Making the Grade: On the Road to Lanett, Alabama



Back when my husband Mike and I were teachers in LaGrange, Georgia, we traveled to 202 S. Gilmer Ave. in Lanett, Alabama, quite often to dine at El Rio Grande, our favorite Mexican restaurant on the planet.

  Even when we moved to Auburn in November of 2015, we continued to eat at El Rio Grande, often on late Friday afternoons after leaving Long Cane Middle School. Since Lanett is on Eastern or fast time, we arrived there at about 4:30 p.m. Eastern. Now, I know that that sounds really early, but I had eaten lunch at 10:50 a.m. Eastern (That’s 9:50 a.m. Central, or God’s time; we called it brunch.).  Also, as I’ve mentioned before, Mike usually didn’t eat lunch, so we were ravenous by that time.

  Incidentally, I’ve always thought it was ridiculous that my beloved home state of Alabama is in two different time zones when we’re the 28th state in geographic size. In my opinion, ALL of Alabama should be on Central Time, including that sliver of the eastern side of the state.

  My sweet husband told me that cities such as Lanett, Valley, Phenix City, etc., were on Eastern Time because many people who lived there actually worked in Georgia, which is on Eastern.

  Big deal; they would adjust, as did we. We lived geographically in the Central Time Zone but worked on Eastern Time. However, I don’t think the lawmakers in Montgomery will go for my idea. But, I digress.

  Awhile back, Mike, our sweet friend Lynda and I went to dine at El Rio Grande. Besides being one of the best Christian women I know, Lynda, as I’ve mentioned before, is an AMAZINGLY talented pianist at our church, Central Baptist of Opelika, and, bless her heart, she is teaching me to play. However, I’ve been playing the piano for a little over a year, while Lynda has been playing for about 58 years. Therefore, in education terms, I’m in Pre-K, and Lynda has several Ph.D.s. Also, Lynda has great taste in restaurants because she loves El Rio Grande as much as we do.

  When we arrived, we, of course, requested to sit in Jose’s, a.k.a. “Nacho’s” area. Jose is the best. server. ever. Also, he’s so sweet and helpful; in addition, he has the most amazing memory for remembering what we love to order.

  For our appetizer, we, as usual, ordered El Rio Grande’s delicious cheese dip with our chips and salsa. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a serious dripper. Well, I really outdid myself that evening. An outline of cheese dip decorated the table as I tried valiantly to mop up my mess.

(Remember, I love alliteration.)

  For his entrée, Mike ordered his favorite dish, burritos bravos with beef (Diners may also choose chicken.). This dish consists of two beef tip burritos covered with cheese sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and guacamole. However, Mike asked Jose to hold the lettuce, tomato and guacamole. I know; I don’t understand leaving out those three delicious items either, but I love him anyway.

  I also chose my favorite dish, No. 55 — chicken fajita quesadilla (Diners may also choose steak.). This dish includes chicken with melted cheese, tomatoes, onions and bell pepper. This girl orders it all the way: with guacamole, pico de gallo and sour cream.

  Since I raved over this dish, Lynda ordered it, too, but with steak instead of chicken. Oh, my three times. As usual, our food was too delicious to describe. I’m ready to go back there now just writing about it.

  Now, since we commuted for four years, three months and two weeks up and down I-85 before we retired in 2020, we aren’t too fond of that particular highway. However, trust me; El Rio Grande is worth the trip.


  Besides our delectable cheese dip appetizer, El Rio Grande also serves diners: nachos with beans, cheese or beef, nachos supreme, guacamole dip, bean or beef dip, Mexican guacamole, choriqueso and chorizo dips. In addition, the restaurant serves a large variety of salads and soups. Last, as the menu says, “If variety is the spice of fine dining, then El Rio is sure to please, with over 140 food dishes to choose from.” I couldn’t agree more. Run and do not walk to El Rio Grande. Lynda, sweet friend, this one was for you; we love you!

  El Rio Grande is open on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Eastern Time); on Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Eastern Time)

  El Rio Grande 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


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