Making the Grade: On the Road to Grady, Alabama

Mr. Red, center, smiles with his staff at the beloved Red's Little School House Restaurant. PHOTOS BY MIKE WALLACE / FOR THE OBSERVER


As I’ve often mentioned in this column, I love to eat, but I dislike cooking intensely. Therefore, family and friends who love to cook and are talented at the culinary arts hold a special place in my heart.

One such person, who meets the above listed criteria, is our friend Bonnie. She and her husband Virgil are members of our church family at Central Baptist Church of Opelika.

Recently, Bonnie and Virgil invited Mike, me and four other church family members to eat lunch (dinner) at their house after church services.

Bonnie, who is an A+ cook, served two meats, two desserts and about 20 sides. Well, I exaggerate somewhat. She served roast, pork tenderloin, crock pot corn, mashed potatoes, rice, green beans, congealed salad, rolls, coconut cake and cherry o’ cream pie. All of it was slap-your-grandma-two-times good.

I told Bonnie that on the RARE occasions when I cook for company, I serve ONE meat, TWO sides, bread and ONE dessert. Bonnie said, “I like for people to have choices.” There you go; that’s what A+ cooks do.

After lunch (dinner), I asked Bonnie if she would consider opening up a meat ‘n three restaurant. Unfortunately, she said, “No.” Oh, well. You can’t blame a “Pooh-sized” girl for trying.

Since I love Southern cuisine, recently Mike and I joined our new friends Rich, Mona and Mickie to eat at Red’s Little School House Restaurant at 20 Gardner Road in Grady, Alabama.

Back in November, Mike and I had met Mona, her daughter Zara and Mickie when we ate at Martin’s Restaurant in Montgomery. Those three gals were entertaining Bama fans who were kind when they saw me in my Auburn shirt.

When I mailed my column to them, Mona and Mickie sent us Christmas cards. They also mentioned that we should eat at Red’s so that I could write about it.

Now, I had never heard of Grady, which is about 40 miles south of Montgomery. Thankfully, Mike and I met Rich and Mona at a parking lot in Montgomery so that Rich could drive us there.

Boy, were we glad he did. Grady is a small community of 1,700 people and is in the beautiful Alabama countryside; that meant that the cooking would be outstanding.

Mona knew the restaurant’s history. She told us that the restaurant was an actual school when it opened in 1903; the school closed in the 1960s. Then, Mr. Red Deese, who was originally a barber, opened Red’s Little School House Restaurant in the building in 1985.

Mike and I were fortunate to meet Mr. Red that day. Mr. Red, who is 90 years young and as sharp as a tack, is a charming, Southern gentleman and was so kind to let us bother him at lunch (dinner). Also, I really admired his unique Auburn baseball cap.

After Mr. Red retired from running the restaurant, his daughter Debbie took over. In 2022, Debbie retired, so the restaurant closed.

“People went crazy on social media when Red’s closed,” Mona said. Therefore, Red’s grandchildren reopened the restaurant, much to the delight of regular customers, I’m sure.

But on to my review. Red’s Little School House Restaurant has a buffet, and diners may also order off the menu. Our group elected to dive into the buffet.

Allison and Jillian, our servers, were wonderful, attentive, friendly and helpful. I loved the rustic charm of the former school house. As a retired teacher, I was naturally drawn to it.

At the buffet, we chose from a plethora of Southern delicacies such as fried chicken on the bone (prepared the way God intended), chicken and dumplings, sweet potato soufflé, corn, boiled okra (My Grandma Patton called it “okrey.”), butter beans, black-eyed peas and fried cornbread. I was especially excited to see the boiled okra; I really like it, but not many restaurants cook it. The fried cornbread was amazing. Every Southerner knows that anything fried just tastes better.

Oh, my two times. Our meal was outstanding. To top it off, Mike and I shared a piece of lemon ice box pie. Mona took home some chocolate pie to enjoy later. Red’s also gets bonus points for serving Diet Dr. Pepper.

Run and do not walk to Red’s Little School House Restaurant in Grady. It’s definitely worth the trip, and you can enjoy some beautiful Alabama countryside. Bonnie and Virgil, this review was for you. Love you bunches.

Red’s Little School House Restaurant is open on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Red’s Little School House Restaurant 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 every other week in The Observer. Stacey may be reached at


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