I have been at this gig for about seven years and change, if my calculations are correct. I’ve seen many restaurants come and go over the years. Some needed to be gone. Some will be sorely missed.
Occasionally I get to know the restaurateurs, owners, chef, wait staff, bartenders and busboys. There are only a few that you allow into their inner circle.
You don’t want to be too close if you are the one who may have to sling a bad review in someone’s direction. That being said, I think it best to keep my personal life away from an eatery until I have written something on the positive side.
I remember the first time I ate at Queen G’s. Gaynell (Queen G herself) was tending to my table. Her red hair caught my eye immediately. She was in total control of the room. I remember she told my son Lucas he was about to have ice cream. I thought it odd she didn’t ask his parents but, like I said, she had control of the room and I wasn’t about to argue with a redhead.
It was later that I took the job at Lagniappe and eventually got around to reviewing this Midtown gem. I was always impressed with the food and my newfound position ultimately solidified my spot as a friend of the restaurant after I interviewed Gaynell’s daughter, Carolyn. We became fast friends and found out we had mutual acquaintances such as Lisa G and Tony the butcher. Lisa waited tables there and Carolyn’s off-the-charts friend Tony is my favorite butcher.
When you become friends with someone at a restaurant the last thing you expect is preferential treatment. It’s usually the other way around, and I would understand either way. But these gals were always total pros. I never had one bad meal.
Every waitress there has known me by name. That means a lot. In recent months I have not been able to spend as much time as I’d like there, but the very efficient and capable Tiffany has been nothing shy of a pleasure to be served by and always made it a point to speak. She has a lot of regulars to remember who are far more important than I am.
It’s very obvious Queen G’s has been an integral part of our MiMo community. When it was announced that the business was on the chopping block to make room for the coming Publix grocery store, my phone began ringing off the hook (some of you youngsters may not know what the hook is) with complaints and questions, as if I could do something about it. Sometimes things come to an end, whether we feel their time is up or not.
It looks like this is all going through and owner/cook Carolyn and mother/creator Gaynell will bid Old Shell Road adieu. It will sting, but we can only hope that another food venture will be in the works soon and Carolyn will be back in the kitchen. My kids will get ice cream. I’ll pay for extra sides. Maybe they can be open at dinner or at least on Mondays. Maybe something good can come of this, but in the interim they will be missed.
It seems everybody loves this place, but some of you may ask, “What’s the big deal?” So, why do I love Queen G’s so much? It feels like home. It’s cramped. It’s small, like home. I love it because the food is like Thanksgiving Day every day. I’ve had limas that made me almost weep. I’ve had the best spaghetti squash I’ve ever had. I’ve ridiculed Carolyn for making red beans and rice on any day other than Monday (they’re closed on Monday). It’s the oysters, however, that I can shut my eyes and imaginarily taste. No one else fries them that way.
The last time I took my dad out to eat was at Queen G’s. I simply said he should try the fried oysters. I didn’t talk them up. I didn’t make a big fuss. But after his second bite he said, “Damn, son, these are really good.” That’s coming from an oyster lover who lives in Harahan, Louisiana, where there is no shortage of great oysters.
I have already planned my final meal at this landmark that is not long for this world. My “usual” there is the combination of grouper and fried oysters with deviled eggs and two more sides of the day. I see no reason to change that. I’ll save my cornbread just in case there are turnips on the menu and I’ll gulp down at least a half gallon of water. I’ll tip heavy and grab two mints on my way out the door, with my traveler cup and a folded Lagniappe under my arm. I hope this paints a decent picture for you, because I can almost smell the food right now.
So as Friday, Sept. 16, approaches and we have our last bites at the current Queen G’s (fingers crossed for another location), I will be begging my friend, the stubborn red-headed Carolyn Mathers, to teach me how to fry oysters. But she may be busy preparing herself to chase international pop star George Michael while in-between jobs. Good luck on your quest, Lady C. I miss this place already.