The Dinner Bell restores my faith in mankind in general and Southerners in particular.
My generation has seen dining reduced to food shoved through drive thru windows and microwave popcorn. Families don’t eat together anymore. My kids try (they try) not to spill gravy while balancing plates on knees in front of Cartoon Network. My wife and I are just as bad, resting spaghetti in our laps while she watches Home and Garden Television and I grouse about not being able to hear the computer because of it.
The Dinner Bell has brought us back to that genteel time where dinner was not something to be done, but where a meal was shared. Like back when my Mom would say, “You WILL come in, you WILL sit down, and you WILL make nice conversation with your neighbor.” Dang right you will.
I guess it’s the journey across the Mississippi state line that lends the trip to The Dinner Bell the air of a vacation. Folks begin lining up for lunch before the doors are open. Imagine old folks, dressed up and fresh from church, the ladies high heels punching pockmarks in the bubbling asphalt parking lot under a merciless Mississippi sun. If they’re braving the heat at their age--you know there’s good food in there.
The Dinner Bell is a large old home a block away from downtown McComb. The serving areas are jammed with huge round tables that seat a dozen or more. (Don’t worry about being separated from your family—this is the South and we do take care of family. Your party will stay together.)
So you’re seated, you’ve chatted with the Texans who left I-55 for a pit stop and ended up here, and the dance begins.
Long-time employees bring out big bowls of Southern goodies, and place them onto Lazy Susans in the middle of each table. Entrees, vegetables, salad fixins, deserts... Literally enough to feed “Coxes’ army” as my grandmother would say. (I don’t think Mama Wascom would have actually fed Coxes’ army. She tended to refer to the Civil War as the skirmish between the ‘Yellow and the Gray.’)
This is close to Britney Spears’ hometown of Kentwood , and I don’t know if ol’Brit ever ate here, but I just know that she had to. You don’t live in this area without visiting this place. Often. Here, as with other restaurants on this website, it’s not the portion size that’s impressive, it’s the consistent quality of the food, item by item.
The mustard greens and vegetables taste just like you think they should taste. You just know that the pie was baked in the back. They have—bar none—the only eggplant of any type that I will eat. Lightly fried in a secret batter recipe. Same secret recipe for the chicken. They won’t tell you what it is—it’s now an honor thing between those employees who have been there for years. The original owner said that the only things Dinner Bell could not do is served canned peas or give away the eggplant recipe.
Their fried chicken almost caused the Gallumphing Gourmet and an NFL-sized gentleman on the opposite side of the lazy Susan to forget our Christian demeanor and get into it, know what I mean?
Now one is not supposed to fight with company, especially not at the dinner table.
But when the dear lady sat a platter of fried chicken exactly halfway between me and Big Toxie, we locked eyes immediately, our Neanderthal eyebrows grew in, and both of us grabbed the Lazy Susan.
No one dared look us in the eyes. There was testosterone was in the air, and blood was to be spilled.
Lucky for Deacon Jones over there, the dear lady placed another platter at the exact opposite side of the table, and each of us had our own. We smiled at each other, and played nice, as if nothing had happened. (I think we were set up.)
My wife mentioned later that no one at our table ate chicken except for we two king-size carnivores. Methinks she was trying to shame me. You don’t pass up that much golden goodness, and it sure disappeared fast.
The Dinner Bell is located just off the main drag in McComb Mississippi , just shy of two hours from Baton Rouge . It’s an easy drive, and worth the ride in the country for a leisurely Sunday lunch.
At last check, they didn’t take credit cards—so bring cash.
You can check prices, opening hours and even buy their cookbook at their website, www.thedinnerbell.net.