfortunate rabbit in a dramatic Southern woodland diorama. The bar is colorful, with beer taps and a wall of cans on display. But to really experience Rattlesnake Saloon, you’ll want to eat outside at one of dozens of tables in the cavern, which is cool even in the summer. It is decorated with neon beer signs and offers a nice view of the woods and the small stage where, at night, there’s karaoke on Thursdays and live music on Fridays and Saturdays.

The saloon is accessible via “taxi.” You ride down and back up a steep hill in the back of an extended cab pickup truck. That taxi runs pretty much constantly, so you can come and go as you please. Of course, you can ride your horse to the saloon, too, if you brought one.

Momma Faye says she knows Rattlesnake Saloon has fans everywhere because she’s seen her T-shirts all over the world. “It’s nothing to see them in the Bahamas … and Cancun,” she says. “But we went to Wales with my son on a teaching trip, and we were walking down the street … and there were two people with our rattlesnake T-shirts on … in Wales!”

It’s not unusual for people from all over the world to gather at Rattlesnake Saloon on any given day or night. “We have them from everywhere,” Danny says. “One night, a group out of Australia was down there. Thirty something people. My son, William, says, ‘Oh, are you with this bunch here?’ The lady looked at him and said, ‘We’re from Australia!’ He said, ‘They are, too.’ They lived 30 minutes apart,” Danny says. “They were neighbors and met here. It’s not unusual to have four or five continents down here at one time.”

They come for a fun, themed menu that starts with “skunk rings” (good, crispy and sweet onion rings), “cowboy buttons” (fried mushrooms) and “snake eyes & tails” (fried jalapeno slices and green beans that are a must-have). Chicken wings, meaty and glazed with your choice of mild, barbecue or hot sauce, are delicious and popular. Entrees include “prairie fingers” (chicken tenders regionally sourced from Albertville); a salad with ham, turkey or grilled or fried chicken atop fresh greens with tomato, cheese, onion, pickle and your choice of dressing; and a hot dog made with smoked sausage and tangy onion sauerkraut. You also can get a vegetarian burger. There’s a $6 kids menu with grilled cheese, corndog, ham and cheese sandwich or prairie fingers. Desserts include fried apple fritters, brownies or the popular deep-fried cheesecake.

That Duke Burger ($11) is the most popular item, though. This award-winning hamburger features a thick, half-pound Black Angus patty topped with apple wood-smoked bacon and fried snake eyes (again, jalapeno slices) and served on an onion roll.

Then there’s the Gigantor. This is a 2-pound hamburger on a huge bun with all the fixings served with a pound of fries, a half-pound of onion rings and a pitcher of your beverage of choice. The $50 meal is enough for four people, but if one person finishes it within 45 minutes, it is free. Three people have done this; one did it twice.

Since Rattlesnake Saloon opened in 2009, busloads of people visited for lunch and dinner on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, making it a popular tourist draw for remote Colbert County. But in 2015, when Food Network featured the place on “Craziest Restaurants in America,” Rattlesnake Saloon really took off.

The Saturday after the show aired, Momma Faye says, “We had 4,500 people here. Then we quit counting.”

The place is special, she says, because of the landscape. “But the other special thing about this place is the people who come.”

Momma Faye talks about hosting children who are blind and deaf and watching them experience nature in their own ways. She talks about the design-based adventure-learning opportunities led by her older son, Owen. (He is a professor of industrial design, and, each summer, his SHiFT Design Camp draws high school and college students from all over the world.) She talks about a young man from China who learned to drive in Danny’s truck.

“We have some of the best people in the world to come,” she says.

Rattlesnake Saloon

1292 Mount Mills Road

Tuscumbia, Alabama 35674

256-370-7220

https://www.rattlesnakesaloon.net

Hours:

Thursday, Friday and Saturday (February-November) 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (April-September). (Near the beginning or end of the season, you might want to call before you go. Also, check the online calendar for special events.)

Beer and wine are served at the Rattlesnake Saloon after 5 p.m. only.

Tables are first-come, first-served. Only three available slots for group reservations (25 people or more) are allowed per night. For reservations, call before 4:45 p.m. (256-370-7218) and ask for Ms. Tee Tee.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

45 mins ago

February event promises answers to VA health care concerns

The Veterans Affairs departments of the state and federal government are teaming up to put on the Montgomery Veterans Experience Action Center (VEAC).

VEAC will be on February 5 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Campton Bowl Multiplex in Montgomery.

The agencies promise it will be a time “for veterans to get answers—and sometimes resolutions—regarding their benefits and healthcare.”

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Veterans Service Officers will be in attendance, as will workers trained to handle claims both new and existing.

The groups welcome both veterans and family members, saying the event will provide the opportunity to “receive one-on-one service to address any and all issues” with the VA.

The Alabama Department of Veterans affairs reminds those attending that “for assistance with VA claims and services, veterans should bring proper documentation about their case: DD 214, all medical records about any military and civilian disability, and dependency documents.”

Other services available at the event will be the American Red Cross, Still Serving Veterans, and job opportunities from the Alabama Department of Labor.

Anyone seeking additional information can call (334) 625-3480.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

1 hour ago

Alabama lawmakers renew push to create lifetime concealed carry permits

Members of the Alabama legislature introduced bills this week that would create a standard, statewide process for any individual that wants a concealed carry permit for a firearm. Under the proposed system, permits would be issued for terms of one year, five years or the remaining lifetime of the permit holder.

State Representative Proncey Robertson (R-Trinity) is sponsoring the effort in the House, and State Senator Randy Price (R-Opelika) is carrying the Senate version. Robertson spent over 25 years as a police officer in North Alabama.

The cost of a lifetime permit would be $200, with a reduced fee for senior citizens. Robertson wrote on Facebook that active and retired military service members would pay nothing. Currently, Alabamians can purchase a permit from their county sheriff’s office for up to five years. The price of a permit varies by county.

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Sheriff’s offices often benefit from the revenues brought in by pistol permits. Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran once told AL.com that his department depends on the income from the permits “for a number of things.”

Various efforts by Republican lawmakers to alter Alabama’s gun laws have run out of steam before becoming law in recent years.

As part of the new permitting system proposed this week, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) would have a new role in streamlining the permit process and administering background checks.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has come out in favor of the effort, telling members they should contact their state legislators “to secure passage of this critical legislation.”

“The NRA strongly supports this streamlined permitting process,” NRA Alabama State Director Art Thomm told the Alabama Political Reporter.

“Not only would it bring much-needed 21st century technology to Alabama’s antiquated system, but it would be the first time law-abiding Alabamians were given the option for a lifetime concealed carry permit,” he added.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

1 hour ago

Doug Jones: Schiff speech, impeachment evidence presented by House Dems ‘compelling’

In a video tweeted out by his office on Friday, Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) opined that evidence is “continuing to mount” against President Donald Trump as the impeachment trial unfolds in the Senate.

The video, lasting just over five minutes and 30 seconds, started with Jones praising the Thursday speech given by Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), one of the lead House impeachment managers.

Jones used Schiff’s line of, “In America, right matters,” as a theme for the video and even turned it into a hashtag when sharing the video on his personal Twitter account.

Alabama’s junior senator opened the video by reciting the line twice, placing heavy emphasis on it. He would also later close the video with the line.

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“That was the most compelling statement to me yesterday,” Jones remarked about the line.

Senator Jones’ newfound usage of #rightmatters may very well remind Alabama voters of what he tweeted when announcing his “nay” vote on confirming Justice Brett Kavanaugh: #RightSideofHistory.

Jones in his Friday video went on to say about the case presented by House Democrats, “Yesterday’s evidence was pretty compelling. It continues to get compelling.”

“Remember we have talked significantly about direct evidence,” he continued. “We have heard a lot of direct evidence on the president’s abuse of power. We’ve heard it from witnesses who talked to the president. We’ve seen press conferences. We’ve seen text messages. We’ve seen emails. Not all of those emails were provided by the administration; they were done pursuant to a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request and a lawsuit. But we have them nonetheless.”

“And the circumstantial evidence begins to mount,” Jones added.

He then recited the definition of circumstantial evidence as, “Proof of a chain of facts and circumstances that tend to prove or disprove a fact.”

“That is continuing to mount,” Jones asserted.

The senator commented that he is “anxious to see” what the president’s legal team will “say and do” when given the chance to present their case.

Later in the video, Jones renewed his call for Democrats to be able to call witnesses during the trial. However, he mocked the idea of “reciprocity,” the concept that Republicans would be able to call witnesses if Democrats are allowed to, as “silly.”

Jones specifically said that Hunter Biden should not be allowed to be called as a witness. Jones has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential bid, saying that he would ultimately back whomever the Democrats nominate against Trump, no matter how radical that individual is.

Watch the full video:

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Alabama State Port Authority signs concession agreement for automobile RO/RO terminal

The Alabama State Port Authority and AutoMOBILE International Terminal (AIT) this week signed a concession agreement for the $60 million automobile roll on/roll off (RO/RO) terminal currently under construction.

AIT will operate the facility when completed in early 2021.

The agreement was signed at the Port of Mobile. AIT is a joint venture between Terminal Zarate, S.A., a Grupo Murchison company headquartered in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Neltume Ports, headquartered in Santiago, Chile.

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“We’re extremely pleased to see these world class services companies invest in both our region and our port. AIT’s investment will create a new U.S. gateway for shipping finished automobiles for both U.S. and global manufacturing and consumer markets,” James K. Lyons, director and CEO of the Alabama State Port Authority, said in a statement.

The under-construction 57-acre (23.06 hectares) terminal is located on the ASPA’s main port multimodal complex, and when completed, will have an annual throughput of 150,000 units. The facility is located on Mobile Harbor and is serviced by five Class I railroads and a rail ferry service with connections throughout North America and immediate, unencumbered access to major U.S. interstate and highway systems.

The Port Authority and AIT over two years ago signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the automobile RO/RO terminal.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Doug Jones: Jeff Sessions’ recusal ‘about the only thing I think he did right as attorney general’

As the race for the Republican Party’s nomination for Alabama U.S. Senate race has heated up, the topic of then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from any investigation dealing with the 2016 presidential election has become the hot campaign topic.

At a Marshall County campaign stop earlier this month, Sessions defended his decision on the recusal, noting that it was following the Department of Justice rules and procedures. However, since then, both U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) and former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, two of Sessions’ opponents in the GOP senatorial nomination contest, have both raised the issue in the context of Sessions’ ability to serve as a U.S. Senator.

Incumbent Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook), who will be the opponent in the November general election for the eventual Republican nominee, disagreed with Byrne and Tuberville.

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Jones, also a former U.S. attorney during the Clinton administration, categorized Sessions’ recusal as “about the only thing” Sessions did properly during his service as the Trump administration’s top law enforcement official.

“I do,” Jones replied. “It’s about the only thing I think he did right as attorney general. But he absolutely did that correctly. I’ve been a DoJ person myself. I was in the position of U.S. attorney, and I think he had to do that. I think it was the right thing to do. And I said that at the time, by the way. This is not something new. I said that at the time.”

“We’ll see who ends up being the nominee,” he continued. “But there will be plenty to talk about — about Jeff’s record if he ends up being the nominee. But that is one thing he and I will both agree on.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.