Emotions and memories have filled the final days at Buddy's Rib and Steak on Lurleen Wallace Blvd. in Northport this week. Long time and relatively new customers have packed the iconic Northport eatery for one last meal leading to the doors being closed forever tonight. They, along with the employees, have experienced mixed emotions of sadness and fond memories.

Employees have heard the stories of how married couples went out on their first date as teenagers at Buddies. Others have reminisced about regular Friday and Saturday family nights out at the nearly 50-year-old restaurant. Then there are the thousands of Tuscaloosa County High and UA fans who always headed to Buddy's after home football games.

Early morning breakfast was often packed with hunters and fishermen grabbing a hearty breakfast before heading out to bag the big one. There was even a "liars" table where their stories stretched the truth on a regular basis. "If these walls could talk it would be quite an adventure," current owner Phillip Guy laughed.

Buddy's Rib and Steak has been a local legend on the level of City Cafe, Dreamland, Archibald's, Waysider, Southland, and other popular restaurants before them almost from the very day Buddy Hall first opened the doors in 1978.

Yet, despite its popularity, Buddy's has suffered from the same setbacks experienced by other restaurants in the aftermath of the pandemic, finding enough staff and the rising cost of doing business.

"This staff I've had has been tremendous because they worked more hours than they should, worked hard, were dedicated." Guy reflected. "Unfortunately, I have not been able to find more like them because people don't want to work anymore."

it was a tough decision for Guy who says locking the doors for the last time tonight was bittersweet, "The people of Northport have loved this place and supported this place." he remarked. " They are going to miss it and I understand that, and I wish I could have kept it open."

Since last year, Guy had been attempting to sell the restaurant for an asking price of $1 million, hopefully to someone who would keep the familiar name of Buddy's Rib and Steak, but no buyer could be found.

Buddy's Rib and Steak didn't change much over the years. When Guy took over, he didn't alter what worked, he used the same recipes and only added a few new menu items. The menu remained familiar, and the food could be described as comfort food.

Daniel Moore depictions of famous moments in Crimson Tide Football still hung on the walls until the doors closed, a sticky note on each asking for patrons interested in buying one or all to make an offer.

Many longtime customers still have fond memories of Buddy himself sitting behind the cash register. "That is the same chair he sat in over there," Guy pointed out. Hall built the place into being an integral part of what is Northport. That is what makes losing Buddys feel like losing a loved one.

Lisha Fisher says Friday will be a little bit strange when she doesn't have to get up at 4:30 in the morning to prepare to open, "it will be sad but also a little bit nice, I think I can get used to it."

What we will have to get used to is driving by Buddy's and not seeing the familiar sign and packed parking lot or smell the mouth water aroma wafting from the chimney. As a matter of fact, we won't even see the building before long, Guy says it will be torn down to make way for a future business he did not identify.

My wife and I joined with those ordering one final meal at Buddy's Thursday. It was hard to believe we won't be able go there again.

Change is a fact of life but sometimes that change can make us feel like we have lost a since of familiarity and a sense of community.

Goodbye Buddy's, we will miss you!

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