We discovered a real “local” eatery today.

This area is loaded with all sorts of restaurants that cater to the ever-changing tourist groups. The two main highways contain the majority of the food places. The east-west Beach Blvd runs the entire length of the island along the ocean and then connects on the east side with a huge bridge to another island which is Perdido Key. Along there they have the hotels and condos, some chain stores and a lot of seafood places.

The north-south highway is State Road 59 and it is obviously the main way to get onto the island. It is a divided highway and runs for miles north. There is every conceivable chain restaurant you can imagine along with a sprinkling of seafood places.

Then there is “Hazel’s Nook”.

We have driven by this place dozens of times since it is located next door to the local Walmart. Their sign out front seems to rarely change and advertises their “World Famous” buffet. They are only open for breakfast and lunch. Every time we drive by it Art jokes that we have never heard of this famous place so we better check it out. It was all done in jest and we comment almost every day about the hand full of cars that seem to always be at Hazels.

Today we needed to go out and get some supplies so Art offered to go out to eat. Mary suggested Hazel’s – so now it was an adventure. Their sign advertised shrimp platters, PoBoy sandwiches or buffet. When we walked in the waitress announced she had our table ready, asked us what we wanted to drink and she left the table yelling “water-water” at the top of her voice. Since she didn’t offer us a menu we asked how we ordered but it became clear the buffet was the star.

Their salad bar consisted of a bowl of lettuce salad, coleslaw, cottage cheese and cucumber salad along with a few dressings. The food bar, on the other hand, had white rice, red beans with pork, huge flat green beans cooked with some pork in it, pork steak (there was a theme going on), sausage gumbo, turnip greens, mashed potatoes, fried chicken, fried fish, gravy and a spicy stewed tomatoes with peas. Of course there were biscuits and cornbread.

It wasn’t the food that was the main draw. The waitresses kept the place hopping. They seemed to know everyone who walked in and escorted them to their table. They would pick up a conversation that had apparently been going on for days and seemed genuinely interested. Most of these people must own homes because we overheard talk about gardens and bugs but none of the stories about heading back north soon that we’ve been hearing recently. The only mention of the spring break crowd was when one of the ladies waiting on a table announced in a loud voice that there had been a bunch of “youngins” in here earlier and they left a mess.

The entire time we were there was a steady stream of fairly old men shuffling in to pick up a carryout meal that was waiting for them. Sometimes there were 2 boxes and often there was just 1 takeout box. You couldn’t help but wonder about each of their stories.

Just before we left one of the waitresses declared rather loudly that their job was to “get you in, sit you down, fill you with a bunch of food and get you on your way”.

That seemed like a mission statement we could live with.