Gaines Ridge Dinner Club
Gaines Ridge Dinner Club in Camden serves up Southern hospitality, history, ghost stories and a dessert recognized as one of “100 Alabama Dishes to Eat Before You Die”.
Gaines Ridge was originally the home of Reverend Ebenezer Hearn during the late 1820s. The Rev. Hearn was Alabama’s first Methodist Circuit Rider who started Methodist churches in rural counties across west Alabama.
He eventually found his way to Camden where he built the “Hearn House”, now home to the Gaines Ridge Dinner Club. In 1898, the white antebellum home became the home of David John Fail, the great-great grandfather of the current owner, Betty Kennedy.
From 1898 to 1985, the home was lived in and passed down through generations of the Kennedy family. The home was re-invented in 1985 into the dinner club by Kennedy and her sister, Hayden. Kennedy said, “I’ve always liked to cook. But it is certainly something I would’ve never dreamed I’d be doing for over 33 years.”
Over the years, the historic home has been updated for modern use. The once detached kitchen, for example, has been incorporated into the main house. Kennedy said, “Lots of old homes had a wood stove that could cause a fire easily, and also the heat traveling into the house would have been too hot during summer.” In 1941, Kennedy’s father placed logs under the kitchen and rolled it to join with the rest of the house. For the most part, the original structure and character of the antebellum home has remained intact.
Today, Gaines Ridge guests are greeted on the front porch that features white rocking chairs, large ferns, and the faint scent of fresh-baked rolls. Inside are several rooms suitable for large parties and small seating appropriate for a date night.
Large windows, old hardwood flooring, original fireplaces, and vintage china and wall décor provides a home-like atmosphere. Gaines Ridge Dinner Club serves a variety of traditional southern cuisine from juicy ribeye steaks to grilled shrimp kabobs. Kennedy is often found with her cooking staff working alongside the crew to make sure all dishes are cooked to perfection.
Travelers from all over Alabama and beyond visit Gaines Ridge Dinner Club for its rich historical charm and southern hospitality. Although Kennedy said that they do not advertise, word-of-mouth and notice by publications of the Alabama Tourism Department, al.com, and Alabama Living keep the crowds coming.
The Gaines Ridge black-bottom pie notably made the cut to be listed on the Alabama State Department of Tourism’s “100 Alabama Dishes to Eat Before You Die” list. The delicious dessert blends dark chocolate and rum custard. The restaurant’s key lime pie is also a coveted jewel on the dessert menu.
Kennedy encourages everyone to come visit Gaines Ridge Dinner Club, on 933 Highway 10-E in Camden, to try both desserts and see which you prefer. Guests can call ahead to book a reservation at (334) 682-9707 during the hours of 5:30 – 9 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
While the food, scenery, and hospitality exceed all expectations, Gaines Ridge Dinner Club also has a unique history of spooky tales. According to the Alabama Ghost Trail, Kennedy recollects memories of encounters such as hearing a woman scream her name for help. The only two in the house at the time were Kennedy and a cook, and both heard the cry.
Another ghostly encounter came when Kennedy was mowing grass in the front yard. That’s when she spotted a woman at the front entrance giving her a nod and a smile. At the time, Kennedy said she knew she was the only one on the property. She added with a quick laugh, “You never know. It could have been the heat because it was a hot day and I was using the push mower. So, I could have just been imagining things.”
Gaines Ridge Dinner Club is a known gathering place of celebration for locals and out of town guests. The restaurant hosts a variety of events such as baby showers, wedding receptions, engagement parties, business meetings, family reunions, and class reunions in this unique, no-fuss event space.
Kennedy said, “Most everybody who comes in I feel like are friends of mine. I just like having someone in my home. That’s how I feel about most everyone who comes in. Some people I don’t know, but it does not take long for those people to reach that friend status.”
For more information, visit The Gaines Ridge Dinner Club Facebook page.
By Laura Agee
Last Updated: June 26, 2018