It’s not always easy to figure out where to eat, especially when you’re in a city of over 85 restaurants. Our intern Rachel Stowe had trouble deciding. Over the weeks she’s spent working for us Rachel jumps into pretty much any task, but choosing her favorite restaurant in Foley for a Restaurant Week feature had her stumped.
Our team made sure we added a bit of requisite teasing after all the girl had pretty much built the dining section of our website. It wasn’t until we told her to choose one that she had put on the site that she wanted to try but had never been to that she jumped in with a request for John’s Gyro and Mediterranean Restaurant. Now I was the one to get excited. I’d been dying to try it out and my husband isn’t crazy about Mediterranean food so this was finally my chance.
It turned out to be the perfect fit for so many reasons. Restaurants aren’t the only things Rachel is unsure of, there’s also that whole pesky life plan that rears its ugly head when you’re in your last year of school. All that pressure of you need to have a job by Christmas if you’re graduating in May, you need to know exactly what you want to do, where you’re going to do it, and go after it.
Rachel is heading into her final year at Mississippi State University and it’s bittersweet. She’s the first in her family with a college degree- an associate’s degree from Wallace State Community College. In May she will have her bachelor’s. But as exciting as it will be it will also be hard, Rachel loves school. Maybe it’s because she was the first in her family or maybe it was the long road that took her to Starkville, it’s an opportunity that she hasn’t taken for granted.
As we crossed Alston Street towards John’s, I asked Rachel if she’s always liked Mediterranean food. She said she’s never had it. It took all I had to keep walking and not stop in the middle of the road. Why had she chosen to eat here then? The simple answer, because it sounded good and she’d wanted to try it.
There it is, the girl in a nutshell. With her whole life ahead of her, she’s ready to get out there, be adventurous, and try new things. It wasn’t always that way. Rachel thought she would go to Wallace State, learn how to be a radiology nurse, and move back to Hatton, Alabama and marry her high school boyfriend. But once she got to Wallace, just an hour and fifteen minutes down the road from home, everything changed.
She found out radiology was not for her and after some soul searching, and a ton of research she changed to public relations. An associate’s wasn’t enough. She wanted a four-year degree. There were a number of schools she checked out. But when she called MSU and the woman on the phone patiently walked her through what would transfer and how to apply, she knew it was kismet.
It’s funny because that’s how it was watching Rachel order- taking something she knew and expanding her horizons. Like me, she’s a huge fan of the chain Pita Pit. So she knew she would like a gyro. But at John’s there are so many kinds, the hard part is narrowing it down. She opted for a gyro with hummus and I went with tzatziki and feta cheese.
We couldn’t stop there. As we walked in Rachel asked what baklava was, I started gesturing with my hands and muttering about filo dough and honey, eventually giving up and just saying, “It’s really good.” So to go with our gyros we had an order of baklava and an order of spanakopita. That last one was be because it always calls to mind my mother bringing home a massive, massive bag of spinach which was the biggest pain in the butt to clean but delicious when mixed with cheese and spices and sandwiched in between layers of flaky filo dough.
You could tell John’s was a family place. The man behind the counter chatted with us for a while after we ordered. The ladies that came in after us knew the place well as they were greeted with inquiries on how things were going and what they’d been up to. There was this homey feel of a family making your food and you could watch them do it. The small open kitchen sits directly behind the counter where you order. A wall splits the restaurant with tables and chairs on the other side of the kitchen.
A small restaurant, the place had a steady number of people eating in and taking out, but on the corner of Alston and Orange, it’s also a Foley hidden gem. Quiet and unassuming with big flavors lurking inside.
Our food came, and I made a mess. Trying to make sure I got every last drop of creamy tzatziki and sharp feta. More than once I was firing questions at Rachel around a mouthful of gyro. But she didn’t seem to mind. The thing about Rachel is she’s also quiet and unassuming, but once you get her talking there’s so much there, we ended up chatting for quite some time.
It’s hard to write this, knowing in a few days she’ll be gone and only now do I feel like I truly know her. I have to admit, I miss those days of youth and adventure. She’s nervous about how it all ends up. She’s thinking about becoming a university admissions counselor, thanks to that amazing woman at Mississippi State who stayed on the phone with her and helped her make her dream of a four-year degree come true.
But I broke the adult code and I told her the secret. You don’t have to know. There’s a whole big world out there waiting. I spent two years on a tropical island after I graduated working as a reporter and trying to figure it all out. My advice was, find your island, your calling will come to you.
I don’t know if Rachel believes me or not on the life advice, but I know she believes me on baklava. She loved every bite. But whether you’re figuring life out or trying a new restaurant. There’s a possibility of adventure every day. Maybe what you need is a gyro at John’s to figure out where your next adventure lies.
For more on John’s Gyro and Mediterranean Restaurant visit our dining page.