Blue plate diners and cafés have been known for producing low-cost meat-and-threes since the early 1920s. We’ve all heard of “the blue plate special.” Maybe not, since the tradition of serving fast food on a blue plate has ceased, or has it? Bringing a little history and southern diner charm to town is The Blue Plate restaurant. Locals will recognize the location as the spot of the former Northport Diner. After the closing of Northport Diner in 2013, new owner Chris Bradshaw decided to bring in The Blue Plate. Bradshaw also runs two Blue Plate restaurants in Dothan, Alabama. Though there is a new name on the sign, nothing much has changed. The Blue Plate offers a casual dining experience fit for the family. The menu still offers a nice variety of traditional southern meals. Fortunately, these meals are good, yet the same cannot be said about my overall dining experience.
Ambience was a problem for me. Dingy, worn black and white checkered floors lead customers to a large dining area with diner-appropriate booths and tables. Bold blue, red, and yellow paint accent the walls. Art is limited, although, one wall possesses a grand arrangement of blue plates. Undoubtedly, this is a family place with the noise of conversation and babies crying. The tired atmosphere and loud crowd left me hesitating to order. The waitress, dressed in blue jeans and t-shirt, approached the table with laminated menus. The menu stays true to the blue plate tradition offering meat and vegetables with appetizers and dessert. While glancing over the options it was hard to find something that sounded appealing. The menu appeared boring and lacked originality. Reluctantly, I ordered “the local favorite,” country fried steak. Before our meal came a basket of stale cornbread and tiny biscuits were severed. My hopes of a good home-cooked meal was slowly slipping away.
On a positive note, meals were prompt. Remarkably, the country fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, and turnip greens looked extremely appetizing. Perhaps, it was the blue plate it was served on? Portions were adequate, with the steak filling half of the plate. Thick, white peppered gravy smothered the crispy country fried steak. It is important to point out the gravy. Southerners are picky about their gravy and have good reason to be. Nothing ruins a meal quicker than watery gravy soaking the plate. Viscosity is key! The first bite was savory and tantalizing. The steak was seasoned and fried beautifully rendering a golden brown color. Each bite was a nice balance of creamy and crunchy. But, the last bite is always my favorite. My goal is to create the perfect bite. I stab the last bit of steak and gravy with my fork and scrape up the remaining mashed potatoes and turnips. Simply delicious and satisfying. Ending the meal was a bowl of home-made banana pudding. Truly, home-made creamy pudding with vanilla wafers, topped with a touch of cream. This shared dessert was gone within a matter of minutes.
In the end, I did enjoy my meal. However, I was unimpressed with the tired atmosphere, noise level, and fast-paced servers. Pricing is fair with entrees ranging from $4.99 and up. They offer dine-in, carry-out, or drive-thru. If you want to skip the dining experience, you can order to-go and just enjoy the delicious food. Let us know what you think about The Blue Plate. Tweet us @ThePlanetWeekly. The Blue Plate is located at 450 McFarland Blvd., next door to Sportsman’s Outfitters. Hours of operation are Monday-Sunday 10:30 am — 8:30 pm.
Cindy Huggins is a registered dietitian nutritionist. Follow her on Twitter @DietitianCindy.

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