On The Road With RL Reeves Jr: Ole Gin Steakhouse in Section, Alabama

Hickory wood sticks scattered out near the burn room at Ole Gin Steakhouse in Section, Alabama

“He’s choking.”

“Oh my God.”

“Somebody please help him.”

“He’s fixin’ to die!”

The big ajax of a country boy is indeed choking. And his dining companion is shrieking at the horror. Her volume is impressive.

Just moments before the bigman began to gag – and his face started to turn purple – he’d been delivered ‘The Macedonia Warrior,’ a pound and a half ribeye beefsteak that looked bigger than its menu weight promised.

It was stately.

A child gazes in wonder at Ole Gin Steakhouse in Section, Alabama

I have zero paramedic powers. Just as the choking man began to falter a fellow patron sprang from an adjacent table, and positioned himself behind the gentleman with suspect meat-chewing skills. The Samaritan expertly applied the Heimlich maneuver and a life was saved in Section, Alabama on this night.

Ole Gin Steakhouse is brand new. It has not yet been open for a year, and the young concern is already seeing record-breaking crowds surge into the restaurant on the three nights a week it’s open.

For good reason.

A beef tenderloin arrives at table with stunning speed considering how packed the dining room is. The filet features a deeply-charred outer bark that’s been well-salted in the kitchen prior to spending a few minutes over the top of a roaring hickory wood fire.

The two cooks that tend to the blazing grill are consigned to a separate room in the giant facility that formerly housed the Haigwood Gin Company. They’re blasting Steve Miller Band, and falling over with laughter as I approach their little private corner of Hell.

The fire is roaring, and the scene could easily be from a Lovecraft novel. Had a Shoggoth been draped from the ceiling I would not have been surprised.

A fried catfish platter at Ole Gin Steakhouse in Section, Alabama

Northeast Alabama is catfish country. As you meander down the country lanes of the region little fried fish shacks dot the roadsides.

Ole Gin gives a nod to the rural dish with a trencherman platter that bows under the weight of a good pound’s worth of fried filets, a heavy tangle of steak-cut french fries, and a coleslaw that’s seen the wrong end of the cook’s sugar bowl.

Cabbage and treacle are not boon companions.

A basket of complementary biscuits is surprisingly good with a tender crumb, and crisp crust.

The biscuit lady is earning her keep.

Unfortunately the fries that come with the catfish platter are stone cold but that’s quickly rectified by the boyfriend of the owner who serves as a de facto maître d’hôtel.

He’s a charmer, and busies himself with running food, bussing tables, and chatting up the patrons. Oh, and being a shutterbug. I don’t think a single table escaped his lens.

This part of Alabama is referred to as God’s Country by the locals. At one time there were more than two dozen cotton gins operating in the region but they slowly shuttered as cotton acreage decreased, and farmers slowly began turning to other industries to earn a living.

Ole Gin Steakhouse in Section, Alabama

The Haigwood Gin Company has seen a remarkable renaissance as a destination steakhouse for high rollers living in the area. Prices are the same as in the big cities but the operators are not privy to cheaper groceries just because they’ve opened in the middle of nowhere. People used to complain about old-line, fine dining destination Mandich’s pricing in one of the rougher neighborhoods in New Orleans, and the owner would always respond ‘I pay the same for a pound of butter that the restaurants in the Garden District do.’

Walking outside after the feast, the gravel parking lot is near pitch black, and you can see a million stars and planets. The old days when small-time farmers would pull up in the same lot with bundles of cotton in the backs of their wagons are long gone.

Ole Gin Steakhouse in Section, Alabama

When the former Haigwood Gin Company opened, a busy day at maximum output would see two to three bales of cotton freshly ginned and prepared for shipping and eventual sale. That was fine because that’s all most of the small farms in the area could produce during a growing season.

Mules plodded along on treadmills to turn the gin heads as well as to turn the screw press to bind the cotton into bales. I can’t help but think of this hard, and honest labor in terms of the two young broiler cooks in the side kitchen flipping thick cuts of meat to a bloody turn.

Some things never change.

Ole Gin Steakhouse 5900 County Rd 38
Section, Alabama

Ole Gin Steakhouse
5900 County Rd 38
Section, Alabama


Hours of operation
always call ahead

The restaurant is a 30 minute drive west and north off the I-59 Rainsville, Alabama exit.

During Saturday service the restaurant may run out of menu items as they are closed the next several days. Plan accordingly.

About RL Reeves Jr

I'm a writer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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