By Stacey Patton Wallace

Lake Martin has over 750 miles of wooded shoreline and was at one time, the largest man-made lake in the world. I was blessed to grow up only 10 minutes from Lake Martin and consider it to be the most beautiful lake in the great state of Alabama.

  Whenever I get to visit the lake, I really enjoy riding in a boat. To me, nothing relieves stress like sitting in the front of the boat, enjoying the wind in my face and watching the sun make the water sparkle. Any cares seem to melt away for the time being.

  However, several decades ago, Lake Martin was the scene of some of the most embarrassing moments in my life. And there have been many of them. For instance, many years ago, my parents and I visited my much older brother Jim, his wife Rita, my niece Lindsay and my nephew Ryan at Tony’s lake cabin; Tony is Rita’s brother.

  During that particular lake trip, Jim tried to teach me to water ski. I still remember his instructions: “Keep your knees together; hold your skis up straight; let the boat pull you up.” I tried to do as Jim advised, but I never stood up, not even once. Instead, on that afternoon, I drank about half of Lake Martin as the boat dragged me through the water. After that, I decided to stick to boating and swimming.

  To make matters worse, my niece Lindsay and nephew Ryan could water ski by age 5 and even learned to slalom. Therefore, my complete failure was pretty humiliating. However, it wasn’t the last such moment.

  On another trip to the lake, I observed people grabbing a long rope hanging from a tree, taking a running start and swinging over the water, their momentum carrying them back to the bank.

  This activity looked like fun, so I decided to give it a try, even though I was fully clothed and not wearing a swimsuit. Apparently, it takes a really fast running start to cause enough momentum to be able to swing you back to the bank. I wish I had figured that part out because when I swung over the lake, I lacked that momentum. Instead of swinging back to the bank, for a split second, I hung suspended in the air above the water. Then I dropped like a rock into the water; the last thing I saw was my brother Jim bent over laughing hysterically in the boat. He and his family had pulled up just in time to see my big splash. My timing has always been perfect. Again, after those two incidents, I stuck to boating and swimming.

  If you are going to Lake Martin, or even if you’re not, be sure to stop in and eat at the Poplar Dawg’s Eatery at 10277 County Road 34 in Dadeville. The restaurant first opened on Aug. 16, 1996. Then Jeremy Berry bought it on Jan. 1, 2018. I really love the casual atmosphere, and Berry and his staff are very welcoming and helpful.

  Awhile back, Mike, Mama and I went to lunch at the Poplar Dawg’s. The restaurant serves a large variety of delicious sandwiches, which come with chips. Mike chose the Grilled Cheese, which had cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. He said it was really good. Mama ordered the Club, which had Black Forest ham, smoked turkey bacon, melted cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on sourdough. She really enjoyed it; in fact, it was so good that she got a to-go box, something she almost never does. Mama doesn’t eat much, but she wanted the rest of that sandwich.

  I chose the Mabel, which had honey mustard, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato on French bread. Oh, my two times. Needless to say, I didn’t need a to-go box.

  Besides a large variety of sandwiches, the Poplar Dawg’s Eatery also offers delicious salads and blue plate lunch specials on Monday through Saturday.

  The Poplar Dawg’s Thursday night specials include ribs and prime rib. Fridays and Saturdays are charcoal-grilled steak nights; in addition, the restaurant serves boneless center-cut pork chops and lobster tails on those nights. Believe me, the steaks and pork chops are NOT to be missed.

  The Poplar Dawg’s Eatery is closed on Sunday. The restaurant is open on Monday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.

  The Poplar Dawg’s Eatery makes the grade with an A+ from this retired English teacher. Remember, “Pooh-sized” people NEVER lie about food. Enjoy!

  Stacey Patton Wallace, who retired from teaching language arts for 30 years, is a professional diner. Her column, “Making the Grade,” will appear each week in the Observer. Stacey may be reached at