By Cyndi Ingle
Tucked away in a tiny storefront on King St. East at Wentworth is one of Hamilton’s newest and most culturally interesting restaurant experiences to come along in quite awhile. As an epicurean boom takes place in Hamilton numerous restaurants and food related businesses are popping up, from new eateries, almost on a daily basis on Art Crawl Ally, James St. North, to the genesis of the self described “Real Food Court” at the Hamilton Farmers Market.
One delight which you may have not had the pleasure of trying is Connie Rouble’s down home Southern cooking experience at Mississippi Queen Foods. Originally from Mississippi, and having operated her business in Toronto for years, Connie has now brought her larger than life, friendly persona to Hamilton and is cooking up a storm for everyone who enters for a sit-down meal, or who orders take-out. “Real food for real people” is Connie’s tag line, and as my friend Linda and I found on a recent visit on a Friday afternoon, Connie’s cuisine lives up to its word.
The restaurant opened on January 6th and is homey, and packed with Southern grocery products such as “Slap Ya Mama” Cajun seasonings for purchase. Enveloping visitors in a time warp experience, a sign atop a pile of books sums up the vibe: “We ain’t got no wifi, but here’s some books to read.” The front windows are adorned with red and white gingham drapes and cute containers full of raw cotton balls, and the main part of the dining room reminds one of being in a kitchen circa 1970s. If you want to chat with Connie while you eat there is stool seating around the small bar. Blues music plays on the old school record player to further set the mood.
The Mississippi Queen features a short rotating menu which revolves around the Southern staples of gumbo, catfish, jambalaya, cornbread, coleslaw, and desserts such as pecan pie and sweet tator pie. Daily specials are offered and could be delights such as macaroni and cheese, red beans and rice, peach cobbler, potato salad, and black eyed peas. As Connie explains, she learned to cook from her paternal grandmother and doesn’t call herself a chef or even a cook. Instead she prefers to identify as a purveyour of Southern food and merchandise, who enjoys spreading her Southern culinary culture to a waiting audience.
Linda and I decided to try a sampling of Mississippi Queen’s top dishes: Creole style gumbo; chicken and sausage jambalaya; blackened U.S. Delta farm raised catfish fillet, with a side of coleslaw, cornbread muffin, and mini pecan pie for dessert!
The food arrived fast and I quickly dug into my bowl of gumbo with gusto. The gumbo was a delicious and generous portion of catfish, shrimp, tomatoes, pork sausage and okra, sprinkled with Cajun seasonings and served over white rice. Extra seasonings are available if you want to heat up any of your dishes. Next up I tried the chicken and sausage jambalaya and was happy with the mixure of chopped chicken, smoked pork sausage, tomatoes, heated up with Cajun spice.
My personal highlights for the meal came next: the blackened U.S. Delta farm raised catfish fillet, served with a side of coleslaw and a buttermilk corn bread muffin. Blackened in a cast iron skillet the catfish fillet had a melt in your mouth consistancy. Blackened, not burned is the secret here, and Connie knows what she’s doing as the fillet was cooked to perfection. Not a huge fan of coleslaw, especially the out of the container product offered at most restaurants, Connie’s homemade coleslaw was a fabulous mixture of purple and green cabbage, carrot and a Creole remoulade dressing. A huge fan of cornbread muffins I wasn’t disappointed with the warm muffin, which I quickly devoured!
Although myself and my guest were feeling full by now, we couldn’t say no to a delicious mini pecan pie. Cooked perfectly, the mini pies were chocked full of pecans and provided us with a sugar high that kept us buzzing for the rest of the evening, which was a good thing, since we were on our way to Robin Benedict’s show at the Pearl Company!
Prices are reasonable at the Mississippi Queen, ranging from $5.00 for a bowl of gumbo or jambalaya ($8.00 for a dinner portion), to $12.00 for the Catfish fillet dinner with a side of coleslaw and cornbread muffin. Mini pecan pies are $6.00 each, mini sweet potato pies are $5.00 each, and peach cobblers are $4.00 each. A bowl of red beans and rice is $5.00, and a side order of mac and cheese is $3.50; a corn bread muffin is $1.00.
And if you are in interested in Southern food items check out the extensive General Store products list on the Mississippi Queen Food site, and you can order online. Connie is available to cater events and functions to provide your guests with a tasty experience they won’t forget in a hurry.
If you want a cosy corner to relax, and have a great chat with Connie about Southern cooking, Mississippi Queen is the place in town to visit. You will definitely want to set for a spell! I’ll be back in the near future to see what Southern comfort food Connie has whipped up.
Check out the photo gallery below for a visual taste of Mississippi Queen Foods! All photos by Cyndi Ingle Photography.
Mississippi Queen Foods
635 King St. East (at Wentworth), Hamilton, L8N 1E5
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 11:30 am. to 7 pm.
Closed Sunday and Monday.