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Apr 15, 2004 01:21 AM

Mendenhall Hotel Revolving Tables - RIP

  • c


In my car, I always keep copies of Road Food by Jane and Michael Stern as well as their book Eat Your Way Across the USA. It makes for interesting casual reading in a pinch and a reference when we are out of territory. For our southern trip, I also brought along Southern Belly by John T. Edge of the University of Mississippi at Oxford and lead of the Southern Foodways Alliance. I’ve met him several times when he presented lectures to the Culinary Historians of Chicago. I have seen John also posts from time to time on Chowhounds, I always wonder how many know who he is.

When we were heading south to Hattiesburg, Mother commented we must visit Mendenhall on our return as both the Sterns and John T. have recommended a restaurant there. This of course gave the back seat crowd another opportunity to moan all we think about is food. What they did not appreciate was this rare convergence of these authors recommending the same place. I was quite excited we were in for a real jewel.

On the return trip, we all ate light breakfasts as we recognized we were going to have an early lunch. To wet the backseat crowds’ appetite further, they were read the complete descriptions from each book of the Mendenhall experience. We all fell in love with a place we never set eyes on. We imagined ourselves hungry travelers who only had a 30-minute stopover from the train bound for New Orleans. We had to hustle fast to complete our meal at the Hotel across from the station. The proprietors at the Mendenhall Hotel took this into consideration by providing a one-price all-you-can-eat meal at a table set with enormous lazy susans, to quote John T: “While the bottom tier of the Lazy Susan remained stationary, the buffet spun by on the top tier like a carousel of calories: day-glo candied yams and soft, sweet yellow squash, followed by limp, pork-studded green beans and fat limas, and then in quick succession, crusty white cornbread, a jumble of okra and tomatoes, and everybody’s favorite, fried chicken. On a typical day there might be five meats and ten vegetables.” If the food doesn’t blow you away, the writing certainly does. We understood we were in for destination dining from a very different era than we live in today.

As we approached Mendenhall, we were somewhat surprised to find no advertising, no local commerce hype featuring a very unique business in their community. I reasoned it may be so embedded in the community, nobody realizes the specialness within their boundaries. We drove into the small commercial district and up to the courthouse. Not only did we not find our destination restaurant, we found no other restaurants. Finally, my sister walked into the local bank branch to inquire where the Revolving Tables were located. She returned to the car to comment all we had to do was cross the railroad tracks and it was immediately to the left. Oh, I hate these moments when the answer is so obvious! As we pulled up to the place, we found ourselves the only car and a sign on the door. I thought all this way and they are on vacation! As I approached the door, I could tell it had been there for a while. My heart went thud as I read:

“As of 12/31/01 this business
will close. We wish to thank
our many loyal customers
for their years of support
We will miss you.
Best wishes
The Owners
1915-2001 ---- 86 years”

There was a mixture of disappointment, sadness and a tinge of anger this place didn’t live on. I peaked through the windows and tried to see through the folds of curtains, it almost appeared someone walked out one day and just left everything as-is. Amazingly, the bank tellers who provided the instructions to locate it failed to mention it was a closed business.

We were still hungry. I inquired with an elderly matron coming out of the hairdressers, of which there were several, where does she go to eat. She recommended several places on the highway, but nothing in town because it didn’t exist. We drove out of town and bypassed the recommended places.

This could be a cautionary tale of why I should consult Chowhound first before committing to a wild goose chase in unfamiliar territory. Yes, I have since learned Mendenhall was reported closed on this board.

Yet I think there is a bigger philosophical issue, which probably reverberates in many a chowhound soul: supporting the unique place whose presence can be drowned out by indifference from the general population. I’m perhaps being a bit dramatic as restaurant closures are an everyday occurrence. In this case, it could have been the general malaise after 9/11, when restaurant attendance dropped precipitously. Maybe the owners wanted to retire and couldn’t find family members willing to take over or interested buyers. Maybe it was a lack of local support, the lifeblood of any restaurant. Who knows.

Still it was a sad occasion for me as well as an object lesson on supporting the little guy for the back seat crowd.


Mendenhall Hotel Revolving Tables
100 Gerald Morgan Memorial Street
Mendenhall, MS

Link: http://www.southernfoodways.com/

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  1. I remember reading that. It's a shame that places like these have to make money. Sadly they can't make it on love and good food. Another of these in Mississippi was Ruth and Jimmy's in Abbeville. Their Sunday lunch was just spectacular. Lunch bar and outside seating when it was warm. 15 minutes from Ole Miss.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Tater


      From reading between the lines, I assume Ruth and Jimmy's is no more.

      I totally appreciate the economics, you have to profit to survive. Breaking even often means the owners are making less money than the dishwasher.

      It just sounded like such a treasurer, we're so sorry we were a few years too late.

      I will be in Oxford, MS in early October - without my family - so I hope to have a fuller experience next time.


      1. re: Cathy2

        You know, I have been living in Oxford since Sept 2005 because of Katrina. I was not aware of any revolving tables in the Oxford area. I am from south MS and I am familiar of the Revolving Table in Mendenhall, MS. I was a caregiver to this 103 yr old man who was originally from Jeff Davis County and we had lunch at the Revolving Table. It was delightful and delicious. I shall never forget those memoiies. I had browsed around in the restaurant there and could only imagine how it was a busy and prominent place once upon a time....how many travelers had stayed there on their way to their destinations.............oh, the memories of the place! .......I am nostalgic of such places...............after all, I am a history major........

        Thanks for posting this about Revolving Tables.............I would rather dine at a revolving table instead of these fast food restaurants.......

      2. re: Tater
        Mike Shaddock

        Some forty two years ago, I was a member of the Bossier High School Band, going from Bossier City, Louisiana to Miami Beach, FL to compete in a marching band competition. We stopped in Mendenhall and had lunch at the Revolving Tables Restaurant. I still have a picture of the place. To this day, I have never forgotten the feast that was laid out for us that day. I am saddened to here about its demise.

        Mike Shaddock
        Temple, Texas

      3. Thanks for your posting. I have a scheduled visit to South Mississippi in two weeks. I have fond memories of the Roundtable and had also consulted the Stern's book for other suggestions. Your posting saved me a disappointing excursion. You sound like a savey chowhound with similar tastes to mine. I hope you have some recommendations for local color places in that area.

        1. Very Sad Indeed...I spent my early Childhood in Mendenhall and continue to visit relatives in the area Going to the "Round Table" as it was called by locals, was a weekly destination for Sunday Dinner...I remember the "Matriarch' of the family would play the organ on occasions. Wow! The memories.

          For those of you traveling I-55 South be sure to check out The Dinner Bell in McComb Mississippi. Excellent food served on "The Revolving Tables"" You will have dreams about the Fried Eggplant every night for a week!!! Awesome!!

          The Dinner Bell
          229 5th Ave McComb Mississippi..

          1. I ate at the Round Table once just before it apparently closed. I didn't know it had closed. The owner was from a different time. He made one of the patrons spit out his gum in his hand before he'd seat him. He kicked out another young couple because the guy was wearing a hat. The walls were decorated with old photographs, many of them of fraternity parties at Ole Miss in the 1950s. The man was very old. I'm sure he had to retire.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tennreb

              Ha! Ha! You remind me of a time, I was eating there with my family, including my Mother & GrandMother...I was chatting with people who were "tourist". That was part of the "fun" to meet and talk with people who were traveling. Anyway, in conversation I happend to mention Walnut Hills in Vicksburg (another "Round Table" place) because that is where these people were going. The Gentleman you refer to overheard my mentioning of the Vicksburg establishment, and quickly "put me in my place" Ha! Ha! He had known me and my family for two generations..He was very protective of his "his place"
              Like I said, great memories, great food, and they were/are great people!

            2. Though a horribly old thread (maybe Halloween bring out "zombies," or something), I have to comment. Back in the '60s (yes, THOSE '60s) we dined there on numerous occasions. When I was at Ole Miss, it was a great Sundy lunch. Even after I had been kicked out, it seemed a good stop, on the way to a game at Faulkner Stadium.

              I am so sorry to hear (at this late date), of it's demise. I think that the same fate befell a similar establishment, in Hattiesburg, MS. Similar in concept (lower level DID revolve), and similar charm.

              I guess that Thomas Wolfe was correct, "you can never go home again."