JULIETTE, Ga. (AP) — Life is still imitating art at the Whistle Stop Cafe in Juliette.
The restaurant is still cranking out fried green tomatoes as appetizers, salads and sandwiches. Elizabeth Bryant, who runs the Whistle Stop, said she modernized the menu a little bit but hasn’t tinkered with much else.
“I havent changed the building,” Bryant said. “Im trying to keep that the same. It looks just as it looked in the movie.”
Two decades ago, a movie crew took over Juliette, a little unincorporated community 65 miles south of Atlanta, to make “Fried Green Tomatoes.”
Based on the novel by Fannie Flagg and starring Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates, Mary-Louise Parker and Mary Stuart Masterson, the movie follows the complicated and intertwined lives of small-town Southern women during two time periods, the 1930s and the 1980s.
The original inspiration for the restaurant in Flagg’s novel is believed to be The Irondale Cafe, in the suburbs of Flagg’s hometown, Birmingham, Ala.
But for the movie, an old store beside the railroad tracks in Juliette was turned into the Whistle Stop Cafe, where some of the most important scenes occurred. When the movie crew left, the cafe was turned into a real restaurant. Bryant took over about 10 years ago.
Everybody agrees the movie is the best thing to ever happen to Juliette. Betty Clements, who owns the Southern Grace Gift Shop, said the closing of a nearby mill in the late 1950s almost turned Juliette into a ghost town.
“When the mill closed, the shops started closing down and they stayed closed down until the movie,” she said. “Then they started opening up one by one.”
Bryant said almost every out-of-town visitor is drawn by the movie. She used to keep a video of “Fried Green Tomatoes” continuously running in the restaurant, but people sat and watched instead of eating and leaving.
Tour buses show up during the busy seasons, spring and fall, when festivals are held in nearby towns. The winter months are slow, but local Georgia Power workers keep them busy enough. She said the rustic restaurant operates from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day of the year except Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.
Bryant said people seek the simple, homespun vibe presented in the movie. Bryant said that feeling is real in Juliette and persuaded her to abandon a corporate career.
“It just happened for me, divine intervention,” she said. “I gave up my commute of 40 to 50 minutes and threw away my stilettos.”
Diners like the fried green tomatoes, Bryant said, but what really excites people are the trains that pass by.
“The restaurant can be full with all different ages and half of them will run out on the porch and say, Train! Train! “
Juliette is hoping for another economic boost next year. That will be the 20th anniversary of the movies release.