By MADOLINE MARKHAM
Gilchrist is home to many memories. Drinking a limeade or milk shake at the counter. Picking out a candy bar with your grandmother. Getting a snack with friends after school and putting it on your own tab. Stopping by on a visit home from college before you even go to your house. Sitting in the same seat you sat in for a milkshake 60 years ago. Grabbing a table during the lunchtime rush.
Established in 1928, the old-fashioned drug store sandwich counter now welcomes a fourth generation of customers.
“It’s kind of like going to lunch with your friends every day,” owner Leon Rosato said. He said he loves talking to people while he makes sandwiches at the counter.
Around 3 p.m. the after school crowd floods the restaurant, ordering grilled cheeses, bagels, limeades and shakes. There can be up to about 125 kids that come on Fridays. “It’s crazy,” said Tammy Colvert, who has worked at Gilchrist for about 15 years.
Although the drug store part of the business has been gone for at least 20 years, the menu has not changed. The pimiento cheese, egg salad and tuna salad are made with the same recipes. They still grind chicken for chicken salad daily. Elizabeth Howard, 73, an employee of more than 40 years, makes her recipe for aspic, a congealed tomato salad. And of course, there are the fresh limeades and hand-dipped shakes.
“Things like that you don’t see anymore,” Rosato said.
You can also bring the best of Gilchrist home with you. They sell limeade by the gallon and salads in 8 oz. ($6.95) and 16 oz. ($9.95) containers. They also deliver orders in Mountain Brook Village.
You won’t find one of their specialties on the menu, but be sure to try the combination of two most popular menu items: Hot Beef All the Way, a hot beef sandwich with pimiento cheese on a wrap.
Colvert said they welcome special requests and have made a peanut butter and jelly BLT, grilled cream cheese and olive sandwich and all sorts of combinations. “You name it, we’ve made it,” Colvert said. “Whatever they want, we can put it together.”
Rosato bought Gilchrist from Wyndall and Margaret Payne about 15 years ago.
Upon taking over the business, he brought in new equipment, new paint and new tabletops, like customers wanted, but everything else stayed the same. “We wanted to spruce it up, but we didn’t want it to look brand new,” he said.
Howard has worked under all four owners of Gilchrist. She remembers the days when Dr. and Mrs. M.E. Gilchrist ran the business, when there was a pharmacy in the back and racks of magazines and the front and glass cases with cosmetics and lotions on the left side of the storefront.
She also knows taste of their classic menu items and the sort of family that comes by to eat lunch each day, just as so many Mountain Brook residents who regularly drop by for their favorite sandwich and a limeade do.
Gilchrist is closed Fourth of July week for vacation each year but will be back to business as normal afterward.
The staff shared with us the questions customers ask them frequently. How many do you know the answer to?
Where do they get their tomatoes? At the farmers market each week.
What’s upstairs? If you’re a kid, it’s ghosts or where they keep all the bad kids. If you’re an adult, it’s vacant retail space.
What’s downstairs? Storage.
Is everyone that works there related? Everyone except Tammy Colvert and Elizabeth Howard. Rosato owns the store. Jody is his brother. Danielle and Drew are their niece and nephew. Honey is Leon and Jody’s mom.
How many limes do they go through to make limeade in the summer? About 250 each day.
2805 Cahaba Rd. 871-2181
Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Saturday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.