You won’t get a lot of fancy descriptive food details on the menu at Mary’s Sandwich Shop.
The diner’s Ashford menu hangs on the wall behind the lunch counter and features chili dogs, hamburgers and sandwiches like fried bologna, grilled cheese or a plain tomato sandwich.
“We just keep it very simple,” said owner Mary Rollan, who operates the Ashford lunch counter as well as the original in Midland City. “… If you can put it on bread, if you request it and it’s simple, we do it.”
Rollan has operated Mary’s Sandwich Shop in Midland City since 2014, but the diner and its chili dogs have a long history in Midland City.
Originally known as Marshall’s Sandwich Shop, the Midland City diner is located in a building that’s more than 100 years old. It was a mercantile store started by the Marshall Family. The store served chili dogs with chili made from a family recipe. The store eventually evolved into a lunch counter with a new generation of Marshalls serving the same family chili recipe.
Rollan had been working in the office of a local construction company. She liked her job but dreamed of having her own diner. When she heard the owner of Marshall’s in Midland City was ready to retire, she made an offer to buy the business. Rollan took over and changed the name to Mary’s Sandwich Shop. Rollan added a few items but wanted to keep the menu as close to the original as possible – including the same chili recipe.
“It’s the same recipe that has been passed down for 80 years,” Rollan said.
They even use the same hot dog wieners and buns (which they steam). Rollan said she didn’t see any point in messing with a formula that works.
“A lot of people grew up there, going to college at Wallace, so those people have now left and 50 years later they’re coming back from all over – Birmingham, everywhere,” Rollan said. “When they pass through they always bring their kids and grandkids.”
In April, Rollan added a location in Ashford. Her daughter, Cara Gandy, manages the Midland City restaurant while Rollan takes care of the Ashford location.
At first, Rollan − who lives in Pansey and is from Ashford − had trouble finding a space in Ashford. There were plenty of old buildings but the owners didn’t want to sell and Rollan didn’t want to rent or lease. When an old package store on Midland Street came up for sale, Rollan snapped it up.
Painted yellow, the building is near Ashford’s historic depot. Inside, the diner has nostalgic touches with its bar stools, tables, wall art and a juke box in one corner playing oldies from Elvis Presley, the Righteous Brothers, Otis Reading, Jerry Lee Lewis and Smokey Robinson.
“Unchained Melody” and “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” played over the juke box recently during lunch.
The menus at the two restaurants are slightly different. In Midland City, menu choices include the chili dog, a chili burger, cheeseburger, nachos and a grilled cheese sandwich plus desserts like banana pudding and cream cheese pound cake. At the Ashford diner, you can also get a slaw dog, a bacon cheeseburger, a Philly sandwich, the fried bologna sandwich, a chicken salad sandwich, a sausage dog, a BLT and, of course, the simple tomato sandwich. Also, the Ashford location has $3 milk shakes (salted caramel comes highly recommended). Rollan’s mother, Merle McIntyre, makes the desserts sold in the restaurant.
Prices range from $2 for a grilled cheese sandwich to $6.75 for the big nachos (which feature the same chili as used on the chili dogs). Chips are served instead of fries. In the fall, Mary’s Sandwich Shop will be serving homemade chicken and dumplings and soups.
It’s a quick and affordable lunch. Rollan said customers seem to enjoy the quaint lunch counter atmosphere at both locations.
“We have a lot of people come in for a mom and pop place,” she said.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!