As a young child, Caron Duckworth spent many hours in the kitchen with her grandmother Flora, making delicious treats for the family. “Pies were her specialty,” she said. “As I stood alongside her, I developed the same love for preparing food that she had.”
As Caron grew up, holidays and other special occasions with the family became an especially exciting time for her. She always looked forward to preparing menus and deciding on recipes and setting a pretty table.
The idea of opening her own restaurant didn’t occur to her until she was visiting her sister-in-law in Seattle, Wash. “It was after the death of my husband two years ago,” she said. Seeing a variety of cafes and eateries where friends gathered over a good meal inspired her to go back home to Heflin and create something similar. “I knew there would be no better time in my life than now if I were going to pursue something like this,” she said. “I would be able to fully devote myself to opening a restaurant.”
It’s clear that Caron is proud of her hometown.
“I consider myself lucky to be in a place where talented people are coming back to live, work and raise families,” she said. “We are starting to see growth again.”
Caron is especially proud of Heflin’s uniqueness. No big box stores or chain restaurants here. Instead, the residents favor locally owned establishments and neighborhood gathering spots.
One such spot, from long ago, was the Heflin Recreation Hall Pocket Billiards & Cafe, built in 1936 and more commonly known as “the pool hall.” It was a place where customers could shoot pool and enjoy a batch of famous “pool hall chili.”
After the place closed down, Caron’s brother-in-law purchased the vacant building to help preserve it. Caron figured it would be the perfect place for her new restaurant and arranged to buy it.
“This is an investment in my hometown’s revitalization, bringing one of the town’s landmark buildings back to life,” she said. “Once again, this building on Main Street will become part of the fabric of downtown Heflin.”
Flora’s Table is named for Caron’s grandmother, Flora Whitman Skinner. “My Mamaw Skinner holds a special place in my heart,” she said. “She had a way with people and I doubt there was anyone who ever met her that didn’t love her.” Caron’s favorite childhood memories come from being gathered around Flora’s table at mealtime.
“Like many Southerners of their generation, they had a bowl of sliced onion and a pod or two of hot peppers on the table,” she said. “I grew up eating like that.” Those meals consisted of things like cornbread, pinto beans, green beans, fried okra, sliced tomatoes — “maybe corn that she had put up during the summer prior,” Caron remembers. “Her chocolate pies were the best I’ve ever eaten, and she could make a mean fried apple pie, too.”
At the new Flora’s Table eatery, Caron pays homage to those foods from her past, but with a modern twist. Instead of deep-fried options, the chefs offer more baked, roasted and pan-fried choices. But make no mistake: “We love deep-fried too,” Caron said. “Like our fried catfish, that deep-fried goodness is one of our exceptions.”
Lunch offerings consist of pulled pork tacos, loaded baked potatoes and a wide variety of salads and sandwiches, the two most popular being the Reuben and the turkey with apple and swiss. “I think it’s that dab of apple butter that gets people hooked,” Caron confided.
Flora’s Table is open for dinner only on Friday evenings, and the menu is a work in progress. Caron welcomes feedback from her patrons. “We source ground beef from local farms in Delta and Fruithurst,” she said. “We feature it in our signature Mt. Cheaha Burger, which has earned a permanent spot on our evening menu.”
Flora’s Table opens for breakfast three days a week, Thursday through Saturday, with everything from egg sandwiches to big platters. “And everyone loves our French toast,” Caron said.
Four times a year, the restaurant hosts a community event known as Flora’s Farm to Table, where guests enjoy fine dining around a communal table set with linens, china, candles and flowers. The menu features several courses, each one paired with wine from local wineries. The menu depends on what is in season, as all ingredients are sourced from local farms as much as possible.
For regular operating hours, Flora’s Table is open for breakfast Thursday-Saturday from 7-10:30 a.m., and lunch Tuesday-Saturday from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. Dinner hours are 5-8:30 p.m. on Friday nights.
Visit “FlorasTableDiner” on Facebook for more information as well as mouth-watering photos of the menu options.
Donna Barton’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at email@example.com.