By Christiana Roussel
Photos by Mary Fehr
Sit with Christie Lowe at her English Village restaurant for more than a minute, and the conversation is likely to stop and start a half-dozen times. Her smile is wide and bright as she greets regulars and new customers at the former Bobby Carl’s Table eatery. As the co-owner and manager of the revamped and rebranded dining spot, you can feel that her heart and soul call this place home.
Evelyn’s Southern Fare is the new name for the restaurant tucked in at the corner of Cahaba Road and Fairway Drive, behind the iconic Civitas statue. The moniker may have changed, but the food and service that have made this spot a local’s go-to is quite the same. The way Christie tells it, their time as Bobby Carl’s Table was a mere prelude to what they have become – staff-wise, menu-wise and hospitality-wise.
Christie, along with her husband, Tim, and one of his childhood friends, Trey McLemore, opened Bobby Carl’s Table in October 2019. Restaurant experience was scant between the three, but they divided duties and obligations in a way that made sense at the time. Christie is a natural organizer and task master, so she oversaw the daily operations. Tim had a full-time job already and was more of an investor. Kitchen operations fell to Trey. The menu evolved naturally, from the ways the three of them had been raised at grandmothers’ tables in Columbiana and Vincent, Alabama: lots of comfort food, meat-and-three specials, a commitment to local ingredients. Neighborhood residents found themselves dining in several times a week—the environment being easy and approachable. As Christie notes, “this community really supports local.”
When the pandemic began in early 2020, Bobby Carl’s Table was just beginning to hit its stride. Even with overwhelming community support, it felt like a complete sucker punch to this trio who had invested all they had into the venture. “The pandemic hit and changed the landscape of a lot of things,” Christie says. “It became clear that there were differences of opinion, about how we should move forward with this venture.” An agreement was reached where Tim and Christie became the sole owners of the restaurant, and part of this deal required a name change.
The family ties that bind remained strong, with grandmothers’ influences still evident. “Evelyn was my husband’s grandmother,” Christie explains. “She epitomized Southern graciousness and hospitality. At the center of our conversations on who we are and who we’ve become, Evelyn’s spirit was at the heart of that: gracious, loving, hospitable.” Evelyn’s Southern Fare is the natural next step in the life of this restaurant.
As Christie says, “The way we were pre-pandemic was embryonic in our growth.” Reopening was scary, when no one knew what this virus was exactly, how it traveled, and what was safe to do and what was not. Add to that, food shortages and supply chain issues, and Christie says her faith was tested. “I am strong in my faith and lean into it and trust in God. I truly believe it was God’s hand that kept us going, the timing was just so good.” She adds, “To see how, even in the hardest of times, you actually come out better. Where you end up, is so much better than where you were. We have such tunnel-vision and get stuck in wanting control, or listening to external opinions and expectations. It is so counterintuitive, but when you let go, everything is right there for you to have. We white-knuckle things, but when we can release, it is so good.”
She credits the city of Mountain Brook, her neighbors and the indomitable sense of community here with their success. “You want to talk about being in the right place and the right time? This city, this community really takes care of you.”
Resuming service was done with a skeleton crew at first, offering curbside meals. As time went on, customers began to request more hot meals, like the meat-and-three options they had come to crave. Everyone wanted comfort, and finding it nearby, in the form of delicious food, was something people clung to. “Our challenge then—and since—has been to adapt and overcome,” Christie says. “When we started offering curbside meals, it was at a time when the most comfort was needed. Adam Alfano was absolutely instrumental in getting us through those initial months of pandemic, but he was also working another job and I knew I needed a chef in the kitchen full-time.” Enter Chris Melville, who has been cooking in the area for about 30 years.
Christie’s face lights up even more when talking about the good fortune and divine timing of connecting with Chris: “He had been (working) at Dyron’s Lowcountry in Crestline, but with their staffing changes, he was looking for a new opportunity. Hiring him was the best decision I have ever made for this restaurant. What he brings to the table—no pun intended!—is absolutely stellar, conceiving and crafting dishes that blow us away. That breadth and depth of experience is something we didn’t even know we were missing until Chris showed up.”
Open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday-Saturday, the menu features updated versions of Southern favorites like fried catfish with McEwen & Sons grits, collards, squash casserole, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, and gravy. The Prime hand-cut ribeye is served with crisp potatoes, kale, truffle butter and a red-wine jus that is both sophisticated and familiar. Salads can be enjoyed with grilled chicken and feature house-made dressings. Be sure to save room for dessert, where homemade rum cake, white chocolate macadamia nut bread pudding and apple spice hushpuppies reign supreme.
The next chapter in the life of this English Village restaurant promises to be even better than the last. As Christie puts it, “We are exactly who you have always known us as, we are just changing our name. COVID changed a lot of things but for us, it didn’t change the heart of who we are and the caliber of food we put on the table. It is really hard work but it is the kind of work that when you lay your head down on your pillow at night, you can say, ‘I did something today.’ It could be connecting with a person, or meeting a specific goal but we do it all with integrity.”
A Taste of Evelyn’s Southern Fare
While the name of the English Village restaurant has changed, the heart and soul remain the same – gracious, approachable, Southern comfort food crafted with local ingredients when possible and made with love. Customer favorites include the Conecuh Corn Dogs, Fried Green Tomatoes, Alabama Collard Melt served on Breadworks Pumpernickel, and Sautéed Sunburst Trout with Gulf Shrimp & Andouille Étouffée. Sauces like honey Dijon, Dill Ranch and Classic Hot sauce are all made in-house.
Pimiento Cheese Recipe
At the restaurant, this pimiento cheese is served with pepper jelly and toasted sourdough.
- 1/2 cup cream cheese
- 4 cups shredded Tillamook cheddar
- 1/2 cup shredded Tillamook smoked cheddar
- 3 red bell peppers fire roasted, peeled and seeded
- 2 serrano peppers, fire roasted and chopped
- 1 cup Duke’s Mayonnaise
Place all ingredients into a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Blend on high speed for 30 to 60 seconds. Add salt and/or hot sauce to taste.