When Thursday rolls around, residents of many Northeast Mississippi towns can be found huddled around a table laden with steaks and fresh seafood in one of the region’s many, weekend-only community fish and steak houses.
The restaurants attract a fiercely loyal restaurant base from within their small communities, tucked away in small town squares or along lightly traveled highways, as well as out-of-towners from neighboring states and communities who have heard of the restaurants only by word of mouth.
“I know that a lot of our people come because it seems it’s the place to be, and they get to see people in the community they don’t see every day,” said Teressa Montgomery, one of the owners of Seafood Junction in Algoma. “I had a judge tell me this week that he comes for the good food but enjoys the fellowship with the community the most.”
Montgomery and her family serve between 1,000 and 1,200 people each week during the 12 hours they’re open, which is quite a feat considering their city is home to just over 600 residents, according to the 2015 Annual Estimate conducted by the United States Census Bureau.
“I think people go to a fish house because they like an atmosphere where they know the owners, and it’s a nice change from your chain restaurants,” said Beverly Bean, who runs The Country Gentleman Fish and Steak House in Fulton with her mother, Myra Pearce. “Each of these restaurants has their own personality and atmosphere, and people are really loyal to the personalized service.”
Bean’s father, Maurice “Joker” Pearce, died in January but left behind a legacy of high-quality food, community fellowship and incredibly personable service.
“We take a great deal of pride in our responsibility to the community,” Bean said of her family’s role as to not only feed their customers but to nourish the community spirit in Fulton. “We want to put the best quality product on the table and, because of that, we set a higher standard for ourselves and the food we cook. We only want the best for our customers.”
Stephanie Fowlkes has been in the fish and steak house business her entire life, working in her parents’ Friendship House restaurant from 1983 until 1997 when she took it over with her husband, Doug.
“Folks who get home from work are too tired to cook and love to have somewhere they can eat — especially if your community is eight or 10 miles out of town,” Fowlkes said of her restaurant which sits between Amory, Aberdeen and Wren in Monroe County. “If your food is good and your service is good, people in your community will support you.”
4 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Thursday – Saturday
11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Sunday
635 Joe Wheeler Brown Road
The Waterfront Restaurant is named for it’s scenic view of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, but it’s known for its two decades of consistent high-quality seafood.
“We sell a whole lot of seafood,” said owner Diane Robertson, who ran the restaurant with her husband Jake until he died in 2015. “ The boiled shrimp is very popular, but we also serve frog legs, fresh fried oysters, stuffed crab, flounder, cod, scallops and butterflied shrimp.”
The restaurant is also well known for its well-stocked, fresh salad bar and Sunday lunch buffet.
Robertson’s children, Dana and Matt, help her keep the restaurant running, and the clientele, who come from the surrounding Midway and Fulton communities and as far away as Tupelo and Alabama, fed and happy.
“There is a lot of fellowship here,” Robertson said. “People come in and see everyone they know from the community, which creates a great family atmosphere.”
Centerville Fish and Steak
4:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. Thursday – Saturday
8788 Highway 363
Brad Mann and his wife Tana have been known for the steaks they cook at Centerville Fish and Steak since they took over the restaurant almost 14 years ago.
“I think I have the best steak in North Mississippi, but that’s just my opinion,” said Brad Mann. “It’s the best quality meat you can buy, Stockyard Angus, and then my own blend of seasonings made from an old family recipe.”
“Old family recipe,” is a label Mann uses to describe a lot of the food he serves.
While the Manns have owned the restaurant for 14 years, it has been a staple of the Monroeville, Eggville and Centerville communities for more than 35 years.
“It’s good for the community to have somewhere to go,” he said. “You can come here and see people in the community you haven’t seen all week and sit and talk. It’s a great gathering place to catch up. It’s good friends and fellowship — plus you get a good meal.”
5 p.m. – 9 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday
20037 Doss Drive
The Friendship House has been a family tradition for more than three decades. Stephanie Fowlkes grew up working in her parents’ restaurants and then bought The Friendship House with her husband, Doug, in 1997 when her parents were ready to retire.
Not only has the restaurant been handed down to the next generation, but the Fowlkes purchase the restaurant’s catfish from Miles Catfish, the Mississippi Delta, farm-raised catfish her father owned and passed on to her brother.
“We keep it in the family,” she said.
The restaurant is known far and wide for its fried and cornmeal-baked catfish, the latter of with is a recipe perfected by Fowlkes’ mother, Willie Lois Miles, and their cook Joyce Householder.
The restaurant has played host to celebrities such as Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash, but Fowlkes said every customer is treated special.
“We have an awesome platter called the scrap plate, and no it’s not the leftovers,” she explained. “One night a customer came in and wanted a little bit of everything, so mom cooked a few steak chunks, some fried oysters, boiled and fried shrimp, fish fillet, chicken, slaw, hushpuppies and potatoes and served him. Word soon got around to ask for the scrap plate, and it became a menu item.”
4 p.m. – “Until people quit coming” Thursday – Saturday
10302 Highway 25 S
When Maurice Pearce began talking about building a cabin where he could gather his friends and cook fish, word got around he was going to open a restaurant. While that was never his intention, he left the 36-years-and-counting legacy of the Country Gentleman.
“My dad was the ultimate country gentleman,” said Pearce’s daughter, Beverly Bean, of her father who passed away in January. “He would go table to table and make an effort to speak to everyone in the restaurant and make them feel welcome. We’re going to miss him a lot around the restaurant — that aspect of him in particular.”
Bean and her mother Myra run the restaurant in Pearce’s absence, keeping his spirit alive in the fish and the quality of service.
The staff takes pride in their homemade Thousand Island and Ranch dressings as well as the homemade hushpuppies, but they’re known for their fresh Mississippi farm-raised catfish and prime rib.
“People drive from near and far to eat our prime rib and homemade au jus,” Bean said. “Our hushpuppies are pretty famous, too. Everyone who comes in gets hushpuppies as an appetizer.”
Bean said she and her family are honored to be able to feed the community each week and take it as their responsibility to bring the best quality food they can while keeping prices affordable.
5 p.m. – 9 p.m. Thursday – Saturday
101 Front St.
Mike and Teresa Montgomery went into business with their daughter Jill Foster and her husband, Scott, five years ago, taking over ownership of Seafood Junction, an Algoma community staple.
“God has blessed us with a lot of good people who come and eat with us — some two or three times a weekend when we’re only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” Teresa Montgomery said. “We can seat 300 people, and I’m not sure the population of Algoma is much more than 600.”
Scott Foster’s first job was busing tables for the Seafood Junction, and the family has patronized the restaurant for the 27 years it’s been open, long before they were ever officially tied to it.
“The buffet features 31 items ranging from shrimp to catfish and oysters, quail and stuffed crab, gumbo, grilled fish, steamed vegetables and salads and desserts. For those who don’t want an all-you-can-eat experience, Seafood Junction also serves a full menu that features the Gulf Coast seafood available on the buffet as well as steaks, hamburgers, sandwiches and chicken.
“We’ve got something for everyone,” Montgomery said. “We believe if we give good service, and our food is consistently good, people will come back to see us. We also know God has blessed us wit this business and community, and we’re thankful for that.”
Story by JB Clark // Photos by Lauren Wood