Nearly 114 years after it opened, Alabama’s Greek-American owned Bright Star restaurant in Bessember still has legions of fans, many drawn there because it was a favorite of the late football coach Bear Bryant and of the coach today, Nick Saban, with private booths.
Bryant, who died in 1983, really brought them. “He always sat back there,” said co-owner Jimmy Koikos, before he, too, passed away, in 2019.
Family patriarchs Bill and Pete Koikos bought the 25-seat café founded by fellow Greek immigrant Tom Bonduris in 1923, when the Birmingham suburb of Bessemer was a flourishing factory town, reported History website.
It was the first restaurant in the state to win the James Beard American Classic Award, has more than 300 seats with old-time touches like its marbled walls and hand-laid tile flooring. First-time customers get a free bowl of the restaurant’s seafood gumbo.
The long-time eatery was featured in the website’s report on 15 Iconic American restaurants, the much-beloved place having dark-paneled booths and the kind of cozy atmosphere that screams comfort food too, and featuring New Orleans-style hotter dishes and Greek-styled snapper and steak also menu favorites.