Walking into Staggs Grocery at noon you’re greeted with the steady murmur of a crowd genuinely enjoying the company of friends on lunch break while burgers sizzle on the flattop griddle and fans lazily cool patrons in the heat of the summer. The entrance is like taking a walk back in time with the original integrity of the building being maintained with high, tin embossed ceilings and simplistic décor. However, no one is worried about what’s on the walls, the laser-like focus of every individual in the building is the food. It’s a sinfully delicious, satisfying experience of biscuits and gravy in the morning and mouthwatering cheeseburgers packed with juicy flavor and washed down with a fountain drink at lunch. There’s a reason that Staggs Grocery is so popular in the slowly evolving Sweetwater District of Florence, Alabama—it’s quite simply the quality of the food that has been produced over the last 17 years by owners Lynn and Pat Staggs who can be found behind the counter greeting newcomers and shooting the bull with loyal customers. It’s a must-see for out-of-towners, a treat for those who live in The Shoals, and a place that feels like home for many.
Originally Staggs opened in 1936 as a grocery store that served the textile mill workers during a time when Sweetwater Mill was a Florence hub. However, the store was transformed into a restaurant in 1979 and has been maintained by generations of Staggs, firmly establishing itself as an Alabama favorite and for good reason. The owners and staff genuinely care about their customers and the quality of the food. Using the best beef, they are passionate about serving something they are proud of to customers, who are more like friends. There is a regular group each week that sits at the famous table reserved for “The Liars Club” and the sign is a clear marker of a place that serves something worth returning to every day.
All of the seating in the restaurant consists of long, family-style picnic tables where you might sit next to a stranger, but gain a friend by the end of your meal. Either way, no one is really concerned about sharing space, because everyone is there for the food, which is ordered in a casual fashion by simply walking up to the kitchen counter where a server will take your order. The menu, displayed on a plastic board above shelves filled with candy bars and loaves of bread include breakfast items such as eggs, grits, bacon, sausage, omelets and biscuits and gravy—and it must be pointed out that chocolate gravy is only served on Fridays, lest you experience an incredible amount of disappointment if you ask for it on any other day. For lunch they offer salads, sandwiches, chicken fingers, and of course their famous home-cooked hamburgers and fries.
At the counter as you’re checking out you can pick up one of Grandma’s Homemade Pies with dried fruit fried to golden perfection or dig for spare change for a piece of gum or a mint. It can be a quick stop for a soda and chips or a long lunch to catch up with old friends. Regardless of why you wander into Staggs Grocery you won’t be dissatisfied and you will definitely return, probably with friends and family in tow to have another lip-smacking good meal. Staggs Grocery opens their doors Monday-Friday from 5:30am-2:00pm and stays busy throughout the operating hours with patrons seeking familiarity, friendliness, and flavorful food. If Staggs isn’t already a personal Florence favorite you should check it out today and make it one!