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By Claudia Lowery
Center Stage Cuisine columnist for the former Piney Woods Live entertainment magazine

I doubt I’m the only person around Marshall that feels the need for a dose of atmosphere and an occasional attempt to hide a few hours to collect thoughts, visit with a bestie, or have a quiet heart-to-heart under a small-town towering shade tree. A new getaway spot right in the heart of downtown Marshall is hidden from view, but if you’re in-the-know, or curious enough to ask how to find it, it’s easy enough to find. Take a walk through Blissmoor Valley Ranch store at 208 N. Washington St. and walk to the back where a cozy lunch counter and room becomes The Blue Frog, a lunch and catering business with special evening events. But the hideout I speak of is literally…. off the chart. Keep walking until you are out the backdoor. Like stepping through Alice’s looking glass the exit enters another world, The Alley Downtown Marshall.

The Alley is an extension of The Blue Frog Restaurant that has a newly installed full deck filling a cozy corner of the backyard of the downtown alley. Cross the deck and peak through the ancient iron bars on the windows into a shiny new full catering kitchen where owner Shawne Somerford, Chef Monica and her staff are planning and prepping delicious food for lunches, dinners, take outs, and catering. There is an assortment of patio style furniture arrangements for parties of 2 up to parties of 8 all nestled amid the backdrop of interesting exposed brick walls, poles and wires crisscrossing overhead like a geometric art installation, and a full, towering tree grows right up through the deck providing a delicate canopy. I’m already imagining semi-hiding back there during some chilly autumn afternoons, writing, reading, thinking and eventually emerging a more well-rested, thoughtful person.