Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bay Diesel and Swamp John's

In Red Bay, Alabama...

Yesterday we drove Phannie out to Bay Diesel for its annual engine service check, which included an engine oil change and replacement of the oil and fuel filters. I also asked them to check the belts on the engine. They found one that was suspicious and changed it, after which they lubed the chassis. I was very impressed with their work.  
Bay Diesel; not much to look at, but very competent folks.
Bay Diesel is only one of a number of service centers of various kinds that have formed a cottage industry here in Red Bay to support the vast number of motor homes that transit this place, and we will be making use of several of them, as you will see from future posts.

We also made our first visit to Swamp John’s.  This is a cafe that has been fashioned from an old gas station a few miles east of town on the Russellville highway. It is a ramshackle place, utterly devoid of any eye appeal to a customer and nothing on the exterior that would indicate the nature of the business. A small faded sign on the front of the canopy merely read, “Swamp Johns.”  While the gas pumps had been left in place, it was obvious they were not operational, as most were askew or rusted, and some of the hoses were missing.  The price we saw on one of the pumps was $2.23 per gallon, so its operation as a gas station had ceased some time ago. There was a small picnic table under the front canopy but no “open/closed” sign. A bulletin board was affixed to the outside wall adjacent to the entrance door where patrons had posted their business cards or flyers describing something for sale or a service available. One of the flyers advertised "Cartaking-All Ages."  (I'm assuming the author was talking about child care and not auto theft.) 
Swamp John's

Due to its run-down appearance, we would just have driven on by this place, assuming it was abandoned, if we had not heard about it and read about it in the Tiffin forum. 

Once inside, we received a friendly greeting (as we always do in these parts) from Edna, our waitress, and another woman whom we assumed was the cook.  We had come for breakfast, which was wonderful and cheap, the highlight of which were the homemade biscuits, which were possibly the best we have ever eaten. I would go back there for the biscuits alone! 

We also enjoyed the primitive wall art, a photo of which I included below. I get the alligator/chef (the alligator's chef outfit is not easily discernible) and the order ticket carousel, but I can’t quite figure out the dead bird lying in the plate.  “Swamp John’s” spelled out with snakes is something I don’t think I seen anywhere before. I liked the art very much, but I couldn’t help but wonder at the mindset of the artist. He or she could have been any combination of genius, whimsical or troubled. Of course, the same could be said of yours truly, whose musings about it probably lean more toward troubled.  I was also struck by the adjacent wall calendar, proudly showing the local county sheriff and all of his deputies. This is obviously a law and order place, and I got comfort from that.

Another bit of serendipity was the appearance of "chocolate gravy" on the menu.  We had seen this at other local restaurants, so I asked Edna about it. She said it was a fairly popular item, generally poured over biscuits. Naturally, we had to check this out, because that combination would seem to be an acquired taste.  It was.  The chocolate gravy was the consistency of  thin chocolate pudding.  The biscuits and chocolate gravy were good by themselves, but we just couldn't figure out the appeal of pouring the chocolate over the biscuits.  Oh well..

Swamp John’s -- great quirky charm and great southern cooking, done on the cheap. Don’t miss it!

1 comment:

  1. I love it when we find quirky places like that, that don't look like much but come highly recommended. We often use the ROADFOOD book to seek them out.


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