Last Wednesday, three women made their weekly visit to Café Memories in Iuka for lunch. They sat down and placed their orders – for dessert.
Then, they ordered their entrees.
“We ordered dessert first so we’d be sure and get some before he ran out,” said Beverly Jourdan of Iuka. And sure enough, three pieces of coconut cream pie made it to the table before the taco salad, shrimp po-boy and vegetable plate did.
Reed McNatt, owner and chief cook, is responsible for the sweet treats that grace the menu at the downtown eatery. He’s learned all his customers’ favorites: bread pudding with bourbon sauce, Texas fudge cake, chocolate cream pie, lemon delight pie, hopscotch butterscotch pie, cobbler, banana pudding, and of course, coconut cream pie.
“The men all go to Rotary on Wednesday so the women come here to eat,” Barlow said. “We call ourselves the Wednesday Lunch Bunch and there’s usually eight or more of us. We usually request what we want him to make for dessert.”
McNatt and his business partner, Ric Tiebe, opened the restaurant in 1997. In previous lives, the building housed Carmichael’s Dry Goods, Jourdan’s Dry Goods, Phillips Furniture Store and it once served as a warehouse for Town and Country Furniture.
“The whole community had a part in making this place,” McNatt said. “They all donated something that meant something to them, so there’s the ‘memories’ part.”
The walls in the two-story restaurant are
covered in all manner of things. Some might call the collection eclectic; others might prefer the word tacky. Either way you go, it’s interesting.
There is a menu from a restaurant in Cuba signed by Fidel Castro and party dresses from the 1960s; photographs, posters and plates; hats, old doors and birdhouses; a pair of ruby slippers, antique dough bowls and cast iron trivets; and white Christmas lights snaking around various tables.
“People still bring stuff in,” McNatt said. “The upstairs is full. The basement is full. We only have room for a few more things on this floor.” (A glance around makes one wonder, ‘Where, pray tell?’)
Almost all the recipes McNatt uses are his own. He attributes his cooking skills to both his grandmothers.
“They never ran me out of the kitchen,” he said. “They even made me participate.”
Chicken salad, made with grapes, toasted almonds and celery, is one of his customers’ favorites and he often sells out of it before the lunch shift is over. Other popular items include his club sandwich, called Ultimate Club Stack, shrimp scampi, blue cheese chicken and bread pudding with bourbon sauce.
“I try new recipes on customers,” he said. “If they like it, we make it a special. If they really like it and it goes over well, we’ll keep it a while”
Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal