L&B Fun Place Restaurant serves up soul food
In the aluminum foil pan sits hand-battered chicken breasts, fried golden brown and smothered in gravy. Nearby dishes of caramelized baked apples inside a crisp crust and baked and chopped sweet potatoes coated with brown sugar and butter are ready to serve.
If your mouth is watering, you may want to visit L&B Fun Place Restaurant https://www.facebook.com/lbfunplace in Collinsville. One fan posted on the restaurant's Facebook Page: "Good home-style cookin'!" Another fan of the business commented, "Yummy southern food served with hospitality! Absolutely delicious."
The restaurant is open on Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Wednesday, plates cost $9.70, including free refills and dessert and fruit options. On Fridays, customers can enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet for $10.
Their best-selling items are southern fried catfish, porkchops, and macaroni. Bestselling desserts are blueberry cobbler, peach cobbler and Kool-Aid pie.
Located on Gregory Avenue, the restaurant is owned by Lawrence and Brenda Williams. The restaurant also includes a game room, gym with a basketball court, and an outdoor barbeque area.
The couple works hard to maintain their business because owning a soul food restaurant represents a dream come true.
They met on Valentine's Day in Brenda's hometown of Camilla, Georgia, in 1995, while she was at work. She was a desk clerk at a motel. He was a truck driver in need of lodging after an eight-hour drive. After booking a room, he approached her and began conversing with her.
"He asked me if he could come back and talk to me while I worked, and I said yes. So, he went back to his room, took a shower, and changed into a purple outfit. When he came back down to the lobby, I saw his shadow behind the counter, and he had one hand behind his back. Then, he gave me a dozen roses, and we talked the whole night," Brenda Williams recalled.
Shortly after, the two began dating, and, in February 2002, they got married. A week later, the newlywed couple relocated to Lawrence's hometown of Collinsville.
Five hours away from her hometown, Brenda worked various jobs in town but always dreamed of operating her own restaurant. Though she did not have the means to open her own business, she always enjoyed preparing daily meals for her family and others in the community, particularly soul food because of its flavor and seasoning.
"When I step into the kitchen, I come alive, and it has always been that way since I was a child,” she said. “While my other siblings were outside playing, I was in the kitchen cooking greens, cornbread, fried pork chops, and other dishes."
One afternoon, while Brenda was preparing for dinner, she was shocked when Lawrence surprised her with a major announcement. He had purchased a vacant commercial building from the city so Brenda could start her own soul food restaurant.
Lawrence said, "I bought it as a gift to her because I know cooking is her passion, and she always wanted to go into business for herself. I wanted her to live out her dreams and be happy because I love her."
She said, "I never thought that I would have my own business someday. But even though my husband bought the building for me to open my own restaurant, I wanted it to be a family-owned business, and that's why I named it after us."
The location had been the dwelling of a few local businesses earlier. But in the community, it is most known for being the former home of the Gregory School, a once segregated African American school in Collinsville.
After years of cooking, dreaming, and the help of friends, Mamie Moore and Vanessa Chambers, the restaurant opened in 2014. But unlike other businesses, L&B Fun Place Restaurant never had an official grand opening.
In 2017, Brenda was planning an opening celebration, but tragedy struck her life when her two sisters were murdered in Georgia. Nine months later, Mamie Moore, passed away from a long battle with cancer.
"Experiencing those losses back-to-back was heartbreaking and devasting and painful. During that period, there were times where I wanted to give up," she said.
She added, "My sisters were dear to my heart, and we would talk about the restaurant all the time. Mamie and I were best friends, and she helped me with all my paperwork for the business. I miss them."
Brenda said her faith kept her encouraged and motivated her to continue working during challenging times. And through it all, she overcame obstacles by focusing on what she loves the most, cooking soul food.
She added that she hopes to serve more customers in the future and possibly extend her normal hours of operation. In the meantime, she said that she is grateful for her customers and happy that she can serve southern meals to residents in Collinsville.
"Collinsville has become my home away from home, and I love the people here. It brings me joy to know that I have a place and space where people of all walks of life can enjoy food that will make their soul feel good," Williams said.