Wallace Barbecue was opened in Austell off Veterans Memorial Parkway in 1966, and Louise’s Restaurant was originally opened in 1964 as a gas station and trading post off Kennesaw Avenue in Marietta.
When she was growing up, Martha Wallace Taylor said she knew it was a good day if she came home from working at the family restaurant and her clothes smelled like smoke — from the barbecue pit, that is.
Taylor’s father, Winton Wallace, and uncle, Willie Wallace, started the family’s tradition of cooking barbecue about 65 years ago by opening Old Hickory Barbecue in Atlanta, but it wasn’t until roughly 20 years later in 1966 that the tradition was brought to Cobb County.
Taylor said her father and uncle retired from the business, but passed along their love for barbecue to her older brother, Gerald Wallace, who opened Wallace Barbecue in a small home in Austell.
Martha and her husband, Mickey, took over ownership of the business in 1972, about three years before her brother retired and eventually moved the restaurant about a block north of its original location in June 1988.
Patrons are now served the family’s savory barbecue dishes in an open area restaurant that resembles a large family reunion gathering where they sit closely to their neighbors and could easily carry on a “How do you do?” type conversation if they wanted.
There are photos of the restaurants that stood before arranged on the walls, and in the back corner is an old car that had the trunk replaced with a cushy booth.
The recipes date back to Martha’s uncle’s family, and they’ve pretty much kept everything the same since opening 40-plus years ago.
“My dad always said, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” she said. “We also make every plate to order.”
Mickey still handles the restaurant books, and the couple tries to get in when they can, but for the most part their oldest son, Scott, and youngest son, Mark, handle the everyday business.
Scott said he started working there when he was about 10 years old.
“It’d probably be against child labor laws now, but I remember getting called in one day after school when we were short a dishwasher,” he said. “I slowly moved my way up and served during the evenings after school in high school.”
Like his parents, the 50-year-old said their customers and consistently good food are what have kept him around for 40 years.
“I enjoy seeing the people, especially those who remember when they ate at my grandfather’s place,” he said.
Mark Taylor agrees with his older brother.
“It’s like a barbecue family,” he said. “I like seeing those customers I’ve seen ever since I was a kid.”
He started working in the restaurant at a young age, too, cleaning tables.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with my family,” he said. “A lot of families don’t get along, but we always really have.”
Chad Nails has been coming to the restaurant at least once a week with his parents, Larry and Diane Nails, for about 30 years.
“I’m a traveling sales rep, and by far, this is the best barbecue around,” he said. “I tell everybody about this place.”
Nails said what he loves about Wallace’s is the barbecue sauce, which has a vinegar base.
“It’s just awesome!” he said.
Two other long-time customers are Melinda Abreo and Lerai Shadix.
“The good food, prices and the staff are incredible,” Abreo said about why she keeps coming back.
She has been eating at Wallace’s a few days a week for the last 25 years.
Shadix, on the other hand, has been coming since she was a child — for at least 40 years.
“There isn’t anything bad on their menu,” she said. “And they offer enough that you could eat something different every day.”
Hilda Hicks began eating the family’s barbecue about 50 years ago when she first visited Old Hickory Barbecue in Atlanta.
“(My husband and I) have done a lot of traveling, and this is the best,” she said.
Hicks comes to the restaurant almost daily.
The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday, between 10:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
A small restaurant in north Marietta has changed hats a few times but all along kept many of the same customers and traditions.
Louise’s Restaurant was originally opened as the Rebel Gift Shop and Old Confederate Trading Post in 1964.
Christi Tinnin said her aunt, Gladys Louise Weeks, who passed away in September, and her late husband Carl opened it originally as a small gas station with a sandwich shop, and built what looks like a small cabin at the bottom of a hill just below their home at the corner of Kennesaw Avenue and Old Highway 41.
Louise Weeks, who died at 82, prepared sandwiches in the gift shop.
Shortly thereafter, her husband added to the station with the restaurant and rented it to Bob Lester, who with the help of Louise, ran Bob’s Rebel Inn barbecue out of it for less than a year.
The restaurant pretty much looks the same now with three levels of seating for patrons.
The second and third levels are a little more up-to-date but have old pictures displayed and a dry erase board that details the day’s specials.
Tinnin said Carl passed away, but not before telling Louise that if running her own restaurant was her dream, she should give it a shot.
“He thought that with her gentle heart, her gentle nature and wonderful cooking, she might could make a go of it,” she said.
Louise remarried and with her new husband ran and operated Bill and Louise’s in 1977.
“It’s not fancy, but it turns out some really great food,” Tinnin said.
And that’s what has kept the customers flowing through the years.
Tinnin said they’ve served everyone from former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich to Atlanta Braves coaches and players, a lot of local attorneys and judges, former Georgia governor Roy Barnes and U.S. Congressman Phil Gingrey.
“We’ve seen and heard everything,” she said. “We’ve met so many people!”
She has worked as a server at Louise’s for about 17 years and even through the transition when her aunt sold it to Tony and Denise Corrente in 2005.
“They kept Louise’s name and have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears in trying to keep the place going, and they’ve done a great job,” Tinnin said.
Tony took over making Louise’s special homemade biscuits from scratch, along with gravy and delicious grits, while Denise has perfected a few of her old dessert recipes, like buttermilk pies.
The couple has also introduced a few new sides to customers and even some healthier choices with the fruit and vegetable selections.
“When we first moved here, it was one of the first places we stopped to eat,” Denise said.
They learned that the restaurant was for sale, decided it was a good opportunity for them to own their own business in Cobb and haven’t looked back.
“It’s just the people,” Denise said about what’s kept her here. “I love the people.”
Wayne Smith has been going to Louise’s since the 1960s when he was a teenager.
“I remember when it was an old Gulf gas station that sold Confederate memorabilia,” he said. “We’d come by here as teenagers on the way to (Kennesaw Mountain) and buy a Coke and peanuts to put inside.”
Since that time, he has been a regular at the restaurant a couple of times a week and usually for breakfast.
“It’s just been an old habit that’s hard to break,” he said.
He’s also a fan of the biscuits and gravy.
Jerome Ridley agrees with Smith.
He’s been coming to the restaurant for about 15 years when it was still known as Bill and Louise’s, at least two days a week.
“That used to be the specialty,” he said about biscuits and gravy. “I come here mainly for the vegetables now though. It’s the one place around here you can get good vegetables.”
Some other favorites among customers are the Bucket Steak, which comes from the same butcher they’ve used for nearly 30 years, and Louise’s fried chicken, breaded pork tenderloin, cornbread, omelet and country ham.
Don Estes and Stan Blackwell have also been regulars at Louise’s for the last couple of years, meeting with a group of friends on Wednesday mornings for breakfast.
“They have really good food, the waitresses and owners are real friendly, and there are lots of regulars here,” Estes said.
“It’s a family atmosphere,” Blackwell added. “There are all walks of life that come in here. You’ll see an old pick-up truck parked next to a Mercedes outside.”
The men were eating at Louise’s Friday afternoon and reminiscing about a friend who died the day before who joined them there quite a bit, Bob Rider.
“When (the restaurant owners and waitresses) found out he had cancer … I remember one of them following him outside and saying she would pray for him,” Estes said. “I just don’t think that’d happen at other restaurants.”
Louise’s is open Tuesday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.