Over Thanksgiving weekend, I had the opportunity to eat at one of my all-time favorite restaurants: The Yellowhammer in Waverly, AL. After a not-so-painful football loss to Alabama in Auburn, my mom and I were looking for some grub, but also looking to get the heck out of town before traffic became unbearable. I believe my parents originally discovered Yellowhammer in a similar manner- they have a large billboard with a great design concept off 280 (the route from Auburn to Birmingham) that any foodie would be intrigued by.
To appreciate The Yellowhammer, one must take a second to learn a little bit more about Waverly, AL. Or more precisely, discover that there is little to learn about this town. Look it up on Google Maps, and it has one crossroad. Read the Wikipedia article and discover this little nugget of information: population in 2004 was 180 people. So how does a fine dining restaurant exist in such an environment? Waverly is located about 20 minutes away from Auburn, AL, another small town in Alabama that just so happens to be where I went to college. With any college town comes a set of highly educated, typically creative, and therefore more likely set of people to frequent a restaurant like The Yellowhammer. The restaurant also has the benefit of being located just off the busy Highway 280, which is one of 2 main arteries from Auburn to Birmingham and vice versa. I’m sure many other fans discovered this gem the same way my family did: driving by the sign and being just too curious not to follow the arrow.
The space itself is perfect in my mind. Exactly how I would furnish my own restaurant if I were to open one. I believe the building used to be an old Ford dealership and they’ve kept the structure virtually the same. It has a very open, loft-like feel but it is still super cozy. The best seats in the house are the small, lofted tables for two. And don’t miss the bathroom, which is basically a glorified outhouse. Small town charm…
Now on to the food. The Yellowhammer consistently puts out great food. Not just great for a small town, but food that can stand up to restaurants in both of the larger cities I have lived in. The food as a whole is not particularly groundbreaking in relation to what is going on in restaurants around the country (save for the desserts… more on that later), but considering the location, the quality of what they are putting out is positively amazing.
On this particular night, our meal consisted of the following:
Mom had the Filet that was topped with a similar (or possibly the same) bordelaise sauce that also topped my lamb, red potatoes and asparagus.
Now for dessert. Dessert has always been, in my opinion, the hallmark of dining at The Yellowhammer. They serve a trio of homemade ice creams with homemade butter cookies each night, and have been since I started going frequenting the restaurant. The ice creams change every night, and have included flavors like Honeysuckle, Cardamom, Strawberry, and Lavender. I realize such interesting flavors aren’t uncommon in high-end restaurants around the country these days, but would you believe that a restaurant in tiny Waverly, AL was the first place I had seen this practice?
On the night we visited, the ice cream selection seemed a little bland considering what the chef had been capable of in the past, so I decided to go with another favorite- the Creme Brulee. Except they changed it! What was formerly served was what they called a “Catalan-Style Creme Brulee.” If I remember correctly, I believe it had bay leaf and lemon in it. Sounds unusual, but it had just the right undertone of “What is that flavor?” to make it special. However, The standard Creme Brulee I was served on this particular night was so great that I didn’t miss the former incarnation one bit.
If you ever are in East Alabama, please check this restaurant out. Even as I have moved on to the fourth-largest city in the country, I still have a soft spot for The Yellowhammer. The little guys need all the help they can get these days!