If the Eastern Shore is where Mayberry meets Maguaritaville, then Cheryl's Cafe is pure Mayberry, where regulars are greeted by name and non-regulars are soon to find something so addictive on the menu that they join the following.
Unauspcious at the end of a small strip of shops at U.S. 98 and Hwy. 31 in Spanish Fort, Cheryl's offers a a variety of fresh sandwiches and sides, as well as a heartier host of specials that change each day. Get there too late and you may watch as your favorite is wiped off the board.
What it all comes down to is that Cheryl is a very good cook, who has compiled a few secrets that simply enhance a standard dish.
So here are some of my favorites from the printed menu:
Chinese Chicken Salad: Ramen noodles are toasted and tossed with sheddred cabbage, lean chicken, water chestnuts, scallions, sesame seeds and an oil-and-vinegar dressing.
Chicken Salad: Maybe best around. Light and refreshing with mayo and crushed pineapple (yes, Cheryl has revealed a few of her secrets over the years).
Club Sandwich: Easily feeding two, everything is fresh here from the Boar's Head meats to the tomatoes. This sandwich is so thick every bite's a challenge.
Mitch's Reuben: My father's favorite, with tender, lean corned beef piled high, kraut and Thousand Island dressing on rye.
Sides are pasta salad, fresh fruit, cole slaw or potato salad, all freshly prepared.
From the day's menu, you may find pot roast or chicken and dumplings, shrimp salad or crawfish bisque. Any one of these will please and you can pick from about a dozen vegetables to round out your meal.
Some of my favorites:
Taco salad, with fresh greens, taco meat, beans, avocado, cheese and chips topped with a sort of salsa/Thousand Island dressing.
Tender pot roast with sweet green beans and a to-die-for yellow squash casserole. Cheryl has shared the secret to the green beans, but I shouldn't give everything away.
Service is quick and efficient. So this is often where I stop for lunch with buyers looking for real estate in Spanish Fort or Daphne.
It's snug at Cheryl's with barely enough room to maneuver between the red-and-white checked tablecloths, so this is not the place for intimate conversations.
Prices are moderate.
Address: 6580-D Spanish Fort, Blvd.