Today was road trip Saturday, so we set out on the three and a half-hour drive northeast to Florence / Muscle Shoals. I had a few stops in mind, and we arrived at the first around 10:20 Central time. But since we had arisen prior to 7:00 Eastern, this was a perfectly acceptable time for lunch. We arrived to an almost empty restaurant, save for an older man in coveralls, sitting at the end of the counter.
He asked where we were from and I told him that we had driven over from Atlanta for an egg salad sandwich and the orange-pineapple ice cream. He responded, “my grandfather invented the recipe for that ice cream in 1918.” He was one of the Trowbridges.
He told me the story of his grandfather traveling to a dairy convention in the Carolinas from McAllen, Texas. He stopped in Florence for the night and became enamored with the future of the town. Enamored enough that he went back to Texas and packed up his wife and son, moved to Florence and opened Trowbridge’s.
And that they originally made the ice cream in a dairy his father had opened behind the ice cream bar (“you put in five gallons of milk and you got ten gallons of ice cream”). And of the handshake deal that his father made with a (now defunct) dairy in Memphis who could make their ice cream for them, and only them, cheaper than they could make it. And how, when that dairy sold to Meadow Gold, that Meadow Gold began producing the ice cream and selling it to others, since they “didn’t have anything in writing”.
We ordered three sandwiches, all on grilled white bread, with iceberg lettuce – (from top center), egg salad with olive, pimento cheese and chicken salad. My beloved had the egg salad to herself (it’s the one that Garden and Gun proclaimed one of “100 Southern Foods You Absolutely, Positively, Must Try Before You Die”) and said that you couldn’t really taste the olives, but it was good.
The pimento cheese had large slices of cheese and wasn’t very creamy, but had a good taste. I imagine spreading this, with a knife on white bread, would lead to holes in the bread (who among us?).
The chicken salad was creamy and salty and the best sandwich on the table. We shared it, although I actually took the last bite, which may or may not have been mine, while my dear wife told the lady behind the counter how good the chicken salad sandwich was. “It’s our best selling sandwich”, was the owner’s reply.
We planned to leave room for dessert, and I chose the orange-pineapple ice cream, in a bowl. The ice cream wasn’t frozen too hard and it was like a Dreamcicle with chunks of pineapple. It was good, but it still didn’t touch Blue Bell Banana Pudding (maybe one day they’ll bring that back to Georgia). My road trip partner chose one of their creations, the “Oh My Gosh”.
There was a lot of whipped cream left on the plate, but there wasn’t much ice cream or brownie left, so it must have been good.
Is it worth driving to Florence from Atlanta, just for the ice cream and sandwiches? Probably not, but it would be a good day trip if you included FAME Studios (over in Muscle Shoals), the Rosenbaum House (a Frank Lloyd Wright gem, in Florence) and some north Alabama white-sauced barbecue, along the way.