Highway 80 Cafe endures through COVID-19 pandemic

Published 9:18 am Thursday, September 22, 2022

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Travelers driving near U.S. Highway 80 where it intersects Alabama Highway 97 on a Friday evening may find HL Johnson nearby firing up the grill to serve customers who visit Highway 80 Cafe. The business, owned by Haigler Lee “HL” and Chequita Johnson is unique in that it serves locally-sourced vegetables such as collard greens, peas, okra, squash, and sweet potatoes to accompany its meats for a true farm-to-table experience. The business will celebrate its 10-year anniversary November 2023. “The opportunity was presented to us, and it was a perfect fit in our everyday lifestyle,” Chequita said. “We grow a lot of our vegetables and cook those vegetables at the restaurant in an effort to promote healthy living.” If you are new to the restaurant some of the items on the menu that you must try according to HL are the ribs and Boston butts. “Whatever meat I serve is going to be seasoned to taste,” HL said. “I serve hand-cut steaks, I don’t season them until they’ve been ordered and they are as tender as mother’s love.” Highway 80 Cafe has seen its share of challenges as many businesses have that are still operating after the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, the business operated as a dine-in restaurant where wait staff would take customers’ orders and refill their drinks, but  the business currently only offers plates to go. The Johnson family credits the smell and the sight of the smoke from the grill after it’s fired up on Friday night for keeping the business open during the uncertainty of COVID. “We had to restructure the whole business,” HL said. “From the moment we had to close our dining room, we were really pushed to the corner. Every Friday, God has sent somebody by the business that we have never seen before.” Chequita added the smoke tempted many drivers to make a stop at the cafe.“That smoke kept Hope alive,” Chequita added. “We have had several truck drivers go down the road and turn around because they smelled the smoke and wanted to find out what was going on.”HL and Chequita both grew up in Lowndes County, have chosen to raise their family in the area and understand the importance of community. “This is home for us; we aren’t strangers,” HL said. “It has been a blessing to have this opportunity. We want to thank all those who have supported us and want to thank all those who will support us in the future. “You can’t have business without customers so the customer comes first at Highway 80 Cafe.” Chequita also wished to thank the local churches, schools, family friends, and all who have supported them.“God is good,” she said. Highway 80 Cafe is located at 222 Highway East Service Road in Lowndesboro and is open Tuesday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. where the daily special is a meat-and-three plate and a drink for $13. On Friday evening, the hours of operation are extended where the menu boasts barbecue ribs, barbecue chicken, ribeye steak, and filet mignon served with a loaded salad and a loaded baked potato. To place an order or for more information, call (334) 278-3650.

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