Pepper Tree Steaks N’ Wine: Fabulous Food, Friendliest Service
By: Helen Herndon
It’s the kind of place where they know you by name — and the things you like to purchase. A “Cheer’s” atmosphere without the big wooden bar in the middle of the room. Instead, customers are gathered around a big glass case filled with prime cuts of meat and the ever popular twice-baked potatoes. Behind the counter the staff is working diligently, and yet cheerfully, cutting meat and stuffing potatoes as orders sail across the case from hand to hand.
Pepper Tree is known for treating its customers like family probably because they themselves are like a small family — having been together for many years. Co-owners Kathy Holmes Andrews, a Montgomery native, and Jeff Verner, from Clanton, Alabama, first met while working together at the former Montgomery institution — the butcher shop and grocery store — Penny Profit. In 1998 they decided to partner up and start a business of their own, and thus, Pepper Tree Steak N’ Wines was born. In almost 20 years, Pepper Tree Steaks N’ Wines has become known as the River Region’s premiere neighborhood specialty market offering diverse culinary experiences.
As Ms. Davis says, “We are always cooking.” Pop in anytime to enjoy any number of their diverse culinary delights.
The store contain its own butcher shop with fresh cuts of angus and prime beef as well as other meats. Mr. Verner is a master butcher and winner of the Alabama wildlife federation game, pork, and foul competition for over eight years. Long time butcher Timothy Wright has been with Pepper Tree since day one. He is also very knowledgeable in his expertise. Chantel Davis, the store’s General Manager, reveals about their meats, “Bone in Prime pork chop is one of our best kept secrets. When customers discover it they are addicted.”
Ms. Davis joined the Pepper Tree Steak N’ Wine team all the way back in 2001 during a time of expansion. Originally hired to develop new recipes, many of the casseroles in the popular “Gourmet to Go” department are her mother’s recipes. “The homemade mac n cheese, sweet potato casserole, spaghetti, lasagna, Greek salad dressing — are all my mothers recipes. It brings a special comfort to the customers when they find out the recipes have a story.”
Ms. Davis has also traveled extensively in the wine country including Napa and Oregon, meeting with winemakers and studying in books. She shares her knowledge with customers by teaching a “Wine 101” educational class every spring and fall.
In 2006, Executive Chef Drew Bass, originally from Valdasta, Georgia, joined the team. “Customers love the idea of Pepper Tree having our very own on-site chef,” says Ms. Davis. “With his culinary skills he has given us a special niche. He grills steaks, roast, pork and lamb to perfection!” Chef Drew’s skills were confirmed in the fact that he won several state competitions and placed first at the local 2015 “Feast of Flavours” held at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival competing against ten other local chefs.
Plus, he is available to cook at your home for any kind of party — specialty or holiday! Imagine an Executive Chef in your home preparing a five-course wine dinner for you and your guests! Chef Drew will do it! Plus, he has an amazing assistant — sous chef Brian Bass to help execute and serve up the delicious Pepper Tree fare!
From a dinner party in your home to a lavish wedding, from a small office party to large business banquets, catering coordinator Tamiko Williams Chillous will get it done. She, too, is a long-time member of the Pepper Tree family having been there for ten years. Ms. Chillous is also responsible for making the casseroles, dressing and all the chicken salad and dips. “She keeps them consistent. That’s what our customers have come to rely upon. Employees like her are hard to find. Her love that she has for Pepper Tree genuinely shows thru her cooking,” brags Ms. Davis.
Pepper Tree Steak N’ Wine is not just about the major events that need planning. As Ms. Davis says, “We are always cooking.” Pop in anytime to enjoy any number of their diverse culinary delights. Pick up some of their world-famous steak seasoning to take home; grab something from the “Gourmet to Go” department; enjoy fine dining without all the guilt by choosing something from the “Healthy Choice” menu; or go ahead and splurge shamelessly and take home some delicious baked goods including cakes and pies. Having friends over and need something quick? Grab some of their delicious dips including shrimp, smoked tuna or spinach just to name a few or even a party tray. Ms. Davis or Ms. Hale will help you find the perfect wine pairing for your menu. Whatever your needs … the friendly staff are more than ready to get to know you and to serve you.
“Chicken or steak?” That is the question frequently posed to me by my husband any given weekend. He’s headed to Pepper Tree Steak N’ Wine. I preheat the oven in anticipation of the twice-baked potatoes that will inevitably accompany the chosen protein. Not many minutes later he barrels through the door arms full of delicious bounty. Shrimp or smoked tuna dip (or both) for snacking … check. Fire up the grill … check. Potatoes in the oven … check. Snack. Sip wine. Grill. Visit. Warm rolls. Toss the salad. Presto! Dinner is ready! Except next time my husband asks “Chicken or steak?” The answer is probably, “Pork chop!”