HOOVER, Ala. (WIAT) – The Golden Rule Bar-B-Q in Hoover hasn’t changed much over the years.
It has sat in the same spot off the side of Highway 31 since 1974. The menu still hangs above the kitchen. The infamous open flame pit still sits in the back. There’s still that one stain on one of the pine boards covering the wall. The regulars are continuing along with their regular routine.
“It’s the type of place where people have their own booth and will wait 15 minutes just to sit in their own booth,” general manager Michael Manakides said.
The restaurant’s timeless elements have made it all the more home for Manakides, whose father, Nick, has owned it from the very beginning. Some 30 years ago, a newborn Manakides even made a pit stop at Golden Rule before making it “home” from the hospital. When he was a young boy, longtime cook Donald Cammack would hoist him up to show him the meat that had been smoking in the pit for hours that day. Cammack, as well as employees like server Lisa Holder and Tiwanna Hilson on the pit crew, have been there for over 20 years.
“These people are my family,” Manakides said.
Now, the favorite restaurant of many in Hoover is going through its biggest change yet as it breaks away from the name it has carried for nearly 50 years. Last month, the restaurant became independently owned and now has a new name: Archie’s Bar-B-Q and Burgers.
Manakides said there is no bad blood between his family and Golden Rule. After all, Golden Rule’s Hoover location was the longtime Irondale restaurant’s first franchise restaurant. However, the restaurant was hit hard when the COVID-19 pandemic first came through Alabama, causing Manakides and his father to make some serious decisions for the future of the business.
“We just had to do what we had to do,” he said. “We felt better about giving up a franchise fee than laying off employees.”
Golden Rule has restaurants in nine cities across the state with eight more opening soon, but it was always the Hoover location that managed to make more of an impression on some, like John T. Edge, food writer and founding director of the Southern Foodways Alliance.
“I would say that the Alabama thing for a sandwich is chopped pork on a bun with a sweeter-than-North Carolina-sauce dripping off of it…like the sandwich at Golden Rule in Hoover,” Edge told interviewer John Hammontree on a recent episode of “The Reckon Interview” podcast. “That sandwich, to me, tastes like an idealized Alabama example of what barbecue is.”
The way Manakides tells it, the only thing that has changed at the restaurant is the name. The same family still owns it, the same staff still works there, and the same food they’ve always made is still there, with a few additions coming soon.
In a big way, the change was about becoming more centered on family, shown in the name itself that pays homage to Manakides’ grandfather, Achilles “Archie” Manakides, a Greek immigrant who ran the Mary Ball Candies shops in Birmingham from 1955 to 1979. After retiring from the candy business, Archie became a regular presence at Golden Rule, helping his son, Nick, around the restaurant, doing everything from making sauce to talking to the customers. This became his normal routine until his death in 2004.
“He was a fixture around here,” he said.
In a place known more for its tradition and less for change, Manakides was cautious about how his customers would react to this new chapter in the business’ history.
“I thought there would be blowback,” he said. “Surprisingly, most people I have told when I sit there and break it down to them have been really supportive of it.”
Manakides said that given the challenges of the pandemic this year, he and his staff have been lucky this year. In a time when many restaurants and businesses have been forced to close, the restaurant continued to get regular customers coming back in any way they could, whether it be waiting in the parking lot for food or calling in ahead of time to pick up their meals.
“A lot of people have been super loyal to help us,” he said. “We found a lot of support during the hard times.”
Hoover mayor Frank Brocato is one of the many in town who made the establishment a must for those wanting a good meal.
“It’s the place where you go to see your friends and the regulars who are there,” Brocato said. “When people say ‘Meet me at Golden Rule,” they will know what you are talking about.”
With a new name and a new chapter, Manakides feels like the business is finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“People have said ‘If the food doesn’t change, I don’t care what you call it,’” he said.