CULLMAN, Ala. (AP) — Two Terrebonne Parish natives are serving real Cajun cuisine to hungry Alabama diners.
Aaron Coombs and Kendrick Boudreaux work their culinary magic at Hank’s Sports Bar and Rumors Deli in Cullman, Alabama, a “cheese wedge” shaped building as Coombs describes it.
The location has been Rumor’s Deli for roughly 20 years and remains so until 3 p.m. Then at 4 p.m. it becomes Hank’s, a sports bar with a very different menu.
Boudreaux said he moved to Alabama to help manage the place with Coombs after being laid off from his job in the oil field. The business employs two other Houma natives as well: Ramsey Billiot and Madison Touchard.
To bring the flavors of the bayou to the uninitiated, poboys and boudin balls are a staple of the menu. Coombs holds events where he makes large amounts of jambalaya, gumbo or crawfish boils. Coombs said he has friends from Terrebonne drive out to cook these for special events, but on normal days, Boudreaux is the Cajun cook.
“No, we don’t put no damn tomatoes in our gumbo,” said Boudreaux, laughing. “My maw maw cooks the gumbo with the hard-boiled egg…but I don’t put it in mine.”
Boudreaux said he’d like to do a seafood gumbo sometime soon but needs to find a way to get the shrimp brought in from Terrebonne.
Coombs lived in Houma for 23 years. When his parents decided to retire, he helped them move to Alabama and fell in love with the area.
The sports bar allows Coombs to combine the two parts of his life he enjoys: the restaurant industry and sports, “and have the two worlds kind of clash together,” he said. He worked in the restaurant business for eight years and played baseball at Barton Community College in Kansas.
“My goal in life was to always open a sports bar,” said Coombs. “It all just kind of worked out perfectly.”
Coombs said when he and his father first rolled into town they were discussing opening a sports bar. Turning off the exit to enter Cullman, the first building they laid eyes on was Rumors Deli. Shortly after, Coombs learned that the deli’s owner, Annette Harris, was looking to sell the building, but keep operating the deli.
She was also being selective about who she would sell it to.
“She was just trying to do something new and we found out through a mutual friend that she was secretly selling, but she was looking for the right people,” said Coombs. “Once we met her we just kind of instantly clicked.”
The two-story building features a large bar room and three dining rooms.
The building was remodeled to reflect the new business, but one room, dubbed the Rumor Room, is set up to display the original decorations and atmosphere of the longtime deli. Harris even has her own personal seat at the new bar with her name etched in it.
“I love it,” Harris said. “They have a wall of famous redheads, and they surprised me with my picture right there next to Lucille Ball.”
Things are looking good for the business. There are plans to extend the menu and open on Sunday’s for brunch. For now, Boudreaux said it’s mostly about just getting the locals used to the fact that the place is open past 3 p.m.
Harris said she wasn’t even sure she wanted to sell the place. The economic downturn was making it hard to run a restaurant and she wanted to try new things in life. She had begun going to massage therapy school at night, and when she met Coombs she knew it would be in good hands.
“I guess it was just perfect,” she said.