By Stephen and Kate
Shashy’s Bakery and Fine Foods, over on Mulberry Street across from the bridge club and gun shop, is the kind of place you’d take an out of town visitor before they went home. A fantastic brunch just seems like the right way to put a loved one on the road, fond memories of Montgomery in their head and tasty brunch foods in their stomach.
It’s also the kind of place you’d go for a leisurely lunch with good friends during the work day. It’s the kind of place where you can stop in and get a fresh baked loaf of bread, a pie, or just a little something to satisfy your sweet tooth. It is also (and perhaps most importantly) a place where every booth has its own personal chandelier and they know better than to dye the key lime pie some horrible shade of fake green.
This is a place where you want to be exchanging money for food.
It’s a simple pattern: Every time we eat at Shashy’s we try to figure out why we don’t eat there more often. Their breakfast-to-brunch menu is outstanding, they have lots of healthy vegetarian and fish-based options and the fried green tomatoes are delightful. In addition to their regular lunch menu, they offer rotating daily specials. On a recent visit, we had the veggie plate made with vegetables from the curbside Farmer’s Market right here in town: squash, black-eyed peas, green beans and cornbread. We added catfish (it came with what might be, seriously, a Platonic-type ideal of tartar sauce) to make the plate almost $12. We also got the salmon salad, which was a fillet perched on a big green salad with almonds and goat cheese (also about $12).
The salmon salad was bigger and better than the similar entree at Cool Beans. The fish combined with the salad to taste fresh and light, and the goat cheese made the meal seem luxurious and fancy somehow, but not at all pretentious.
The catfish was quite good, but had two marks against it. First, there seemed to be an equal ratio of fried batter to actual fish. The batter was good (light and flaky, but it added more bulk to the cut of fish than was needed. Secondly, for a $12 plate, you kind of felt like you should have gotten another piece of fish. The meal was filling, but that had more to do with the fist-sized wedge of cornbread than the other items.
The green beans had chunks of ham in them, which used to be something we would overlook as a regional fact of life when living in the South. However, when we realized that even a down-home and country place like Martin’s could take the time to put an asterisk on the menu next to the veggies that were prepared with meat, we realized that it’s really not all that much of an effort to make to at least inform diners that they may have to compromise on their ethics (or religious convictions) if they want to order certain dishes.
There was a sign in the bakery counter display case that said “OMG Best Key Lime Pie Ever.” We had a slice and it at least deserved the OMG. As noted, this is not some food-coloring slab of tourist sugar sold at some Jimmy Buffet-themed beach trap. This is the real deal. It’s lime-infused, super tart, sweet, and comes shrouded in a crust that is criminally absent from the Department of Tourism’s highly-debatable List of 100 Alabama Things to Eat Before You Die.
The service is great. The servers know their sections, and breeze in to refill your tea without pestering you about your satisfaction levels with your current cup contents. The use of different colored glasses for sweet and unsweet tea makes this a simple task and their professionalism and attention was appreciated.
The decor is artful without being flashy. The wealth of natural sunlight is a particularly rare treasure, particularly (for some reason) in Montgomery, where people seem to associate darkness with elegance. It’s also a functional place, housing a hidden bakery from which are produced many coveted treats.
And again, we left lunch saying, “Why don’t we go here more often?”
Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a dog, a cat, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.