Since its founding in 2005, the Wildflower Café in Mentone has built a reputation for good food and good times among locals and the tourists and second-home owners who flock on weekends and holidays to the charming town on Lookout Mountain.
Write-ups in state and regional publications help, as do cable TV programs like “Authentic America,” which featured the bohemian café and country store last year. After watching the episode, for example, a man from Iowa recently made reservations to celebrate his 84th birthday there.
“People are driving from all over just to come here,” says Laura Catherine “L.C.” Moon who has owned it since 2007. “It’s become a destination.”
Inside Wildflower Cafe (Wildflower Cafe/Facebook)
Lunch, available Thursday through Monday, features salads, quiches, and pasta with vegetables, along with burgers, sandwiches, and wraps. Burger ($11-$15) choices include a house-ground beef sirloin-and-fillet patty, wild-caught salmon, or grilled portobello with smoked provolone cheese. Weekend lunch specials might include crab-cake burgers.
At dinner, Friday and Saturday only, salads can become meals with added grilled or blackened salmon. Grilled filet mignon can be gilded with blue cheese and special seasonings. Specials might include pastry-wrapped Salmon Wellington.
“We have something for everybody,” Moon says. “We’ve got a kids menu. We’ve got hormone-free meat, the healthiest meat you’re going to get. We also have vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options.”
But the Wildflower is best known for its Famous Tomato Pie. It helped the restaurant win Alabama Magazine’s reader poll as the state’s best café in 2015 and 2018 and is one of the Alabama Tourism Department’s “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama.”
Moon demurs when asked to share the recipe, but reveals that tomato slices are soaked in balsamic vinegar and Italian seasonings, strained and layered with mayonnaise and cheeses, and baked in a 10-inch pie crust.
The famous tomato pie (Wildflower Cafe/Contributed)
The recipe was brought in by a customer, Cindy Tyson, who asked the chef to make it for her. After sharing slices with early-arriving diners, he quickly realized it would be a hit. It was gone by the time Tyson arrived.
“People say that they make it at home and it just doesn’t taste the same,” Moon says. “I don’t know if it’s just the vibes at the Wildflower and the love the kitchen puts into it.”
The pie ($5-$7 depending on portion size) is always available—lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. The dinnertime Loaded Tomato Pie entrée ($23 with no meat; $27 with grilled chicken) is served with angel hair pasta on a bed of spinach, and topped with two cheeses and garlic-parmesan dipping sauce. Moon describes it as “a mouth explosion.”
Her favorites are Wildflower’s Peanut Butter Pie ($7), triple-layered Carrot Cake ($7), crust-free Spinach Quiche ($9), and Mediterranean Pasta ($16, more with added chicken or salmon).
Moon shows off some of the items for sale in the gift shop (Wildflower Cafe/Contributed)
Moon—“I just go by ‘Moon,’” she quips, “like Cher and Madonna”—depends on staff for flavor feedback on some dishes. “I don’t eat meat,” she says. “I made cabernet beef tips in portobello wild rice last weekend and I was having everybody taste it because I don’t eat it.”
Food’s not the only draw at Wildflower Café. Musicians regularly entertain customers. Wildflower’s shop, where Moon displays and sells the works of nearly four-dozen artists and artisans, invites browsing.
“If you would like to have a unique experience,” she says, “where you have local art, live music, great-feeling ambiance, fresh-cooked food, a place you can feel at home, and that you’ll want to come back and back and bring guests—come to the Wildflower.”