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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Tummy - Huntsville, AL

Looks like the beginning of a low-budget horror film right?  (I say low budget because someone forgot to move their van out of the shot AGAIN! CUT!)  Whether or not that is the case is unheard on my ears but this is actually Lowe Mill in Huntsville, AL, home to the trendy bendy world that is the art culture, skate kids, music hall, and Huntsville's only independent record store (and by record, I mean vinyl).  It is also home to one of the best sandwich shops in the area, Happy Tummy.

As far as I can gather, Happy Tummy was started up in a permanently parked food truck outside of the mill in 2008 but recently has found a home inside of the mill.  It seems like the perfect spot for a quick lunch because of it's central location to downtown (only about a mile away) and traffic doesn't seem like it gets too bad because it is off the road a little bit.  After reading a couple of reviews and hearing so much about this "Fred Bread" stuff, I figured I would give it a shot.

As usual, when I pulled up, the place had maybe 15 cars in the parking lot.  Now mind you, Happy Tummy is not the only place in the mill.  I've grown accustom to the lack of patrons at my dining time though (because of my schedule it's usually around 1 PM or a little after) and have grown to appreciate the lack of people because it gives me more time to be slow and poke a little and soak everything in without being pushed around and forced out the door once my last bite of food is being chewed.

The first thing you notice when you walk up is the great patio seating area.  Again, missing Mobile and it's outdoor seating at EVERY restaurant you go to, it's always nice to find these places and you make a mental checklist of places to go based on sitting outdoors.  I wasn't quite sure where I was going but the big double doors with "ENTRANCE" painted on them kind of helped me out.  Once you walk in, it's kind of everything you hope it would be: quiet, quaint, people enjoying their sandwiches and reading books... kind of like a book store with much better food.

The place is literally set up in a corner with a couple of grills and presses and storage closet with a border made of movable metal tables and shelving units.  The lady who took my order actually pulled the metal table back to walk inside of the "unit" and take my order.  How cool.  Also, I always scan for credit card machines when I walk in smaller places like this because you never know, they might be cash only places.  When I asked if they took cards, the lady said "sure" and pulled out an iPhone with a gadget attached to the end.  She swiped my card and I signed with my finger.  Again, how cool is that?

The coolest thing about this place is the menu.  Of course they have the menu staples and the favorites listed (on a tack board printed out on computer paper no less), but it changes every week, the special that is.  One week you could be having french dip, the next you would be having a baked falafel sandwich.  I know that most places have specials everyday but looking back over their past menus, it seems as though they never repeat a sandwich unless it makes it's way on to the regular board.  Plus, they are creative.  A baked falafel sandwich?  That creativity bleeds over into the names like the "Bite Ya Back" which is Chicken, Bowtie Pasta, Peppers and Onions Tossed with Raspberry Habanero Vinaigrette, Served Over Lettuce and Topped with Chow Mein Noodles.  Another is the "Jamaican Me Hungry Baked Potato" which is stuffed with Jerk Chicken, Butter, Cheese and Caribbean Sour Cream.  I told the lady taking my order that I had never been there before and asked what was good and she kind of laughed, which made me laugh, because when someone has that much pride in their food, it's either super good or super bad, and it didn't strike me as the type of place that would serve super bad food.  I finally ended up settling on the Infidel, which is Ham, Chipotle Pork, Swiss, Pickle, Mayo and Mustard on Garlic Olive FredBread.  I took my sandwich and headed to the house, really wishing that I would have stayed there and devoured it so I could order another and look like a pig.  But again, wishful thinking.

I've had a lot of sandwiches in my day but this thing takes the cake (except for my #1 sandwich in the world which is the muffaleta from Food Pak in Mobile, AL... there will never be another....).  The pork was moist and juicy and the condiments weren't so heavy that it over powered the sandwich.  And the bread, wow the bread.  From what I can gather, Fred Bread is baked here in Huntsville and they make all kinds of breads from jalapeno cheddar to the garlic olive bread that I had today.  Even on the ride home, the bread held up to the heat of the sandwich and the juices in the pork.  What else can I say?  It was just delicious all around.  And again, my wishes are bigger than my stomach because there is NO WAY I could have eaten two of these things.  It was very filling and only left me wanting the taste and not another sandwich.  In the end, it was kind of disappointing because I really, REALLY like Subway.  How could I possibly compare the two and how can I ever set foot in Subway again after knowing that real sandwiches lie in wait??

This place is a true testament to what a little creativity and elbow grease can do for the cooking world.  These ladies have taken something as simple as making a sandwich and turned it into an art form.  Plus, with places like Jason's Deli (which is the closest thing that I can compare it to) you are fighting over tables and can barely hear your company talking to you a couple of feet away, that is, if you can find a parking spot and stand in line for 10 minutes before waiting 10 minutes to get your food.  If you've got 30 minutes for lunch, I would go here in a heartbeat.  The prices are moderate (around $6 per sandwich, tax and bag of chips included) and from one look at their menu, you could eat a different sandwich everyday for weeks and never have close to the same thing twice.  It's a place that I will definitely go back to and definitely feel comfortable taking my family to.  Turns out the horror movie only takes place on the outside and not the inside.

Wanna check these guys out?? Give them a visit:
Happy Tummy (located inside Lowe Mill)

2211 Seminole Dr.
Huntsville, AL  35805
http://www.mmmhappytummy.com (for weekly menus)
Happy Tummy on Urbanspoon

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