Like many communities across Alabama, Florette in Morgan County, has its own local treasure that’s losing its status as a well-kept secret. Since it reopened in December 2004, the Snak Shak has become a bustling business that manager Sandra Sowder says is attributed to one thing: word of mouth advertising. “It’s priceless,” says Sandra. “You can’t buy it, but it’ll make or break you.”
With their hand-breaded and battered seafood, certified Angus steaks and homemade desserts, dressings and sauces, it’s no wonder word-of-mouth has been so good. In a fast-food society, this farm family is running its country kitchen the old-fashioned way —using a farm-proven work ethic.
“My parents built the original Snak Shak in the 1970s, across from where A. P. Brewer High School was being built. They knew those construction workers needed to be fed,” said Sandra. Her parents Howard and Nancy Jenkins sold the business in the ’90s, and later sold the property itself.
“When it came up for auction in 2004, I told Daddy I’d like to give it a try, but do things differently,” Sandra said.
Although the business has returned to its original family, it isn’t the same place it was 30 years ago. Sandra’s husband Joel, a designer, helped the family transform the 38-seat country diner into what Sandra describes as a “distressed, upbeat atmosphere” for upwards of 150. The family brought together salvaged pieces to create the restaurant’s new look.
“I planned to give people what I want in a good restaurant,” said Sandra. “Good service, good atmosphere and good food.”
She does add this disclaimer though, “I come from a long line of very domestic people and awesome cooks, but I missed that gene. I know what tastes good; I just don’t know how to get it there. That’s Mama’s department.”
“Sandra takes care of the business part,” said Nancy. The ladies also give credit to Rosena Chunn, the Snak Shak’s head cook, calling her “a true asset to the restaurant.”
Sandra says the Snak Shak isn’t known for any one signature dish. “We’re within 15 or 20 minutes of Huntsville, Decatur, Cullman, Hartselle and Arab, which is enough distance to make us a special outing for these communities,” Sandra said. “Our homemade desserts are awesome, but that’s not (the only reason) people come. They come for the seafood, steaks, ribs and barbecued chicken. I really think we’ve been able to say we specialize in several things.”
Sandra’s family still has a cattle farm in Morgan County, and she and Joel have three children: daughters Reed, 10, and Arlee, 13, and a son, Kohl, 14.
“Joel says we’d have had more had he known we’d have a restaurant,” joked Sandra.
Nancy Jenkins is a member of the Morgan County Farmers Federation Women’s Committee, and Howard Jenkins is the forestry chairman and a board member of the Morgan County Farmers Federation.
The recipes Nancy and Sandra share with us are restaurant items and some family favorites. And like so many dishes families are known for, several are original creations.
“This is the first time we’ve written an actual recipe for some of these foods,” Sandra says.
And even if you think you missed the “cooking gene” like Sandra, their delicious homemade dressings will make your salads extraordinary.