For the past 16 years, Marty Bean and his wife, Jessie, have welcomed the community of Millbrook with quality customer service, dedication and open minds at The Front Porch Grill. Open seven days a week, Bean serves nearly 400 customers a day and is a staple in the town for off-site catering.
“I am here seven days a week; so is Jessie. We’re very present with the business,” said Bean. “Every day is new and exciting.”
Bean grew up around food service, as his father was involved in the industry through the military and prison systems. With no formal training, Bean picked up his knack for cooking over the years and credits the basics for his advanced range of cooking styles.
“I taught myself and use common sense. I put my twist on anything I make. I’m not going to a copy a recipe. I like the challenge of what each catering job provides,” said Bean.
There is no limit to the distance Bean will drive to cater an event, and he has served anywhere from 10 to 15 people up to 400 before.
“Our catering has really grown due to our affordability. We’ll even cook things on site so they’re fresh and as good as they can be,” he said. “We don’t have a catering menu per se because we won’t turn anything down. I will do whatever we need to do.”
When hurricane Michael hit last year, Bean and his staff drove back and forth to Dothan each day to feed the electric cooperative employees who were working to restore power.
“It’s all about how we treat our customers that makes us stand out,” said Bean.
This mentality has led to a long list of repeat customers – two of which even have keys to the restaurant. They let themselves in every morning around 4 a.m. to make coffee and tea and just sit around and chat.
“This place reminds me of a hometown place from the ’60s. It’s really a male gossip place – the male version of a hair salon,” Bean said with a wide grin.
The restaurant opens at 5:30 a.m. each day, but people are usually lined up by around 5 a.m. Bean said as soon as the staff is ready, they will open the doors. Regulars usually have their chosen drinks waiting for them on their specific tables before they even walk in.
“I always tell people we get the same truck that backs up to our place as it does everyone else’s. It’s all about how you season the food and how you treat the people,” said Bean.
A lot of senior citizens come through the doors, and Bean offers a special rate for a smaller plate of food to keep things affordable. All ingredients are made in-house, and steaks are cut on site, so the money saved goes into keeping prices low for customers, he said.
When the Beans bought the restaurant in 2003, one of the original owners stuck around for a few months to teach them the recipes. She is the creator of some of the traditional menu items, while Bean creates specials as he goes.
Even during the holidays, Bean will whip up whatever dish a customer wants. They take customer orders for Thanksgiving, built around a list of staple meats and sides, but he said, there is nothing he won’t cook.
“People can order a whole Thanksgiving dinner or just a favorite side. It’s completely customizable,” said Bean.
The restaurant typically sees between 50 and 75 Thanksgiving orders each year, and about half of those are entire meals. Customers can begin placing orders Nov. 1, up until Nov. 20 by 11 a.m. All orders must be picked up on Nov. 27 at 2 p.m. – the day before Thanksgiving – as The Front Porch Grill is closed on the holiday to allow employees to spend time with their families.
Bean’s dedication and passion for serving the community of Millbrook is evident in his willingness to take on more than most could handle.
“The Millbrook community is welcoming in both ways. They embrace us, and we do our best to embrace them,” said Bean. “I know how I got to where I am today, and I am truly blessed.”
The Front Porch Grill, located at 106 Deatsville Highway in Millbrook, is open seven days a week from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 5:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, visit thefrontporchgrill.com or call 334-285-7888.