This is the entrance to the original dale’s Cellar Restaurant. Located in the midst of the financial district of downtown Birmingham, Alabama. The “Cellar’s” name derived from the fact that the restaurant was located in the cellar of a multi-story apartment building. On the awning you’ll note the words “air conditioned” – not a small amenity in 1949.
dale’s Seasoning was first bottled in Birmingham in 1946. Since its creation as the “house marinade” for dale’s Cellar Restaurant, we have discovered that people are using dale’s in a multitude of recipes from sauces to salad dressings and everything in between. Our loyal customers and friends have shared with us their favorite recipes over the years and we have assembled them in the dale’s 50th Anniversary Commemorative Cookbook.
Jake founded dale’s Restaurants in 1946 and expanded the business to include nine locations, six of which were in Southern cities outside of Birmingham. Jake ran the two Birmingham restaurants until his death in 1966 when his wife, Estelle, took over his role in the business. Jake was a true pioneer in the restaurant industry, introducing many innovative concepts and techniques that are industry standards today.
One of the first phenomena that separated dale’s Cellar from other restaurants was the fact that patrons could see food being prepared before their eyes. This originated one evening when a friend of Jake’s, as a joke, demanded to have his meal prepared “… right here, right now, at this table!” Jake then wheeled out a small hibachi grill and cooked the gentleman’s steak at his table. Word of this cooking style soon circulated and evolved into dale’s signature feature – having a chef prepare meals in full view of all patrons. Pictured above is Clyde Adams, head chef at dale’s Cellar in 1949, preparing a steak on the restaurant’s main grill behind a glass wall. Additionally, dale’s Cellar was one of the first restaurants to grill all types of food indoors, a basic feature of nearly all of today’s restaurants.
Pictured above is the cashier’s station at dale’s Cellar in Birmingham, the first dale’s Cellar restaurant. The interiors of all dale’s Cellar Restaurants were very similar. There were no huge bay windows, brass fixtures or ornate salad, soup and dessert bars. At dale’s, the food and service were always the main attraction. A favorite entree at dale’s was “The Gambler Steak Dinner.” Patrons who ordered “The Gambler” never knew what cut of steak they would receive — that was left to the chef’s discretion. However, they were guaranteed that their “gamble” would indeed pay off handsomely when their meal was served. The price of “The Gambler” meal in 1958 – $2.50.
As dale’s Cellar Restaurants’ reputation grew to areas outside of Birmingham, demand grew throughout the Southeast for other dale’s Restaurants. In 1963, dale’s opened a location in Panama City Beach, Florida. This was the first location that wasn’t built in the cellar of a building. The decor in this location changed somewhat to reflect the Florida environment, and several of the classic dale’s seafood recipes were developed at this location.
Murray, along with Estelle, was instrumental in the growth of dale’s Sauces, Inc. In 1975 they established the basic operating procedures and business philosophies that dictate the policies of dale’s Sauces, Inc. to this day. Murray was a major catalyst behind the expanded distribution and upgrades in technology that dale’s Sauces experienced between 1975 and 1983. One of the main tenets of Murray’s philosophy was that each mixture of herbs and spices be combined every morning to ensure the freshest product possible. This procedure is still being followed today by Estelle’s son, Michael Levine.
Pictured to the left, from left to right: Michael Levine, President, dale’s Sauces, Inc.; Estelle Levine Silverstein, co-founder, and her nephew Alan Seigel, Vice President.
lt is hard to believe that fifty years ago patrons of dale’s Cellar who requested a bottle of dale’s Seasoning could only be accommodated by filling a soft drink bottle with the sauce. But times have changed, and so have we. However, one of the many things that has remained constant throughout our history is the high level of family involvement and commitment to our employees and loyal customers that we have enjoyed and maintained over the years. dale’s Seasoning is a family recipe, one we are pleased to share with our valued customers, acquaintances and family friends. While we are very excited about the years to come, we will always remain mindful of our past as it will continue to play a major role in our future.