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Good food never far in Miss-Lou

Southern hospitality means having a big heart, a warm hand and an endless appetite.

Business deals, lunch dates, family reunions — every major event includes food.

And the Miss-Lou’s restaurants are ready and waiting to serve up the best eats around.

For a great homemade lunch like momma used to make, take a peak under an old lady’s skirt. She won’t mind, and the cooks at Mammy’s Cupboard won’t either.

Anita Cranfield found her favorite lunch 12 years ago for two reasons.

“First thing, the food is good, and second, you’ve got good people here that work together as a family unit,” Cranfield said. “So they make you feel welcome.”

Cranfield said she comes to the Cupboard as often as she can during the week and consistently on Saturdays.

“The Rueben is one of my classic favorites,” Cranfield said. “If you’ve ever had rye bread here you’ll never want it anywhere else.”

The late Doris Kemp started serving daily lunch specials at the Cupboard in March 1994, and her daughter Linda Moore carries on the tradition today.

Moore said two things bring customers into the Cupboard.

“The building doesn’t hurt, but everything is made from scratch, like our pies and our breads,” Moore said.

Moore said she and cook Lorna Martin come at 5 a.m., five days a week, to start kneading dough to make fresh baked bread for their sandwiches and crusts for their pies.

From Tuesday through Saturday, the restaurant serves a daily special like the chicken rosemary, roast pork loin with the muscadine sauce or the chicken potpie.

Moore and Martin also serve gourmet sandwiches such as the Rueben, roast turkey, roast beef and Mammy’s chicken salad sandwich.

If there’s room for dessert the restaurant also has pies, cakes and cobblers for those with a sweet tooth.

Judy Heard said she comes into the Cupboard once, sometimes twice a week.

“It’s comfort food, so it’s what you want,” Heard said. “Any time any of my family come here (to Natchez) I bring them here for lunch.”

Martin has worked as a cook for the Cupboard since Sept. 11, 2000.

“You do get a good feeling when people stick their head in (the kitchen) and say that the lunch was wonderful, and it gives you a great sense of pride in knowing someone enjoyed the meal that you made,” Martin said.

The restaurant is traditionally known for its pasta, but Pearl Street Pasta owner Clif Brumfield said the grilled salmon salad is one of his top sellers.

The salad features a seasoned 6- to 8-ounce salmon fillet, served on a bed of mixed greens, and topped with goat cheese crumbles, pecans, sun-dried cranberries, hearts of palm and mandarin orange slices.

But the secret to its success, Chef Andrew Haile said, was in the salad dressing.

“Originally, when we first put it on the menu, it was served with a citrus vinaigrette,” Haile said. “But people opted to have it served with the house dressing, which is a sweet herbal vinaigrette, and it just took off after that.”

Just mentioning the salmon salad to Lil Graning gets her excited.

“I love it,” Graning said. “Because the salmon is fresh, it’s crisp on the outside and cooked perfectly on the inside (medium rare) the way salmon should be.”

Graning also said the salad has all kinds of flavors and consistencies.

“The combination of the crunch of the pecans, the sweet of the dressing, and the tart of the mandarin oranges and it’s just heart-healthy food,” Graning said.

Bob Latham said he dines at Pearl Street once or twice a week and orders the grilled salmon salad every time.

The main reason Latham orders the salad, he said, is because it’s healthy.

“When you eat food that is that good most of the time it’s not healthy for you, but this is an exception to the rule,” Latham said.

Another reason Latham likes the salad is its size.

“Portions are huge and you walk out of there completely full,” Latham said.

Everything about this dish may be hard to pronounce, but it’s certainly easy to enjoy.

Center City Bistro owner Peter Hamezopoulos said his Greek appetizer platter is in high demand.

“It’s selling more than everything,” Hamezopoulos said. “They’ve (customers) been asking for more every day.”

The platter includes five classic Greek samplers including: hummus (garbanzo beans with bread crumbs, olive oil, lemon and garlic), baba ganoush (grilled eggplant paste with feta cheese and garlic), taramosalata (Greek caviar with bread crumbs, olive oil, onion and lemon), tzatziki (a Greek version of sour cream, cucumber, garlic, dill weed and olive oil) and dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice and rolled).

The platter also has wedges of feta cheese, kalamata olives and plenty of sliced pita bread for dipping.

“It looks like it has adapted very well to Natchez,” Hamezopoulus said.

Hamezopoulos said the platter is a family recipe his mother made when he was growing up in Greece.

Two years ago, before his mother died, Hamezopoulos was running another Greek restaurant in New Orleans.

Hamezopoulos said he would check with his mother in Greece sometimes before making the dish.

“I already knew it, but if I had any doubts I would call and wake her up and ask if anything was missing,” he said.

Bernard Wood of Natchez said he and his wife Lucy have eaten in Greece, but Center City was their first taste of Greek food in America.

“It was wonderful, we got a kick out of it,” Bernard said. “I really liked the cucumber (tzatziki) and the grape thing (dolmades), but we had to split them and I really didn’t want to split them.”

Vance Custer said she has tried hummus in New York, New Orleans, Destin and Nashville and considers herself a connoisseur of the dish.

“I felt like the hummus here held it’s own,” Custer said.

What’s in a name?

Well if the name is Big Agnes then it’s mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, mushrooms, Swiss cheese and a perfectly seasoned beef patty.

Owner and cook of E&T’s Bar-B-Q Heaven Ellen Earl said the Big Agnes is named after her mother Agnes Watson Harris, who made the burger for Earl and her nine brothers and sisters.

But when she was little, the burger wasn’t dressed as it is now.

“When we were growing up we would add the other things to the burger, but the flavor of the burger has always remained the same.”

And what are the seasonings that make the Big Agnes so tasty?

“I’d have to roll you over if I told you that,” Earl said.

Earl said she and her husband Thomas Earl sell about 400 burgers a week and that most people hear about the Big Agnes through word-of-mouth.

“We get a lot of people coming in here saying, ‘Well so-and-so told me about this place and about the burger, and we came by to try it,’” Earl said.

“We even have customers coming in from out of town, calling ahead to make sure we’re open and making sure that their burger is ready when they get here.”

Shirley Dawson said she probably goes to E&T’s four days a week.

Dawson said she likes the Big Agnes because it is very filling.

“By the time you get halfway through it, you have to force yourself to get through the rest of it,” Dawson said.

Steve Troutman also enjoys the Big Agnes and will suffer stomach pains to have it.

“I go in there and order it knowing it’s going to give me indigestion, but it’s just so good I don’t care,” Troutman said.

Mary Bell said she gets the Big Agnes every time she goes to E&T’s.

“I like my Big Agnes,” Bell said. “You know how sometimes when you go to another place and eat a burger you have to ask yourself, ‘What else am I going to eat?’ You never have to worry about it with that burger.”

You don’t have to go around the world to enjoy a good sandwich.

Just take a drive to Big John’s Bar-B-Que in Ferriday and try the Around-the-World Poboy.

Owner Jerry Johns said he got the idea for the sandwich while dining at a restaurant in the Mississippi Delta.

“Twenty-five years ago I was up in Greenwood in a restaurant called Malouf’s, and they had a sandwich called the Around-the-World Poboy,” Johns said. “It was different. I think they had salami, bologna and some other things, but I liked it.”

Johns created his own version of the sandwich with ham, roast beef, Swiss and American cheeses, pepperoni, olive salad, mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato.

“Big John’s version of a Muffuletta on a po-boy bun,” Johns said.

Johns said the sandwich is prepared by putting the meats and the cheeses on the bun first, and then melting it down.

“That’s what makes it juicy and sloppy,” Johns said.

Joe Coughran said he likes the Around-the-Word because it has a little bit of everything on it.

“As far as the poboys, that is the best one they got there,” Coughran said.

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