At the intersection of two remote farm roads in Madison, Alabama, beside cotton fields that stretch endlessly, a faded Coca-Cola sign stands on an old steel post, welcoming folks to the Greenbrier Restaurant. The flat-roofed, faded beige cinder block structure sits on Old Highway 20, just two miles off Interstate 565 but seemingly light years from civilization.
Wooden beams support low ceilings in the restaurant’s dim dining rooms. Dark paneling covers the walls, while vinyl tablecloths cover the sturdy wooden tables.
We sample the house specialty, the large barbecue pork dinner, a hefty half-pound serving of tender shredded meat for $6.95. The steaming entree arrives on a jumbo plastic platter, beside a baked potato and a mound of tart green slaw topped with a pair of dill pickle chips.
The combination plate—"this one's a lot of eatin'"according to the menu—includes a whole pen-raised catfish and two half-foot slabs of barbecued ribs for $10.95. The breaded catfish fillet tastes fresh and spicy, and our server kindly provides instructions on navigating the fish bones. Although they lack the “fall off the bone” tenderness, the Greenbrier ribs are meaty, if fatty, and tangy. A pile of soft French fries covers the remainder of the plate.
A series of squeeze bottles sits on each table, each one containing a signature sauce. “Only the ketchup isn’t homemade,” our waitress explains. I prefer the unusual mayonnaise and vinegar based white barbecue sauce and the traditional red barbecue sauce with the smoky edge. Louisiana hot sauce, Tabasco, and a spicy vinegar and pan-drippings sauce round out the lineup. Twelve to each basket, the complimentary hush puppies are crunchy and dark with a slightly sweet center. I enjoy several of them as dessert.
A representative from the visitor’s center in nearby Huntsville recommended the Greenbrier. She assured me that the restaurant attracts a local crowd. “Every Huntsvilleian knows about the Greenbrier,” she said. Every Huntsvilleian and, following today’s dinner, this satisfied Chicagoan.