Used to be, whenever he and his wife would go out of town to dinner, Opp businessman Merrill Culverhouse would always run into someone he knew from their south Alabama hometown.

“When you would go out of town — if it was Andalusia, Enterprise, Destin (Fla.), anywhere — you would see Opp people leaving Opp to go to eat somewhere else,” Culverhouse says.

Ever since Culverhouse and his lifelong friend, chef Jon Gibson, opened their Wheelhouse restaurant in an old peanut butter plant downtown, though, folks around Opp are staying in town when they eat out.

And even better, out-of-towners

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The regulars know to get here early on Sunday morning.

By 10 o’clock, a half-hour before Eagle’s Restaurant opens its takeout windows, a socially distant line has already started forming, stretching from the front of the little cinderblock building down 16th Street North toward Birmingham’s ACIPCO pipe plant.

“If you don’t get here early, you’re going to be standing out here for a good little while,” says James “J Roc” White, who’s here with about a dozen other early birds. “You stay out here long enough, this line’s going to get longer and longer by the time church gets out.”

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