‘We’re losing a friend:’ Northport’s Mr. Bill’s closing after 30-plus years
By WVUA 23 News Reporter Chaney Scott
After 31 years, a beloved Northport restaurant is closing its doors for good. Mr. Bill’s Southern Diner in Northport announced its unexpected, permanent shutdown via Facebook July 1.
Residents’ reactions poured in on the post with shock, plenty of questions and many, many well-wishes while restaurant owner Michael Parrish said he’s appreciated the support.
Commenters weren’t shy about saying how much they’d miss the beloved Northport institution, a welcoming space where the owner would greet first-timers with a free bowl of warm white chocolate bread pudding.
“It’s a sad day because we are losing an old friend,” said regular Paul Nelson. “I’ve been retired for 15 years, so I’ve been eating here 20 or 25 years.
Nelson said his favorite dish was the grilled chicken, but the “pudding wasn’t too bad, either.”
It was a frequent meeting spot for friends, family, co-workers and even strangers who packed into the wood-walled meat-and-three sitting at 2715 McFarland Blvd.
“I hope another local establishment will come in and serve the community,” said Northport resident Chandra Clark. “We have a lot of chains in Northport and those are great. I’m glad we’ve had a lot of development and changes, but there is nothing like supporting your local community.”
Clark said Mr. Bill’s is one of those hometown staples that can’t be replaced by, say, a Starbucks.
“My neighbor, Mr. Caddell, loved the banana pudding,” Clark said. “Even after he moved on into an assisted living facility, I would come eat here and grab him an extra cup of banana pudding to take to him.” That banana pudding will be sorely missed, she said.
Colorado native and University of Alabama student Bethany McCollough said Mr. Bill’s was her first meat-and-three experience.
“I was shocked by Mr. Bill’s closing because it’s such a staple in Northport,” McCollough said. “The first time we went to Mr. Bill’s I knew it was going to be phenomenal because we were the only college kids in the restaurant. The rest were 50 or older. That’s how you know it’s a good find.”
That first trip turned her into a regular.
“I loved that the staff knew us and would always welcome us so well each time we came back,” she said. “The owner, Michael, would always come and chat for a while with us regardless of how busy they were.”
Bringing friends to her favorite spot was always a rite of passage.
“Being so young and a Mr. Bill’s enthusiast meant none of my friends had heard of it, so it was always fun to bring a new friend to experience my favorite restaurant and some good, home-style food,” McCollough said.
The food left in fridges, freezers and racks won’t go to waste, as the restaurant is donating it to Baseball Country, a baseball program and youth ministry.