New restaurant has soul

Published 12:42 am Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The family behind Mama T’s restaurant – Lorel, Sandra, Desmond and Deionne – is ready to serve you lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Whether it’s their famous “hot water cornbread,” collard greens or fried chicken, one bite and one can taste the love flowing from the kitchen at Andalusia’s newest restaurant, Mama T’s.

In fact, that’s the exact mission behind the Flowers’ family restaurant, which opened Feb. 10 in the retrofitted Mendoza’s Mexican Restaurant location next to Goody’s with a customized buffet bar.

The menu is described as “home style cooking,” with daily menu specials of all the favorites – including baked and fried chicken, pork chops, fresh collards and turnips, neck bones, homemade macaroni and cheese, fresh vegetables galore and homemade desserts. Lunch prices run about $8, which includes a drink.

Named for the family matriarch, Miss Tiny, manager Desmond Flowers looked no further than the family tree to staff the restaurant.

“We’ve got everyone working here,” Desmond said. “There’s my mom, Momma T, and my dad, Lorel. My sister, Sandra, is the accountant. My other sister, Deionne, who graduated from culinary school, is our chef.

“Then, we got my Great Aunt Emma, who’s our head cook,” he said. “Man, that woman can cook. Her special is collards and hot water cornbread.”

And the list goes on – cousin Regina works in the kitchen; his Aunt Christine is the dessert queen and everyone else fills in where there’s a need, he said.

“I guess you could say they got their entrepreneurship from me,” said dad Lorel, a now-fulltime pastor with decades of restaurant experience, when he described how the family operated the Shiloh Country Kitchen in Elba until it was destroyed when a car ran through the restaurant. From there, they moved to the old Dottie’s Place in Enterprise until 2006, but left the restaurant business following the death of his mother.

“We kind of left the business; we lost our steam after she died,” Lorel said. That was until the family was recruited to Andalusia by property owner John Tisdale in late November.

“We met Mr. Tisdale and he asked us if we had any restaurant experience,” Desmond said. “We had no idea it would turn into this. Business has been phenomenal. It’s been amazing.”

Desmond said the family originally thought to locate in the old Verdict location on the Court Square, but judging from the lunchtime crowds, he said was glad of his decision to move into the plaza.

Open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. for lunch, there are plans in the works to open for dinner Thursday through Saturday for dinner and for “Mama T’s” Sunday lunch.

“We’ll get there,” Desmond said. “It’s been great. We’ve had numerous requests for dinner and Sunday lunch. We had people shaking the door on Saturday for lunch. I said, ‘I’m so sorry. We’re just here to cut up collards, but I hope you come back.’

“We couldn’t be happier right where we are,” Lorel said. “It’s all about family.”