The Dinner Bell’s reputation for extravagant southern meals has unfurled since it opened in 1945. The restaurant changed locations in 1959 due to a fire; and in 1978, to the horror of its fans, it closed. Two years later the Lopinto family came along and opened it again, for which they were selected "Family of the Month" by the local Chamber of Commerce Howdycrat Board.
The Lopintos' goal was to preserve a great and unusual southern dining tradition. The tables at the Dinner Bell have always been known for the fried chicken and vegetable casseroles they hold, as well as for the fact that they spin in circles.
Yes, the tables revolve. They are round, and in the center of each is a lavish lazy susan. Service is boarding house style: spin the lazy susan and take what you want. When any serving tray starts getting empty, out comes a full one from the kitchen. Grab as much as you want and eat at your own speed.
It isn't only quantity and convenience that make Dinner Bell meals memorable. This is marvelous food: chicken and dumplings, catfish, ham, corn sticks, sweet potato casseroles, black eyed peas, fried eggplant and fried okra. The dishes we cannot resist are flamboyant vegetable casseroles supercharged with cheese and cracker crumbs. To drink with all this good food, there is only one proper libation: sweet, sweet tea.
For dessert, the Dinner Bell lazy susans hold shortcakes, fruit pies, and whipping cream pound cake; as well as not-so-classic but delectably wanton "banana breeze pie" and pistachio nut cake.
"The lazy Susan in the middle of each Dinner Bell table puts vast amounts of food within grabbing distance. The hard part is to find an empty place on the lazy Susan to replace the serving dish once you've taken what you want. (Photo by John Michael Lopinto)"
"Whenever a serving dish on the round table starts getting empty, a fresh one is brought out from the kitchen. Standing in the background is Nancy Bennett, head waitress at The Dinner Bell for more than thirty years. (Photo by John Michael Lopinto)"
"We always take seconds -- and thirds -- of the Dinner Bell's fried eggplant. (Photo by John Michael Lopinto)"
"For more than half a century The Dinner Bell has been a beacon of Thanksgiving-size meals. (Photo by John Michael Lopinto)"