2 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)

4 hours ago

Dale Jackson: You’re the real MVP, Jeff Sessions

Jeff Sessions is still the MVP of the Trump administration.

Sessions’ tireless work in his time as a U.S. senator laid the groundwork for President Donald Trump’s America First agenda, and his early endorsement gave Trump the legitimacy he needed to win over conservatives to put him in the White House. He was one of the president’s most trusted advisors on the campaign trail, traveling all over the country with him to pitch their unified agenda.

The two were united because most of the policies that make Donald Trump so popular in the state of Alabama were championed by Jeff Sessions for decades before Trump sought public office.

Without Sessions, Trump probably doesn’t make it into the White House.

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The former attorney general joined WVNN radio on Tuesday to discuss why he jumped on the Trump train so early, saying, “What I felt so good about was that I’d come to take a very strong stand on immigration, on defending American manufacturing, even I thought we needed to be more careful, a lot more careful on getting involved in wars around the globe. And boy, President Trump came forward, he seized the public’s attention, he advocated those issues and I thought he would follow through with them, and he has.”

Despite that, the unfair criticism from the president has flowed relatively freely, but Sessions has refused to, as he called it, “waffle” in his support of Trump.

Sessions told “The Dale Jackson Show” that he thinks Trump is still doing a good job to this day.

“I traveled with him all over the country, and I believe in him and his agenda and he’s performed, I think, exceedingly well,” he shared.

Of course, every one of Sessions’ opponents in this Senate race will try to diminish an honorable and successful career to one thing: His time as AG and Trump’s reaction to his reasonable recusal from all things Russia.

In the interview, Sessions addressed concerns about his recusal in the Russian collusion investigation, explaining he felt it was clearly black and white.

“I believe that [recusing] was the only thing I could do,” he explained. “I believe we reviewed it carefully, and the regulations in the Department of Justice are specific. If you are a participant in a campaign, and I was a high level, full, just totally campaigned for Trump. I held a title of foreign national security advisor. So that was the deal. And it says explicitly, you can’t investigate your own campaign.”

Sessions also argued that as a member of the campaign, he knew there was no collusion, adding he was not afraid of an investigation into it because he knew nothing had happened.

My takeaway:

As the Mueller report reflected, Sessions was 100% correct. He was right to recuse himself.

And not only was Sessions 100% correct on that, but the president gained some major political points by being cleared by Robert Mueller, who was heralded for years by the left-wing media as being above reproach.

He will also gain from beating the media and their Democrats on impeachment.

But if the president had just listened to former Attorney General Sessions, he would have been a lot better off, both legally and politically, because everything Sessions predicted about the investigation bore out as he said it would, with a full exoneration of the president.

Meanwhile, Sessions was fighting to help build the wall, expand free speech to college campuses around the country, fight back on DACA, defend religious freedom, and most importantly, begin the investigation into the origins of the Russia collusion investigation.

Everything good about Donald Trump has the fingerprints of Jeff Sessions all over it.

For that reason, Sessions remains the MVP of the Trump administration and is someone the president should be very thankful he had, and still has, on his team, regardless of how the 2020 U.S. Senate Republican primary plays out.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

4 hours ago

Jessica Taylor endorsed by GOP State Rep. Will Dismukes in AL-02 race

PRATTVILLE — Conservative Republican congressional candidate Jessica Taylor on Tuesday was endorsed by State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (AL-02).

A group of supporters braved the cold to stand behind Taylor, as Dismukes stood alongside her, at Heritage Park in historic downtown Prattville for the announcement.

Dismukes, a first term state legislator, recently withdrew his candidacy for this same Second Congressional District seat, citing not being able to raise the requisite funds to competitively continue in the race.

Speaking on Tuesday, he enthusiastically threw his support behind Taylor, who is a businesswoman and attorney from Prattville.

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“As a candidate for Congress, I highlighted my conservative plan to end abortion on demand, protect our Christian values and enact term limits on members of Congress to help President Trump drain the swamp,” Dismukes said. “However, after thoughtful prayer, I decided recently that it was not my time to seek election [for AL-02].”

“Our country desperately needs a new generation of conservatives to take on radical socialists like AOC, Ilhan Omar and their ‘squad.’ That’s why, today, I’m endorsing Jessica Taylor for Congress. Because she will go and fight socialism that is a major threat to our democracy, and I believe in my heart that Jessica is the right leader for this district, for this state and for this country,” he continued.

“She has the courage, the principles and the hook-shot to take on the radical leftists, protect the right to life, defend the second amendment and help President Trump drain the swamp!” Dismukes added, referring to Taylor’s viral campaign announcement video.

Taylor expressed her appreciation for Dismukes’ endorsement before speaking briefly on some of her campaign’s focuses.

“As conservatives, we must push back against the radical left’s teaching of our generation that socialism is an ideology that we should embrace,” Taylor stressed.

“As your congresswoman, I will go to D.C. to protect life, the Second Amendment and support President Trump,” she continued. “We need a new generation of conservatives who can fight “The Squad,” AOC — all of the folks who are brainwashing our generation.”

She outlined that a recent poll stated that over 70% of millennials responded that they support socialism and approximately 1/3 even responded that they support communism.

“This is something that we cannot accept,” Taylor commented.

You can view a video of Tuesday’s announcement event here.

Other qualified GOP candidates in the race include Wiregrass businessman Jeff Coleman, former Alabama Attorney General Troy King and former State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise).

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

5 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt names Kerry Knott chief of staff

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) on Tuesday officially announced the hire of Capitol Hill veteran Kerry Knott as his chief of staff.

Knott most recently ran Knott Strategies, LLC, where he helped Ravi Zacharias International Ministries focus on Washington, D.C.-based ministry opportunities. Knott notably helped create “At The Table,” a new event series designed to bring influential people together across industries to address important cultural and policy issues.

In a statement, Aderholt said, “I am very excited to be bringing Kerry Knott onboard as our new Chief of Staff.”

“Kerry is extremely talented. His many years of service in both the public and private sectors give him a great wealth of information and the skills needed to oversee my office staff and achieve our legislative priorities. As a native of Guntersville, Alabama, I know Kerry will always make serving the people of the 4th Congressional District the top priority in our office, everyday,” the congressman added.

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Knott’s congressional experience is extensive, including serving from 1985 to 1998 as the chief of staff to former House Majority Leader Dick Armey. In this role, Knott helped craft the 1994 “Contract with America,” which helped Republicans regain control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years.

“Congressman Aderholt has a great heart for our nation and for the state of Alabama,” Knott stressed. “It shows by his character, his integrity and in his effectiveness. It’s an honor to join his team and to help him accomplish his plans for our nation and for the 4th District of Alabama.”

Knott and his wife, Michelle Morgan Knott, live in Arlington, Virginia, with their three children: Sydney, Charlie and Austin. He is a native of Guntersville and graduated from Guntersville High School in 1978 and Auburn University in 1982.

Knott fills the void left by former Aderholt chief of staff Brian Rell, who recently departed to lead the D.C. office of Birmingham-based Balch and Bingham.

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

6 hours ago

Schumer deputy fundraising for Doug Jones

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), the highest-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership besides Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), is now publicly raising money for endangered Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

In a recent tweet, Durbin urged his followers to donate to Jones’ campaign.

The tweet links to a fundraising landing page with Durbin’s own campaign logo on it.

“Contribute now to help Doug Jones beat Jeff Sessions in Alabama’s Senate race,” the page urges.

This follows a trend of national Democrats fundraising for Jones based off of former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions entering the crowded Republican primary to reclaim his old Senate seat.

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Senator Kamala Harris’ (D-CA) presidential campaign launched a fundraising blitz with contributions split between her campaign and Jones’, and Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) have followed suit. Schatz also serves on Schumer’s Senate Democratic leadership team as chief deputy whip.

Per Murphy, his and Schatz’s respective fundraising appeals raised $40,000 for Jones’ campaign in the first day alone.

Jones welcomed the support, tweeting, “It is awesome to be in the company of such great friends – and true public servants.”

In the past three quarters, Jones raised 77%, 88% and 88%, respectively, of his individual itemized contributions from outside the state of Alabama.

Californians and New Yorkers have been Jones’ largest sources of funding, with the Washington, D.C. area and other liberal metropolitan strongholds like Chicago also playing major roles.

In addition to Sessions, the competitive GOP Senate primary field includes former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, Secretary of State John Merrill and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs).

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

6 hours ago

BCA names Kellie Hope director of regional affairs for South Alabama

The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) on Tuesday announced that Kellie Hope has been named director of regional affairs. Her primary focus will be the organization’s membership in South Alabama.

According to a release, Hope’s responsibilities will span from membership services to governmental affairs and will include creating opportunities for elected officials to learn more about the unique needs of the business community in this important region of the state. She will also be working closely with chambers of commerce in South Alabama.

In a statement, BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt outlined that Hope is an exciting addition to an already top-notch team.

“Kellie Hope is well known and well respected in the Mobile business community, and we are proud to have her join our team,” Britt said.

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“Her knowledge and relationships position her to be invaluable to BCA members in south Alabama and to help grow and serve our membership in this region of the state,” Britt continued. “This new position will give us the opportunity to provide boots on the ground while at the same time prioritizing membership services on a more local level.”

Hope expressed that she is “grateful for this opportunity.”

“I look forward to wearing the BCA jersey and being the consummate team player and a champion for BCA’s mission to further develop, empower and support the business community of south Alabama. I am honored by Katie’s friendship and her trust, and I am equally honored by the trust and approval of the BCA leadership,” Hope added.

Hope comes to BCA from the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, where she had served as vice president of community and governmental affairs since 2017. Prior to the chamber, she served as external affairs manager for Southern Light (now Uniti Fiber), developing local government relations across the Gulf Coast. Hope was responsible for legislative and regulatory issues impacting the fiber company in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Additionally, Hope has 10-plus years’ experience in the health care sector, including director of community services and communications for Tulane University Hospital; administrator and mental health coordinator for Cooper Green Mercy Hospital in Birmingham; and owner of the Louisiana Health and Wellness Group in Houma, LA, providing a partial hospitalization program for mentally ill adults.

Hope earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a Master of Social Work from Tulane University. Additionally, she is a graduate of Leadership Mobile in 2015 and Leadership Alabama in 2017 and currently serves on the boards of directors of Goodwill Easter Seals of the Gulf Coast, Dumas Wesley Community Center and Downtown Parks Conservancy.

Hope’s job at BCA is effective immediately. She will be based in Mobile.

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