Simp McGhee’s in Decatur, Alabama: Upscale Cajun Dishes

The legend of Simp McGhee lures diners to his namesake restaurant on Bank Street, but the amazing Cajun-style food and lively atmosphere keep them coming back again and again.

Location: 725 Bank Street Northwest, Decatur, Alabama

Menu: At Simp McGhee’s, the heavy Cajun influence is seen in every menu category. Appetizers such as crawfish eggrolls and spit fire shrimp appear alongside more sedate options of fried green beans, fried crab claws and smoked salmon crostini.

Seafood gumbo, she crab soup and red beans and rice are filled with the wonderful spices and aromas associated with great Louisiana cooking, but beautiful fresh salads are offered as well.

The list of entrees favors seafood heavily with lots of fish straight from the Gulf of Mexico. The nightly fresh catch choices vary according to season and availability.

Steaks are crowd favorites, as are the chicken, pork, duck, lamb and pasta dishes.

Thoughts: Stories abound about the antics of William Simpson (Simp) McGhee, a very colorful riverboat captain on the Tennessee River. One such story declares that he and his pet pig used to drink together at local bars. The rowdiest and most titilating story, however, involves his relationship with Kate Lackner, usually referred to as “Miss Kate.” Although she was married and had a child, Simp wooed and won her and set her up as the madam of a large brothel on Bank Street in Decatur. She ran a brisk business, but every Thursday when she heard the horn from Simp’s boat coming into harbor at the river, she ran everyone out for the night. He had her complete attention until he left again the following morning.

McGhee’s personality and life were tightly intertwined with the river. When his reckless actions on the water caused him to lose his license to operate his boat, he survived only three months without being on the river. He died in 1917, and was buried in Guntersville beside the Tennessee River that he loved.

The original house where Miss Kate lived was torn down in the 1960s, but the stories continued to be a part of the history of Decatur, Alabama. So much so, that when Robert and Jenny Lind Riddle decided to open a restaurant on Bank Street in 1986, naming it Simp McGhee’s seemed to be the perfect choice. Add to that the fact that the building is only a few blocks from his favorite river.

Simp McGhee’s is one of Decatur’s most upscale restaurants and has a reputation for excellent food and great musical entertainment. An extensive wine, cocktail, martini and coffee list is also available. It is in a perfect location for those who come into town for the 3rd Friday event every month on Bank Street in Decatur. It’s also a great place for a special celebration or a night out with friends.

Price range: Appetizers range from $8-13. Soups and salads are $4-7. Entrees are $16-29 with steaks offered at market price. Desserts are $7.

Connie Pearson

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