HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - This Friday, the very last order of chips and salsa will be served at El Palacio. The Mexican restaurant has been as staple on South Parkway for more than half a century.
“The food has just been great,” says Buddy Weatherford, a loyal customer for 49 years.
The only thing Weatherford loves more than the people, more than the atmosphere, is an item you won't find on the menu.
“Nobody makes the salsa like they do," Weatherford said.
And he should know, he's been coming to El Palacio since Lyndon Johnson was President.
"Since 1968," he said. “And I used to walk over to eat lunch every day and eat chips and salsa for lunch. That got me started and I hadn’t quit yet.”
Since the owner, Doug Davis, announced this week would be their last, the line has been out the door. Thursday afternoon was no exception.
“We waited 2 hours and 55 minutes to get in here," Weatherford said.
Weatherford said it was worth every second, just for closure.
“I’ve never waited that long anywhere," he jokes.
While hundreds have made their way back to the restaurant this week for one last meal, it's been a while since this dining room has been standing room only.
“I know that business wasn’t as good the last couple of years as it once was," Weatherford said.
Weatherford thinks South Parkway could be partially to blame.
“When they started putting in the overpasses, I know it hurt a lot of local businesses and I think this was one of them," he said.
Whatever the cause, the steady stream of food out of the kitchen will soon come to an end.
“Oh yea, yea I’m very sad to see it go," Weatherford said.
Now, for the first time since Buddy was in his 20s, he'll have to search for a new salsa that fills the void El Palacio leaves behind.
"Old people don’t like change and I’m one of them," Weatherford said.
For loyal customers like Buddy, the restaurant is offering a chance to own a little bit of the store's history. In the next few weeks, they plan on holding a memorabilia sale.
When they set a date and time, we'll be sure to share it on whnt.com.
Friday at 3 p.m., is when the restaurant turns off the lights for the final time.