As a little girl, I always had the task of helping set the table for supper. Placing the forks and knives beside plates and filling glasses with ice, was a normal daily activity for me and my siblings. Suppertime was spent at the dining room table, whether we liked it or not. As time passed and we grew up, this precious family time was lost. The hustle and bustle of life took over and little effort was put into making suppertime a priority. This is all too true for most families today. Over the decades, quality family meal time has been replaced with eating on-the-go, eating in front of the television, or skipping the meal all together. The Southern Dining Room & Grill provides a family friendly atmosphere, promoting efforts to bring back family meal time.

Owner, Jason Wortman says, “We have a goal to bring the family back to the table.” Research reports that family meals promote good emotional, intellectual, and physical health. Wortman is no novice in the restaurant industry, having years of experience running a local fast food chain. However, this restaurant venture reflects a more personal passion. The family’s strong Christian faith drives their mission of “putting Christian values into every meal.” Customers are greeted with evangelistic words of wisdom and enjoy contemporary Christian music as they dine. Ragged brick walls, which divide up the dining area, house faux windows and curtains mimicking a sense of Grandmas house. The menu is, of course, family style. Choose your meat then pick three, all you can eat, fixins for the whole table. Fried chicken, chicken fried steak, and pork chops, are a few southern staples that make up the menu.

Within minutes of settling into a booth, a basket of biscuits and gravy hit the table. No true southerner could resist pulling apart a big, flaky biscuit and drowning it in smooth country gravy. This was a delicious treat before the main course. The menu is small with a select few meats and sides. To break up the monotony, daily meat and side specials are offered in addition to the menu. My husband opted for the daily meat special, grilled pork chops, and I settled for the chicken breast. The table’s fixins were macaroni and cheese, green beans and collards. In a matter of no time supper was served. A bowl of fresh garden salad was brought for the whole table to enjoy. Cornbread accompanied the meals and was, by far, the best thing that landed on the table all night. This sweet cornbread was so soft that it melted in my mouth. It was disappointing not to find this same experience with the rest of the meal.

The fixins were bland. The macaroni and cheese was lacking cheese! It seemed to be replaced with a low quality cream cheese yielding a flavorless, dry, and chewy bite. I kept taking bites hoping it would get better, but it did not. Judging by appearance, the collards tasted just as expected-like salty canned collards. We had high hopes for the generous portions of meat. Yet again, taste buds were confused and very disappointed. The only way to consume the chicken was to submerge it in honey mustard. Majority of the meal was packed up in a to-go box that still sits in the back of my refrigerator. The meat and sides lacked quality and overall, flavor. On the plus side, the meal is very affordable. All you can eat sides really makes this a hard deal to beat. Cost per plate is $11.99 excluding a drink and dessert. The menu offers a shared plate option at $7.99 and a kid’s plate with drink for $6.99.

The Southern Dining Room & Grill is a nice, family oriented restaurant. The vision and mission for the business are noble and appreciated. Unfortunately, this may be the only thing going for them. Take the family and try it out for yourself. Tweet us @ThePlanetWeekly and let us know what you think!

The Southern Dining Room & Grill is located off HWY 359 at 4251 Courtney Drive Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35405.

Hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closed on Sunday and Monday.

Cindy Huggins is a registered dietitian nutritionist and locale “foodie”! Follow her on twitter @DietitianCindy.

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