Ray’s Restaurant in Dothan combines firm peaches, soft-but-crunchy cobbler and melty vanilla ice cream into a recipe for success — also called Bama’s Best Peach Cobbler.
Owner Christi Peterson’s cobbler is a take on her maternal grandmother’s classic Southern dessert, with a few still-secret twists. Ray’s regulars nominated the dish in a statewide Facebook contest this spring.
“When we were preparing for the judges, I said, ‘I hope they don’t ask for the recipe because it’s a little of this, a little of that!’” said Peterson, who bought the 50-year-old restaurant three years ago with parents Chan and Carolyn Elliott.
Peterson is peachy keen for freshness, too. Peaches from Aplin Farms in nearby Slocomb stars in her cobbler during harvest season, which runs through late July.
“In the spring, I like to cut up a few peaches and start getting a little fresh peach taste. My granny always made her cobbler with canned peaches unless we had good, fresh peaches,” she said. “I don’t like cobbler all bready, either. I take it from the oven when it’s a little runny so the cobbler is like a gel when it gets cold.”
As the winner of Bama’s Best Peach Cobbler, Ray’s Restaurant received $300 from contest sponsor, the Alabama Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association (AFVGA). The contest’s nominating stage on Facebook received over 150 votes for more than 30 restaurants.
“It’s an honor to say we were even nominated,” Peterson said. “My paternal grandmother read about the contest in Neighbors magazine and said, ‘Christi, you need to do this.’ So, we did, and our customers responded in the best way possible.”
AFVGA President Taylor Hatchett recently added “Bama’s Best Peach Cobbler judge” to her resume, traveling the state for Final Four judging in late April. Recipe developer and SouthernBite.com food blogger Stacey Little, along with AFVGA Executive Director Hunter McBrayer, rounded out the taste testers.
“Every bite was a perfect mixture and blend of peaches and cobbler,” said Hatchett, a Chilton County farmer.
Little said he appreciated Ray’s mom-and-pop, unique feel — from its Table of Knowledge where public officials, locals and out-of-towners discuss Wiregrass happenings to its assorted ceramic coffee cups to its simple cobbler approach.
“Ray’s recipe is what I grew up calling peach cobbler. It has tons of peach flavor,” said Little, who also writes the Neighbors Farmhouse Kitchen cooking column. “So much goes into a dish like this. It’s not something you can mass produce.”
Other finalists include Burnette Farms Market in Pelham, Fat Boy’s Bar-B-Que Ranch in Prattville and Peach Park in Clanton.