By T. Jensen Lacey

The mere mention of the name “Pirates Cove” brings a slew of memories to mind for most people living in LA (Lower Alabama). Like this writer, multiple generations of families have been coming to this oftentimes rowdy eatery and entertainment venue, and they come for not just the food, but the laid-back atmosphere, the pageantry, and the stories they’re sure to hear and share.

The building that is now Pirates Cove was originally built in the early 1930s and used for men working as Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) employees, who were hired to help build the Intracoastal waterway. A bunkhouse for the CCC workers was nearby, and the building was a general store for them.

There’s even more history here: the lush and beautiful bayou behind Pirates Cove (Robert’s Bayou) is said to be a place where lies buried or sunken treasure. Legend has it that during the Civil War, Admiral Raphael Semmes, a Confederate naval officer, and blockade runner, often hid his ship back in the bayou where larger pursuing Union vessels couldn’t get in those relatively shallow waters. The legendary man known as “the wolf of the deep '' is said to have buried or sunken treasure in the area, although nothing has ever been found.

The restaurant today is owned by Eileen Mueller, daughter-in-law of the original owners Paul and Elsa Mueller, German immigrants who left chilly Chicago for the better weather to be found in the South. They moved to the area in 1956 and Paul died unexpectedly about eight weeks after they relocated. Elsa’s nickname was “Miss Kitty,” and although she passed away in the 1980s, the sauce on the hamburgers is still referred to as “Miss Kitty’s sauce.”

Pirates Cove is co-managed by brothers Karl and Paul Mueller. Many of their employees have been working at Pirates Cove for decades, and this helps give the place a family kind of vibe. On the day I visited to interview them, Karl Mueller was working behind the counter with his cousin, Jody Briggs.

Pirates Cove itself is a local legend, and people from all over the world come here because of its laid-back appeal. There is a “no rules” feel to this place, and they even welcome dogs of all sizes and breeds. Some of the dogs have become legendary canines, and patrons who have long frequented the restaurant with their furry companions have been known to bring their dog’s ashes to scatter them in the area.

Besides the lure of sunken treasure and the furry welcoming committee, the bushwackers and cheeseburgers are can’t-miss good. And the folks who run Pirates Cove have hearts as big as their cheeseburgers. Every year, they hold two events with the proceeds going to philanthropies. One is “Cove Dog Nation,” which includes a hamburger-eating contest, with the money raised going toward no-kill shelters. The other, “Illuminating Autism,” helps raise awareness of the disorder while garnering funds.

Pirates Cove is in Josephine, Alabama, on County Road 95.

Dec 6, 2023
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