For years I have traveled, both for work and pleasure. About ten years ago, I started a list called Lea’s List of Deliciousness (a.k.a. The List). It tracks restaurants that shouldn’t be missed from all over the United States. It’s a list that has been shared with colleagues and friends when they too, were traveling and needed to take clients out for a meal. Others are welcome to contribute to my List but there are rules.
1.) The food had to be great…not good, not pretty good, but awesome.
2.) If you were with a party, EVERYONE at the table had to agree it made The List….not the majority, but everyone. If one person had a bad bite, it couldn’t make The List.
3.) Take notes of what you have and why anyone should order it. Give me a recommendation. What do I just have to try?
My friends, family and colleagues have been steadfast contributors and together we have come up with some amazing places to eat, from swanky restaurants and road-side diners to outstanding food trucks.
J, my brother, and fellow adventurer happened to be in Huntsville, Alabama last week for a wedding and stumbled upon a local legend that he insisted make my List. I was skeptical since we hadn’t found anywhere in Alabama that has made my List yet. But J was so excited about his experience he called me to tell me all of the gritty details.
J and I are Northern born and bred, but that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate good Southern comfort food. As J saddled up to the counter at the Blue Plate Cafe, he cracked open a menu. He eyed the passing plates with envy. He knew he was in for something special, a kind of nostalgic diner experience.
Breana, his server, schooled him in the ways of the Blue Plate Cafe. For under $11 he could order the Blue Plate Special. She said they are famous for the “Meat plus 3.” Select your meat and choice of 3 sides. The meats vary depending on the day. J went on a Friday, so he was offered meatloaf, BB pork, southern fried chicken or chicken and dumplings. He settled on the meatloaf, and for his sides, he would choose the broccoli casserole, mashed potatoes, and peach cobbler.
J was in the Navy for over 25 years and moved from duty station to duty station. He said the Blue Plate Diner’s food reminded him of when he was young and going home with his southern friends for the weekend. They would bellying up to a plate of home-cooked deliciousness. “This food,” he said, “is exactly the kind someone’s grandma or mama would make.”
The meatloaf was tender, moist and not the least bit greasy. The sweetness and tang from tomato sauce topping was the perfect compliment. The broccoli casserole would convert any child with an aversion to veggies. Even the mashed potatoes and gravy were worth tucking into. Now, J is not a “peach guy,” but if peaches always tasted like the cobbler he would willingly change his mind. He said the way the peaches folded into the extra buttery dough made his eyes roll back with pleasure. “I don’t know what they did to them, but O.M.G!”
As J chatted with Breana, he asked her what else the Blue Plate Cafe was famous for. She said the Southern Fried Catfish is very popular. J ordered a filet, just to make sure she wasn’t “blowing smoke.” Turns out…she wasn’t. The catfish was delicious! It had a lightly breaded crust and was fried to golden brown perfection.
The Blue Plate Breakfast and The Big Blue are their most popular breakfast plates. They are classic diner breakfasts with sides like cheesy browns and are served every day. However, the Saturday “go-to” special is the Cocoa Biscuit served with butter and covered with homemade chocolate sauce. You can ONLY get it on Saturdays. J can attest to that. He was denied the pleasure of the Cocoa Biscuit because he was there on Friday.
Sure they serve other things besides the Blue Plate Specials, You can get a sandwich, soup or salad. (But honestly, where is the fun in that?)
People come in a Friday and order the meatloaf and find it’s so delicious they want to come back on Wednesday just to try the chicken fried steak. Pretty soon patrons settle into the days that serve their favorite dish, side or dessert. J says it’s just the kind of place you wanted to be a regular.
Chuck, a regular patron at the Blue Plate Diner, has been coming since the diner opened in 2003…two or three times a week for F I F T E E N years! He says it’s how he gets his vegetables. “By the way,” he tells J, “the Strawberry Shortcake is where it’s at. It’s the owner’s mother’s recipe and nothing comes close to it.”
Jennifer, the manager for 12 years, should be proud. She and her team keep the place clean and cracking. The service is warm and friendly (everyone answers to “dear”). The food is comforting, delicious, and hot. If you are ever in Huntsville, Alabama, the Blue Plate Cafe should not be missed. Tell them J sent you. It made The List.
We’d love to hear about your favrorite places to eat. If we check it out it might make The List.
The Blue Plate Diner
3210 Governors Dr SW, Huntsville, AL 35805
Hours: Breakfast 6a-10:30p | Lunch & Dinner 11a-8p
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