Maurice and the G’s Country Kitchen family want to know you, they want to know your family; they’ll ask after your children. It is this fellowship through food that the South is known for. It is Southern hospitality at its finest and it is these personalities - Maurice at G's, Mazzara's Brandon Zeller, and The Poppy's Dave Matlock - that exemplify impeccable service every time you step into their restaurant. You are not just their patron, you are their special guest.
G’s Country Kitchen
Twenty-seven years ago, Gretta and Maurice Russell opened the door to G’s Country Kitchen in an unassuming strip mall off Oakwood Ave. On that same door, they laid down their motto, “This is not a fast-food joint.”
Born and raised here in Huntsville, Maurice remembers Sunday family meals that would take all day to prepare and all evening to enjoy. This memory not only fashioned G’s motto, but their identity and menu as well. Nearly three decades later the menu remains that perfected Southern Sunday. The spirit of that memory has transformed G’s Country Kitchen from a restaurant into a ministry.
Sitting down in G’s, the first thing you notice is the diversity of people settled around the tables. Lanyards, hospital scrubs, construction workers, and men in suits with their ties thrown over their shoulder, all gathered in one large dining room immersed in G’s soul food.
“Here, every guest is part of the ministry. No one is excluded. All are welcome.” Maurice says with outstretched hands.
“Whether you’re the mayor, the President or whoever you might be, when you come to G’s Country Kitchen, you leave your titles at the door and you pick them up on your way out.”
That’s what keeps the community coming back for over twenty-seven years. No matter what your background may be, this is your place too. Maurice and the G’s Country Kitchen family want to know you, they want to know your family; they’ll ask after your children. It is this fellowship through food that the South is known for.
Walking up the stairs and through the front door of the historic Humphreys-Rodgers house, you enter the Mazzara’s Vinoteca, part of the Church Street Family. Running this historical Huntsville home, turned restaurant, is General Manager Brandon Zeller.
Brandon has been with the Church Street Family going on 6 years. He literally built every table in the restaurant.
The menu has been crafted from owner Stephanie Mell’s Sicilian grandmother’s hands, along with Manhattan-based corporate executive chef Luis Branez, and corporate consulting chef Jimmy Canora.
Brandon understands their food is special. “You can go anywhere for a meal, but you come here for an experience.” He has an imaginative approach to that experience. “It’s easy. You’re Santa Claus. You bring the guest the gifts they asked for.” He imagines that every day is a dinner party with one hundred and fifty of his best friends, and by best friend, he means you. With that predilection in hospitality, it is easy to understand why this restaurant has quickly become a Huntsville favorite. Walk into this historic home, have the focaccia bread, try Carmela’s meatballs, come sit at one of Brandon’s tables and enjoy the dinner party.
The Poppy And Parliament
Saturday, December 3rd, 2022, it is 9am at The Poppy and Parliament and I am greeted by the sounds of FIFA announcers, a collage of soccer jerseys, and Dave Matlock welcoming me to the USA vs Netherlands World Cup game. The Poppy opened its doors two hours early with a fully staffed restaurant for the game.
When Queen Elizabeth passed, mourners and ex-pats of the UK and commonwealth laid flowers by the feet of the Queen Elizabeth cut out (yes, they have a cut out). Dave trimmed and watered those flowers along with leaving a black sash over the door for the full 12 days of mourning.
That’s what hospitality means to Dave and The Poppy. He even changes the patio umbrellas every six months because they must be poppy red. It is the attention to detail that entices the curious to come in and patrons to come back. As director of operations, Dave’s focus is on the quintessential English pub vibe that makes you want to stamp your passport when you visit.
The elevated English fare amplifies this across the pond concept with bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, and of course, the best fish and chips you may ever have.
“Our hospitality is a nod to the world traveler.” Dave also insists that The Poppy is for everyone. “We don’t take reservations, and we don’t have reservations about that. We want everyone to feel like family when they walk in.”