While Brad Southern’s wife, Rebecca, managed the new Mexican restaurant in Ohatchee on its opening day earlier this month, Southern said he stayed home to look after his two sons, when they decided they’d stop in for a bite to eat and see how things were going.
“I couldn’t even find a place to park,” Southern said of the restaurant’s first day on Jan. 8. “We ended up just going to the pizza place across the street.”
Southern has since had a chance to have a meal in his new place on Alabama 144, but things have hardly slowed down in the three weeks since he, his wife and wife’s parents, Jan and John Dyer, opened Los Abuelos near downtown Ohatchee.
“It’s been pretty much non-stop,” Southern said Friday afternoon from the restaurant. “It’s actually surpassed our expectations so far.”
Southern said he and his wife moved to Ohatchee from Trussville eight years ago to be close to Rebecca’s parents, who retired to the small Calhoun County town. Southern said they had dreamed of opening a restaurant in their adopted hometown, but had to wait as the location near the intersection of Alabama 144 and Alabama 77 went through a host of different owners.
“I think we wanted to bring a different kind of class of restaurant to Ohatchee,” Southern said. “There’s really nothing else like this out here.”
Through word of mouth and social media, Southern said the restaurant has attracted customers from places such as Lincoln, Ragland and Gadsden, but gets most of its business in town.
“This is the first day since we opened the Alabama Power guys weren’t here,” Southern said about employees from the company working at Neely Henry Dam, just down the road from Los Abuelos. “We do takeout orders, and there are some houses we’re delivering to every single night.”
One of those repeat customers, Joyce Pruitt, said on Friday she was already on her third visit to Los Abuelos.
“The food is incredible, and it’s right here in town, which is nice,” said Pruitt, who lives in Ohatchee. “I could see eating here everyday.”
Ohatchee Mayor Steve Baswell, whose office at Town Hall is just down the road, said he hasn’t driven by the place once without seeing the parking lot full.
“I think folks are just excited to have more options,” Baswell said. “You just got Jack’s and Ohatchee Pizza, I think it’s great to have another place to go out to eat.”
It’s not just convenient for customers. Ohatchee resident Eleshea Gladden got a job at Los Abuelos on opening day, partly to cut down on her commute.
“I was working in Oxford at Hardee’s and a friend of mine told me this was opening,” Gladden said while wiping down some tables on Friday. “So I thought I should get a job here. It’ll be a lot easier and closer to home.”
Southern said he expects things will slow down once the new-restaurant appeal wears off, but said being one of the few places for some miles with on-premises alcohol sales should keep Los Abuelos a popular spot for locals. The restaurant is working to secure an alcohol license to serve margaritas with its tacos and burritos.
Los Abuelos is open six days per week starting at 10:30 a.m. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.