Sticking to tradition

One day, Chris Whiteside came to the realization that he was tired of working in a plant. So he quit his job at Cooper Tire and decided to open Whiteside’s Restaurant.
“I wanted to try something on my own,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about cooking except what I did at home. But when we bought it, some of the cooks came with the business and they’ve taught me a lot.”
Located at the corner of Daybrite and South Green Street, the building has long housed restaurants that feature Southern-style, down-home cooking, such as Spencer’s Restaurant and T Culp amp& W’spoon.
And when Chris and his wife, Donna, opened their restaurant in August 2006, they didn’t want to change that tradition.
“A lot of people come here just for the vegetables,” said Betty Whiteside Guyton, Chris’ mother and a full-time employee. “That’s all they get sometimes.”
Others come for the meat.
“The beef tips and gravy on Tuesdays is good. That’s one of the main things we order,” said Michelle Kyle, who has plates delivered to Franklin Collection for herself and her co-workers at least once a week. “And their fish on Fridays is the bomb. It’s awesome.”
The restaurant draws customers from all walks of life: hospital employees, plant workers, businessmen, construction workers, city employees and retirees.
“We have businessmen in suits and ties and working men in filthy clothes all sitting and eating together,” Guyton said. “But I’d say we kind of cater to working people.”
Buffet favorites
Chris and Donna, who is the cafeteria manager at Shannon Primary, have come up with a regular weekly buffet menu that seems to please customers. Occasionally, they’ll change things up with the seasons, but in general it goes like this:
– Monday: Country-fried chicken and baked cheese spaghetti.
– Tuesday: Beef tips and gravy and fried chicken breasts.
– Wednesday: Hamburger steak or meatloaf and chicken casserole.
– Thursday: Fried chicken tenders and roast beef and sometimes chicken and dressing.
– Friday: Fish, barbecue and ribs.
To that, they add vegetables such as purple-hull peas, mashed potatoes, lima beans, squash dressing, corn, green beans, fried okra, fried squash and fried green tomatoes.
For $8.19, which includes tax, you get a meat, three vegetables, dessert and tea. They also have a regular menu, which includes sandwiches, burgers and salads.
“I make most of the desserts,” Guyton said. “Every day, we’ll have one dessert, maybe two, if I don’t think we’ll have enough of the first one.”
Some of her specialties include peach cobbler, chocolate cobbler, blueberry crunch, red velvet cake, lemon cake, Boston cream pie, banana pudding, old-fashioned rice pudding and apple cake.
“We do a little more involved cooking than some of these other places,” she said. “Maybe it’s because we’ve got the time. Who else in town is going to roll out and cut dumplings and stand over the stove and drop them in boiling broth?”
Family affair
In October 2008, the family decided to open on Sundays for three hours to serve a buffet-style lunch. Other family members who work at the restaurant are Alice Satterfield, Guyton’s mother, who’s the only one allowed to make the chicken and dressing; and the Whitesides’ daughter-in-law, Mary Elizabeth.
“Sunday has grown like crazy,” Guyton said. “When we first started, we used to just stand around here looking at each other. Now, we can hardly seat everybody.”
One pair of Sunday regulars is Sue and Heywood Washburn of Tupelo.
“They do have good vegetables that are seasoned very well,” Sue Washburn said. “And their fried chicken is very good, mighty tasty. The men just love it here.”
Heywood Washburn added that not only are the meats and vegetables good, but the meal is reasonably priced at $7.50 plus tax.
“That’s a fair price,” he said. “And what it lacks in ambiance it makes up in taste.”
The restaurant also does a booming business for breakfast Monday through Saturday.
“We probably serve 50 or 60 at breakfast,” Chris Whiteside said. “There’s the round-table crowd that comes in every morning – law enforcement officers and whoever wants to sit with them. We have a lot of retired gentlemen come in here.”
The breakfast menu includes eggs, breakfast meats, omelets, biscuits, pancakes, French toast and side items.
Chris Whiteside usually opens the restaurant in the mornings and gets breakfast started.
But it’s Donna Whiteside who mans the grill every other Sunday as well as Saturdays. When one of the grill cooks quit, she jumped in the kitchen and learned the basics from one of the other grill cooks.
“I really like it,” she said. “There’s not one day that’s the same as another. It’s always different. And working with Chris is interesting. I’m used to being around him at home, but at work, he’ll try to tell me how to do something or I’ll get bossy with him. It’s a tug of war. Sometimes I win and sometimes he does. We just try to do what’s best for the restaurant.”

Whiteside’s Restaurant
– Who: Chris and Donna Whiteside.
– Where: 501 Daybrite, at the intersection of Daybrite and South Green.
– When: 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday, 6 to 11 a.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sun-day.
– What: Home cooking for dine-in, delivery of 5 or more orders, carry-out or catering.
– Info: Call (662) 841-7799.

Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio