Sunday, February 5, 2006

Juliette, Georgia... Home of the Whistle Stop Cafe

A couple of years ago my family was traveling to Florida on a slightly circuitous route. We had to go pick up a family member in Atlanta first. So we would be going down on 75 South.

I had an inspiration after just finishing watching the movie, "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe". I had heard that the actual town it was filmed in was in Georgia somewhere. I also heard the cafe was truly there. It was an old railroad town.

The "Whistle Stop Cafe" book is loosely based on a real-life restaurant, the Irondale Cafe in Irondale, Alabama. The restaurant is still very much in operation and somewhat of a local tourist attraction, thanks to the novel and movie. But the movie was filmed in Juliette.

It was surprisingly hard to find. I found some references to a town called Juliette, which was 'closed down'. I could find no other information.

I was determined though and kept looking on maps until I finally found the town. It was listed as only being a mile or two off the highway so I asked Darling Hubby if he would please make a slight detour so that we could see the town.

There the adventure began. Come to find out, the sign for the town was missing going southbound. We never saw it at all on the way down to Florida. A few days later we headed back and as luck would have it, had to take the same route to drop off the Atlantan. There was the sign for Juliette!!!!!!!!!

Hubby was a sport and slammed on the brakes so that we could shoot off that ramp. Now mind you, it said Juliette, but nary a mention of Fried Green Tomatoes. After a mile we get to the end of the road. Had to turn right or left but no sign for the town. So of course we turn the wrong way. Hubby really was a sport and instead of getting back on the highway offered to try the other direction for a bit.

Miles from the turnoff we literally run into the town! It's right there in your face. No stop signs, no red lights, still nothing mentioning Fried Green Tomatoes.

But we pulled into the town, which in reality was no more than 8 buildings. We quickly realize that out of the 8 buildings, 6 were curio shops for the movie. They just hid it until you walk in. Then you can buy Whistle Stop Cafe souvenirs until your head explodes and your wallet is empty. Batter mix, post cards, stamps, t-shirts, fry pans, etc. The whole shebang.

We walk to the end of the street and there it is! The Whistle Stop Cafe! Just like in the movie! It was open and serving a full menu. Well people, we weren't even hungry but there was no way I actually found the town and the restaurant and wasn't going to eat there!

We had the Fried Green Tomatoes, of course, and chicken, meatloaf, greens, sweet tea, anything Southern and fried you could possibly want. We sat at the window booth where that sheriff that was hunting for the missing wife beater always sat. There were movie photos and posters everywhere. It was so exciting. I will tell you though, the food was very disappointing. Poorly done. My husband had a chance to go thru there a year later with a friend and they stopped and had lunch - he said the food was much improved, quite tasty, so I suppose it's possible we were there with a fill-in cook or some such thing.

After lunch we walked around to all the spots in the movie. The BBQ pit where quite possibly things besides pork were BBQ'd. We went to the resevior where you can walk out to the spot that Idgie, Ruth and Buddie crossed the dam (and there's no way they really did that - they would have been pushed right over the edge by the current, let me tell you!). We went to the railroad tracks where Buddy lost his life and Buddy Jr. lost his arm.

In about 45 minutes there was nothing more to see or buy and we got into our car and went off. I realize that nothing historical happened there (That I'm aware of), that it was nothing more than a dead town used to film a great movie, but it was fun to get out and "recognize" it.

Juliette is about 1 hour south of Atlanta off of I-75. It's 9 miles off the highway. It's still there, hasn't closed down if you feel like taking a side step.

If you have an urge to see the old town, and it's around lunchtime, pull off the road, have a bite and take a quick look around. (I'm not sure if they're open for dinner, I believe that's seasonal.)