"Southern hospitality", I have heard of this phenomenon for many years. Spending most of my life in the Northeast, I tended to be doubtful of its true existence (similar to stories one hears of Bigfoot, or Loch Ness, or Vegetables being good for you). But I am most pleased to say that it actually exists and we experienced it first hand!
As we were traveling up to Natchez, we passed a unique looking roadside restaurant. It was in the shape of a giant 28-foot-tall "Mammy". The sign out front read "WELCOME, Y'ALL". And "welcome" we were made to feel. While Mammy's Cupboard has spawned countless online debates over its cultural and social merits, no one can argue that she's great at what she was meant to do: getting travelers to pull off the highway.
Mammy's began life as a gas station back in 1940. The owner
wanted to capitalize on the Gone With The Wind craze and built this giant roadside attraction. Through the years, and passing from owner to owner, Mammy's has gone through a series of transitions. She was nearly bulldozed in 1979 for a widening of Highway 61, but was saved by early roadside preservationists.
That was when she was purchased by Lorna Martin and her husband and daughter (Tori), and the tradition of made-from-scratch, home cooking continued.
Having been recommended by so many different people, we were excited to try their old-fashioned home cooking. But alas it was not meant to be. Our faces dropped as we entered the diner and saw a sign on the cash register reading: CASH ONLY! Being short on cash, we turned to leave..
..And then it happened!
The kindly restaurant manager (Lisa) told us, not to fret. "Come on in. Order whatever you like then send us a check later." Our jaws dropped to the floor.
Unclear if we heard her correctly, we asked her to repeat herself. Again, she said, just send us a check when you get home. We had a hard time believing what we were hearing. How can you run a business like this, I asked? She said that since owning the restaurant, dozens of travelers have taken her up on the offer but only TWO did not follow through with payment. She said their motto was, "To treat tourists the same as home folks." We were deeply touched by their offer but felt so guilty that we ran out to the truck and began looking under the seats and in every nook and cranny until we managed to scrounge up enough change to buy lunch.
Our waitress, Tori (one of the owners), was warm and friendly and made us feel right at home. I had a delicious roast turkey sandwich served on home-made sour dough bread (which I still dream about) and Lorraine had the scrumptious chicken pot pie. We must have looked pretty destitute as we counted out our pocket change because Tori brought us free drinks!
The friendliness of the staff and the kindness they extended left a deep impression on us. So regardless of the differing opinions of this iconic building, the current owners certainly know how to dish up Southern hospitality!