Whistle Stop Café & Fried Green Tomatoes in Juliette, GA
Do you like the movie Fried Green Tomatoes? Then you need to visit the Whistle Stop Café in Juliette, Georgia.
Juliette is famous as the filming location of the popular movie Fried Green Tomatoes. To this day, the main street of Juliette resembles the movie set, so you will feel like you are walking around in a real-life Whistle Stop, Alabama.
Whether or not you like the movie, Juliette is a charming little place to stop by. The highlight is the Whistle Stop Café, which is now an operational restaurant that serves up yummy southern food.
In this post, I’ll tell you how Juliette, Georgia came to be associated with Hollywood and I’ll explain the best way to see all the Fried Green Tomatoes sites in the area.
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Fried Green Tomatoes in Juliette
In 1987, Fannie Flagg published Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. This story of friendship, love, and community in the American South spent months on the New York Times Best Seller List.
The action takes place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a tiny town modeled on Flagg’s hometown of Irondale. A few years later, movie producers chose the almost deserted town of Juliette, Georgia to be their fictional Whistle Stop. Just like Whistle Stop, Juliette revolved around the railroad.
In 1991, Fried Green Tomatoes the movie was released, starring Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Mary-Louise Parker. It was an immediate hit, and thus began Juliette’s road to fame.
The movie presents Whistle Stop in two different time frames. In the past, Idgie Threadgoode, Ruth Jamison, and their friends must deal with death, abuse, prejudice, the K.K.K., and a murder trial as they fight for happiness in the 1920s and 1930s. In the present (1980s), unhappy housewife Evelyn Couch hears their story and is inspired to change her own life.
Juliette, Georgia: Quick Facts
Founded in 1882, Juliette received its name from Juliette McCracken, daughter of the engineer building the railroad in the area. The town sprang up around the train station and soon there were mills operating on the nearby Ocmulgee River.
The biggest was the Juliette Milling Company’s grist mill. The building still stands today across from the Whistle Stop Café, but the mill stopped working in the 1950s.
Today Juliette is so small that it isn’t even officially a town, but rather an “unincorporated community.” According to the 2020 census, only 290 people live in the area. The main street, McCrackin Street, is really all there is to the town.
But ever since Fried Green Tomatoes became a hit in 1991, Juliette has welcomed excited tourists eager to explore “Whistle Stop”. McCrackin Street has been revitalized and turned into a mini tourist district.
Fried Green Tomatoes: Movie Attractions
Almost all of McCrackin Street appears in Fried Green Tomatoes in some form or another. Even the Juliette Mill across the train tracks shows up in a few shots. You seriously feel like you are walking around on a movie set.
Most of the buildings used in the movie were already there when the film crew arrived. For instance, the Whistle Stop Café was built in 1927 and served as a grocery store and antique shop before it was selected for the movie.
Now let’s go through the main places of note in Juliette, Georgia (aka Whistle Stop, Alabama).
Whistle Stop Café
Address: 443 McCrackin St, Juliette, GA 31046
The Whistle Stop Café is the heart of modern Juliette, just like it is at the center of Fried Green Tomatoes. In the movie Idgie and Ruth ran the café together, and after filming wrapped up the building’s owner decided to open the restaurant for real.
Today you can pop in and try fried green tomatoes and other traditional southern food. Everything looks just like in the movie, from the U-shaped counter to the booths around the walls.
We sat at the counter and ordered fried green tomatoes, chicken sandwiches, and buttermilk pie. The food was delicious, the atmosphere was cheerful, and the waitresses were happy to talk about the area.
NOTE: The Whistle Stop Cafe is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so plan accordingly. Thursday through Monday it is open from 11 am to 4 pm.
The Barbecue Pit & Frank Bennett’s Grave
Right behind the Whistle Stop Café is the barbecue pit where Big George made his famous BBQ. It isn’t in use, but it adds to the atmosphere.
And next to the pit is a grave someone added in honor of (or to spite) Ruth’s ex-husband Frank Bennett. The inscription reads as follows: “Here lies Frank Bennett of Valdosta: the secret lies in the sauce and here.”
Home of Smokey Lonesome
A little further behind the café is a wood shack with a red-brick chimney labeled “Home of Smokey Lonesome”. This is where the wandering hobo Smokey slept during his time in Whistle Stop.
Ruth’s & Idgie’s Place
A few houses down from the café is the little white one-story house that served as a home for Idgie and Ruth. Their names are on the house’s wall in black paint, so you can’t miss it! The building is now a gift shop.
The Bank Façade
The one totally new building constructed for the movie set was the bank. For a while it was a false front, with the bricks being loosely attached to wood backing, but now there is an actual shop behind it.
Grave for Buddy’s Arm
Just past the train depot, behind the outhouse, lies a cement slab commemorating Buddy Jr.’s arm. It’s a little hard to spot from the road, but you can orient yourself with the depot and the outhouse.
Ruth’s & Buddy’s Graves
Address: 69 McCrackin St, Juliette, GA 31046
True Fried Green Tomatoes fans will not want to miss the last stop: Ruth’s grave, right next to Buddy’s. This stop is a little further afield (a 15-minute walk from the café), so you may want to take your car, especially if it is a hot Georgia day.
Head down McCrackin Street, past the gift shops and past the Whistle Stop Café, and keep going through a residential area until you reach the Juliette United Methodist Church. Here, in the midst of the graveyard, lie Ruth’s and Buddy’s graves. Visitors bring gifts of honey to honor the dead.
(I have no idea how they convinced the church to leave fake headstones in an actual cemetery. But it really adds to the effect! It’s easy to believe that Idgie, Ruth, and everyone else actually lived there in Juliette.)
Tips For Visiting Juliette, GA
Now you know what there is to see, and I hope you are now planning your own visit to Juliette. Here are some things to take into account.
Planning Your Visit to Juliette
Remember that the Whistle Stop Café is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. So if you want the full experience, visit on some other day.
I recommend that you park next to the Whistle Stop Café and then stroll down McCrackin Street. You can spot all of the movie attractions, and don’t forget to pop into the shops! Many of them appeared in the movie, and most now sell cute trinkets and souvenirs. My favorite is More Than Mason Jars, also called “the Cutest Lil Gift Shop Evvah”.
After you have explored McCrackin Street, walk back to the café and drive to the church cemetery to see Ruth’s grave.
How To Get To Juliette
Juliette is located in Monroe County in central Georgia. The town lies along the Ocmulgee River a little north of Lake Juliette.
Juliette is only about 7 miles off US Highway 23, so it is easy to access the area no matter what direction you are coming from. If you are approaching from the north or south, you may want to drive on I-75 and then connect to US-23.
The nearest city is Macon at 23 miles or 30 minutes away. Atlanta is only 70 miles from Juliette; without traffic it takes a little over an hour to drive down, so you can easily make a Fried Green Tomatoes day trip from Atlanta.
Watch Out For Trains
Train tracks cross Juliette Road in the east right before you turn onto McCrackin Street. This means that you will need to drive over the tracks if you are coming from the east on Juliette Road (for instance, if you are driving from the Jarrell Plantation).
This is only a problem because trains routinely stop in Juliette and block the railway crossing. It happened when we were visiting and the train sat there for an hour. The locals said it’s because of the switch next to Juliette – trains need to pass each other there.
It’s unpredictable and inconvenient. There isn’t another nearby railway crossing, so if you do get stuck, you either have to wait it out (which could take a while) or drive the long way around (this will take about 30 min).
If you are trying to get INTO Juliette, you can also park your car in the empty lot by the old Juliette Mill and walk across the tracks behind the train. Then you can visit the town and eat lunch at the café while waiting for the train to leave.
But if Fried Green Tomatoes has taught us anything, it is to be careful around train tracks. So if you go with this last option, be careful. We do not want a repeat of either Buddy’s accident!
Things To Do Near Juliette, Georgia
The Whistle Stop Café isn’t the only attraction in the Juliette area. Here are a few other things to do while you are in Monroe County.
If you like kayaking or canoeing, then you are in luck! Ocmulgee Outdoor Expeditions runs boating tours on the Ocmulgee River from Juliette. You can choose between expeditions of varying lengths and types.
The Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge is less than 10 minutes from Juliette. Go here for hiking, birdwatching, and scenic drives!
The Jarrell Plantation State Historic Site is just 10 minutes from downtown Juliette. You can take a self-guided tour of this historic plantation and learn about life in Middle Georgia in the 1800s and 1900s. My mom and I loved Jarrell Plantation – it was so cool to see the historic buildings and to learn about life before and after the Civil War.
A little further afield is Macon, with lots of historic sites, museums, and festivals. For example, you can check out Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, where Native peoples lived for over 12,000 years.
Final Thoughts on Juliette & the Whistle Stop Café
If you are a Fried Green Tomatoes fan, you will not want to skip Juliette. As I have emphasized multiple times, it really feels like you are stepping into the movie.
Even if you haven’t watched Fried Green Tomatoes, you will appreciate the southern charm and the good food. So come enjoy the beauty of rural Georgia and the thrill of Hollywood all at once!
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