The food options at SouthEats on Tuesday featured smothered pork chop or baked chicken with mashed potatoes and lima beans as sides. Or, you could opt for a cheeseburger or a chili cheese dog. There was also pizza fresh out of a pizza oven. Then again, grilled chicken and vegetables with your choice of alfredo or marinara sauce looked pretty tasty.
“We really wanted this to be a fine-dining experience more or less,” said Kelly Hurt, vice president and chief human resources officer with Southeast Health in Dothan. “We didn’t want it to just be another hospital cafeteria.”
Southeast Health held a ribbon cutting Tuesday for its new cafeteria. Employees and hospital visitors have been enjoying SouthEats for a few weeks now, but the general public will have to wait until all the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted to try the new cafeteria options.
The hospital’s previous cafeteria was 50 years old and generally considered outdated and somewhat aesthetically unappetizing.
The cafeteria was closed for about 18 months with local restaurants and food trucks providing meal options for employees and visitors. Chick-fil-A and Chicken Salad Chick also set up in the hospital and will remain as food options.
The remodeling project – with a price tag of about $10 million – was extensive.
“We actually started this cafeteria remodel project about two years ago,” Hurt said. “We went well below the concrete, we replaced all the pipes, all the electrical, built it back up to make more space for a more aesthetically-pleasing opportunity for somebody … who might be visiting a patient to come down and eat and just kind of decompress a little bit.”
As part of the effort to revamp culinary options, the hospital hired a new executive chef even before construction began.
Along with its new name – SouthEats – the cafeteria is divided into different food areas, each with its own identity. The Chef’s Showcase will change to feature the day’s meal of choice by the chef. True South serves a meat entrée with two sides, and The Branded Bun offers hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and hot dogs or sausage dogs. Pizza Y’all has pizza by the slice.
SouthEats also has areas for toasted sub sandwiches as well as pre-packaged foods to go.
Prices are reasonable with a meat, two sides and a piece of bread coming to $6.99 or a hamburger for $3.29.
The dining area has been designed with different seating options – table, bar height, and booth – with a soothing color palette and outlets for computers or smart phones.
Hurt said once the hospital’s COVID-19 restrictions have been completely lifted, the general public will be able dine at SouthEats, whether or not they have a patient or a doctor’s appointment at the hospital.
“We’re going to be really excited about the day we’ll be able to open this back up to the community,” Hurt said. “This is for everybody; this is for all of our employees; this is for our community.”
Peggy Ussery is a Dothan Eagle staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 334-712-7963. Support her work and that of other Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at dothaneagle.com.