The Secret is in the Sauce at the Whistle Stop Cafe
Girls That Roam heads south in search of Idgie and Ruth to the famed Whistle Stop Cafe
By Heather Cassell
On a hot summer day like today, I can’t help but think about one of my favorite summertime movies, Fried Green Tomatoes, and the adventures of Idgie and Ruth.
Nearly 25 years later I still cry and laugh at the same spots in the movie. I was so excited to go to the real The Whistle Stop Café during a recent trip to the Peach State.
Yes, the movie was filmed at the real Whistle Stop Café (443 McCrackin Street; 478-992-8886; TheWhistleStopCafe.com) located next to the freight train tracks that still operates today in the small town of Juliette, Georgia.
The Whistle Stop Café was made popular by the movie Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, which was adapted to the silver screen by the novel’s author Fannie Flagg. The book and film follow the lives of Imogene “Idgie” Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison and the rest of the Threadgoode clan during the Depression Era 1930s. The stories about Idgie and Ruth is narrated by Ninny Threadgoode, who married one of the Threadgoode boys, that inspires and empowers an unhappy middle-age housewife Evelyn Couch living in the 1980s. The stories weave around each other through flashbacks.
The Whistle Stop Café was bought by Idgie’s father for Idgie to support Ruth and her son, Buddy, after Idgie takes Ruth away from her abusive husband.
The Secret Is In the Batter
Everything, except the hamburgers, is fried at The Whistle Stop Café. Of course the first thing we ordered as guests of the Georgia Tourism was the Fried Green Tomatoes. How could we not? We also ordered Fried Okra, Fried Peppers, and just so we didn’t have a heart attack we got a cheese burger.
It was fried goodness. The green tomatoes are dipped into a spicy pancake batter that lightly coats the tomatoes. They are then dipped into the fryer and pulled out with a sweet and spicy crust. The crust is light and airy but holds all of the juices of the tomato inside its delicate skin. The fried green tomatoes are served with a special radish sauce.
However the fried okra and peppers were also delicious sides to our burger, which was juicy and grilled to perfection.
The Whistle Stop Café also serves up salads and sandwiches along with BBQ and other down home Southern cooking.
This Southern classic is all housed in an old wood building filled with booths and tables with a counter making a horseshoe in the center of the single room eatery. Framed historic pictures of Juliette and posters of the famed film hang on the walls along with antique objects. It’s rustic in the best sense and still woman-owned.
More than a decade ago, Elizabeth Bryant bought The Whistle Stop Café in the historic and now famous town that boasts of having the largest zip code in Georgia. She retained the rustic character and updated the menu and of course highlighted the famed Fried Green Tomatoes.
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However, as cute as the Whistle Stop Café is the diner is Hollywood’s café, not Fannie Flagg’s café. Fannie, who wrote the novel and the screenplay to the movie Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (Ballantine Reader’s Circle), loosely based it on her beloved aunt Bess Fortenberry’s café, the Irondale Cafe in Irondale, Alabama. Her aunt Bess served as the inspiration for the character of the irrepressible tomboy Idgie Threadgoode, played by Mary Stuart Masterson, in the movie. Through Idgie, Fannie was able to recreate her aunt’s life based on a shoebox of mementos after she passed, Fannie says in a 1999 interview, according to Turner Classic Movies.
“This was all that was left of the sixty-nine years of my Aunt Bess, who had been such a vital and loving giving person while she had been alive,” says Fannie. “I wanted to recreate a life from that shoebox.”
The Irondale Cafe also still operates today.
Juliette is a sweet little town the size of one city block off of Highway 23 in Monroe County in Georgia between Atlanta and Savannah. However, busloads of tourists flock to it like a bee to honey to taste its famed fried green tomatoes, go to the annual Fried Green Tomatoes Festival in October, and to soak in the deep fried southern charm.
It’s also a very popular spot to stop off at for motorcyclists enjoying a summertime ride or ride through the fall foliage.
Juliette was founded in 1821 as Glover, but was later changed to Juliette, was a bustling little town that was home to cotton and other mills carrying goods on the railway that was built in 1882 to the big cities. This was all before industrial changes virtually made the rural town a ghost town by the 1950s.
Juliette found fame again because of the beloved movie starring Mary and Mary-Louise Parker, who played Ruth, not to mention Kathy Bates, who played Evelyn; Jessica Tandy, who played Ninny; Chris O’Donnell, who played Buddy Threadgoode; Cicely Tyson, who played Sipsey; and many other notable actors.
As I mentioned before, busloads of travelers flock to The Whistle Stop Café so reservations are a must either with a tour company or on your own. The other option is to show up early before the doors open at 11 a.m. The Whistle Stop Café is open Monday – Sunday until 4 p.m.
And one last sweet tidbit about Juliette, lovers can get their Valentine’s postmarked in Juliette in February. A tradition since 1994 that Juliette, Georgia shares with the town of Romeo, Michigan in honor of Shakespeare’s famed play, Romeo and Juliette. I think Idgie and Ruth would have loved this!
THE DIRTY DISH
The Whistle Stop Café, 443 McCrackin Street, Juliette, Georgia 31046. 478-992-8886. Email. TheWhistleStopCafe.com.
TYPE OF RESTAURANT: Woman-owned, Southern Cooking, Deep Fried
RATING: 3 = Aqua
(0 inedible – 5 simply scrumptious)
AMBIANCE: It’s a rustic country diner.
SCENE: Expect to see local mill workers and farmers dining beside the tourists, but that’s part of what makes it charming along with the trains that run by the café.
SERVICE: Southern hospitality straight out of the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.
NOISE LEVEL: Just like in any other diner, plates and utensils clang together as guests chatter and eat.
RECOMMENDED DISHES: Fried Green Tomatoes but also check out the Fried Okra and in spite of not trying it ourselves the BBQ.
SIP: Soda pop or lemonade. You can’t go wrong.
CHECK, PLEASE: $$ = $10 – $20
(price of average dinner/lunch/breakfast/brunch bill for an individual dinner)
THE EAT: The Fried Green Tomatoes were fabulous, but there was something extra about dinging at a place made famous by a beloved movie.
WORTH THE NIGHT OUT?: This was delicious!
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