HOMEWOOD, Ala. (WIAT) — On most days, the line at Johnny’s Restaurant in Homewood has already formed before the doors open.

The restaurant’s blackboard menu features some staples like fried green tomatoes and keftedes (Greek meatballs), but also is subject to change based on what ingredients are in season.

“There’s love in our food,” said the owner and head chef Timothy Hontzas. “There’s a lot of time in our food.”

Johnny’s has its regular patrons.

“Eva, what do you say?” said Kerri Stephen, who visits Johnny’s more than once a week with her daughter, Eva. “The best grits there are?”

Eva nods.

“The best grits there are!” Kerri said.

The food served at Johnny’s hasn’t gone unnoticed in the culinary world. The James Beard Foundation named Hontzas a semifinalist for Best Chef in the South.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Especially proud of this recognition is Connie Joe and Auline — Tim’s parents.

“We are just filled with pride that he’s done so well and cares so much,” said Connie Joe.

Timothy Grew up around food — in fact, most of his family thrived in the kitchen.

“I [remember] washing dishes in my grandfather’s restaurant,” said Timothy. “And when I say grandfather, Pappouli, or Johnny, that’s the name of the restaurant, it’s all an homage to him.”

Johnny’s menu is all a nod to Timothy’s Greek heritage and southern upbringing. The chef works to continue his family’s legacy of spreading love with a full plate.