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South of Atlanta, 'Fried' and True

By Marilyn Thompson
The Washington Post
Sunday, December 6, 1998; Page E04

The town of Juliette, Ga., wasn't even on the map until after 1991, when a Hollywood film crew discovered the dusty stop along a country road near Macon and transformed it into an authentic early 1900s small-town set for the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes."

Now, the one-stop-sign bump in the road is officially marked along Georgia's long and lonesome Highway 16. But Juliette's identity is still wrapped around the movie and the 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winning book upon which it was based.

Tourists who detour into Juliette (about an hour from downtown Atlanta) usually come for one of two reasons: to see the film location and browse shops filled with "Tomatoes" memorabilia, or to eat the batter-coated Southern fried green tomatoes that were the movie's signature.

The center of action in the film was the Whistle Stop Cafe, re-created along Juliette's bustling train tracks from a dilapidated general store. (The book's Whistle Stop Cafe was based on a down-home meat-and-vegetable restaurant in Irondale, Ala., the Irondale Cafe, that has become its own tourist destination).

After Hollywood abandoned Juliette, the Whistle Stop opened as Juliette's only restaurant in 1992. It serves hearty Southern breakfasts ($2 to $4) and truck-size lunches seven days a week. The full lunch, including dessert and bottomless sweet tea, runs $7.49. A fried green tomato is thrown in for free.

Part of the restaurant's appeal is its wide front porch with ceiling fans and wicker furniture. The setting is made for conversation, even among strangers, until the creaky screen door opens and the hostess calls in another group.

The cafe is set along a strip of renovated storefronts offering antiques, cookbooks, knickknacks, ice cream, Georgia wines (!) and old-fashioned stick candy. Every few hours, a train rolls through the heart of town, its piercing whistle drawing gawkers.

Juliette has a made-for-Hollywood train depot, rebuilt from an old one abandoned years ago and found in the woods by the film crew. The building was excavated and moved back into town, completing the authentic look of a bygone generation.

But don't buy a train ticket and hope to stop in Juliette. The station may be a perfect scene for a movie, but it doesn't accept passengers.

From Atlanta, take Interstate 75 south to Exit 61, then east on Juliette Road for eight miles. For more information, contact the Forsyth-Monroe County Chamber of Commerce in Forsyth (912-994-9239, /monroe).

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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