If you had told me a couple of years ago that I would find myself in Foley, Alabama, twice in a lifetime, I would’ve said you were nuts. Yet, for the second time in my life, I indeed found myself in Foley, Alabama.
Foley is on the southern end of Alabama and sits along the Gulf Coast, making it a popular beach town. The coast line is loaded with hotels and beach home rentals, and on a sun-parched day, you can see beach-goers trundling their way back to their digs. I first went there on a cross-country trip (which I blogged about HERE) and I was there again recently during a day trip around the Gulf Coast.
I was visiting a friend for a long weekend and, despite the savage tornadoes that had hit nearby towns in the previous couple of days, the weather was absolutely gorgeous. So, we headed over to Mobile, went across Mobile Bay to a little town called Fairhope, and then down to Foley. We then shot across a long strip of land (much like Long Island and kind of shaped like a sideways stocking) that was occupied mostly by private beach homes. At the end of that peninsula, we caught a ferry over to Dauphin Island—another sleepy beach town, minus the tourists—then went over a bridge back to the mainland. It was the perfect day for a trip like that, the sea air was relaxing, and our minds and bodies got a much needed break.
But this is not a travel blog, it’s a food blog, right? So, let’s head back to Foley. On my last trip there, we encountered a place called Lambert’s Café. It caught our attention because the signage for the café boasts “Home of Throwed Rolls.” As a food writer, how could I not investigate? So, we went in and I ordered a box of throwed rolls to go (we were not inclined to eat at that point). I inquired of the clerk why they were called throwed rolls. I thought it had something to do with how they baked them, just like drop biscuits are so called because the batter is dropped onto a baking sheet. But the clerk replied, “Because they throw them at you.”
“Excuse me?” I thought I had misheard.
“They throw them at you.” She looked at me as if had just asked her where her red-headed child came from.
The order desk is a little off to the side of the main dining area in Lambert’s, so while I waited for my rolls, I casually walked a few steps over and peered into the dining room. Sure enough, Lambert’s wait staff was chucking hot rolls at the guests. Legend has it that Norman Lambert, son of the first owner, would walk around the original location (there are 3), and hand out the rolls. One day, it was so packed that Norman couldn’t get to everyone and one customer, anxious to get his roll, shouted, “Throw the dang thing!” It stuck and it’s been a tradition ever since.
Having a hot roll lobbed at you isn’t the most fascinating thing about Lambert’s, though. It’s the menu. Or, more precisely, what you get from the menu. Here’s how it works: You order something from the menu and choose your sides. In addition, Lambert’s staff walks around with bowls of different sides, such as fried okra, black-eyed peas, and potatoes. You can have as much of any of these sides as you want. And, of course, there are the carts of freshly baked, warm rolls.
By the time we finished our dinner, I had more food on my plate than when I started. It’s a slightly disorienting experience—kind of like when someone keeps filling your glass of wine every time you turn around, and when you turn back, you wonder where it came from and whether you had actually drunk any. Unfortunately, my camera is coming to the end of its lifespan and so my close-up shots of my plate came out fuzzy, but you can still see the amount of food on the dish. The beverage cups, by the way, are bigger than my head. Between the two of us, we had enough pink lemonade to take out and refresh us throughout the rest of our journey that day.
Is Lambert’s food the best of its kind that I’ve ever had? No, but it’s good, satisfying, and filling (very). It’s also a fun and funny place (the interior is much like Cracker Barrel) and the throwing around of rolls elicits laughter and joking. It’s also a good place to stop if you’re on the road because you can always take your leftovers and ensure another meal for yourself and save money. The rolls are the best part—they’re fluffy, warm, and addictive.
They also make their own sorghum molasses, which they offer to diners to spread on their throwed rolls. I bought a small jar the last time I was there and decided to splurge on the 2.7-pound can. Sorghum molasses is a little harder to find in New York than it is down South so I stocked up. (I stocked up with 5 lbs of pecans, too, while in AL, which prompted the TSA scanner guy at the airport to comment that I had a little food in my bag. I told him that it was just a snack.) Keep in mind that if you’re flying, you can’t take sorghum in the main cabin with you, unless it’s less than 3 ounces. Pack it in your checked bags.
Some famous customers who have patronized Lambert’s have been: Elvis Presley; Morgan Freemen; Jay Leno; Tanya Tucker; Clint Eastwood; Waylon Jennings; Tammy Wynette; and many more.
Lambert’s 3 locations are in Sikeston, MO; Ozark, MO; and Foley, AL. Their website is www.ThrowedRolls.com.
2981 S. McKenzie
Foley, AL 36535
In honor of Lambert’s, here’s a recipe for rolls with sorghum molasses. The recipe is on the Internet, posted by numerous people, but no one seems to know who the original source actually is. Spread them with sorghum molasses. Enjoy!
Yield: 12 rolls
1 teaspoon sugar
1 (1/4 ounce) package dry active yeast
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten (at room temp.)
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Combine sugar and yeast in 1/4 cup tepid water (105-110 degrees). Let stand 5-10 minutes until yeast begins to foam.
- Thoroughly mix milk, butter, sugar, egg and salt in large bowl.
- Stir in the yeast mixture and 3 1/2 cups of the flour, adding a bit more if necessary to make a soft, pliable dough.
- Turn dough out on floured board and let rest. Clean and butter the bowl.
- Knead dough gently 4-5 minutes, adding flour if necessary, until dough is smooth and silky.
- Return to bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in warm place until doubled in size about (1-1/2 hours).
- Butter a 12 cup muffin tin.
- Punch down dough.Pinch off pieces that are about 1 1/2 inches in diameter (enough to fill one-half of muffin cup). Roll each piece into smooth balls. Place two pieces in each muffin cup.
- Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap for 45 minutes.
- Bake rolls for 20-25 minutes, or until light brown.
- Serve as soon as they are cool enough to throw.