Food for thought: Value in Vandiver

VANDIVER — It’s out there. Ok, no, it’s way out there. But Debbie and Mike Blackerby have created an oasis in Vandiver for the growling stomachs of hungry passers-by.

Mike and Debbie’s Diner opened three years ago after the couple decided to move back to Debbie’s hometown.

“When I was growing up it was always one of my dreams,” Blackerby said of the more than 30 years she’s spent in the restaurant business. “It’s been a life-long thing for me.”

Blackerby said she started cooking when she was about 4 by standing in a chair next to her grandmother, while she cooked over the stove. After that she cooked on a regular basis for her family of eight. Now, she cooks for her extended family of patrons.

ATMOSPHERE

Mike and Debbie’s operates as a no fuss diner. The restaurant consists of two rooms with marker boards on the walls listing the day’s specials and the long list of regular menu items. With enough seating for about 40 people, just about everyone who walks in the door sees someone they know.

“These people like for you to kid and carry on with them,” Debbie said. “And that’s basically what happens.”

Blackerby said even when the restaurant isn’t open for business there is often a crowd outside singing karaoke on the weekends.

MENU

The restaurant opens early to serve up and extensive breakfast menu that includes omelets, biscuits and gravy, eggs, sandwiches and more.

Her lunch menu draws a decent crowd, too, with chicken fingers, BBQ sandwiches, chicken livers and hamburger steak. Most customers will tell you off the bat to try the cheeseburger, made from fresh ground beef.

Blackerby said she makes sure that no customer walks out feeling over-charged. No meal runs more than $8; even the ones that cost that much come with a drink, dessert and tax included.

SERVICE

As mentioned before, Blackerby focuses on customer service. All of the current employees have worked there for at least a year and a half so just about everyone who walks in the door is a friend.

Blackerby said she doesn’t want her customers to pay too much or feel out of place. She said it didn’t take long to get the business going and credits those to two things.

“My good cooking for one; it’s the only thing it could be,” she said with a laugh. “And people know me, so good word of mouth helps.”

FIND IT

Alabama Highway 25

Vandiver, AL

672-3377

Hours: Monday-Friday, 5 a.m.-2 p.m.; Saturday, 6 a.m.-11 a.m