Or, if the book is fiction how can the Whistle Stop Cafe be real? Especially when Fannie Flagg is from Alabama and set her novel not far from Birmingham? Those were the questions I found myself thinking, if not actually asking out loud, when the Younger Daughter asked if we were close enough to the Whistle Stop Cafe to go have lunch there. Turned out she knew it was a real place because co-workers back in Texas told her they ate there almost every day while detailed to the Oconee National Forest a year or two ago. So I Googled it -- and sure enough, there it was: Whistle Stop Cafe, Juliette, Georgia, complete with fried green tomatoes on the menu. Younger Daughter had never had fried green tomatoes, Fried Green Tomatoes is one of her favorite movies, and Juliette is a reasonable driving distance from Atlanta.
Answer to why the Whistle Stop is in Georgia and not in Alabama: it's where the producers chose to film part of the movie. They found a milltown (Juliette) in the middle of rural Georgia to serve as the set, leased a building that was being used as an antiques store to function as the Whistle Stop Cafe, and inspired the owners of the building used as the Whistle Stop to actually run it as a restaurant once the movie wrapped and left town. The surprising thing is that the movie came out 17 years ago, and the Whistle Stop is still going strong.
So how was the food, you ask? Edible, more or less. We did the fried green tomato appetizer, of course, the tomatoes being one of the reasons for going there to begin with. Six Feet Under in Atlanta does them better. The S.O. had the blue plate special, which wasn't. The chalkboard described the cooked-to-the-point-of-qualifying-as-jerky pork chop as "stuffed," but the last time I checked a cookbook dumping a small ice cream scoop's worth of StoveTop and gravy on top of a paperthin porkchop didn't count as stuffing it. (The stuffing may have actually been made on site rather than pre-fab, but there was nothing noteworthy about it. The S.O. described it as "basic.")
Younger Daughter and I both tried the pulled pork barbecue, she got a side of onion rings with hers, I opted to go for the cheaper version with chips. Again, nothing special, although there was a generous amount of dead animal flesh heaped on the bun -- and the sauce served with it was quite good.
According to Tammi's co-workers, the Whistle Stop serves great pies and other desserts. We did see some amazing looking desserts carried past our table. Unfortunately, after the barbecue we weren't up to attempting any ourselves (too full -- the barbecue wasn't the best I've ever had, but it was definitely edible).
Bottom line: nifty atmosphere, great service, so-so food, reasonable prices. If we're down that way again, we'll stop to try the pie but will pass on the blue plate.
Juliette's other attractions include the usual antiques shop, a couple gift shops, another cafe or two, and motorcycle museum housed in the old Juliette grist mill. The motorcycle museum is open only on weekends. Juliette's on the way to the Jarrell Plantation State Historic Site, which we didn't know existed until we decided to go to the Whistle Stop but enjoyed touring once we knew it was there.