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“Queen” Ruth Gaynell Mathers, Dec. 14, 1932 – Dec. 5, 2018.
I sat in a crowded restaurant on Old Shell Road so many years ago with a fiery old redhead working the floor and another in the kitchen. It was evident the one on the floor, interacting with customers and navigating the room in a stern yet gentle Southern manner, was the Queen herself, the namesake of the restaurant Queen G’s.
Ruth Gaynell Mathers, born Dec. 14, 1932, was just shy of her 86th birthday when she passed away Wednesday, Dec. 5. Gaynell was a lifelong resident of Mobile who worked as a chief telephone operator at South Central Bell for 20 years. Inspired by the character Alice and the show “Mel’s Diner,” she opened her restaurant in 1989 after being named Queen of a local Mardi Gras organization (well, kiss my grits!). Daughter Carolyn took over in 2001, but Gaynell was still around to supervise.
“She was there almost every day, telling me things that were not being done the right way,” laughs daughter Carolyn. “The best way, I think, to describe her is hell on wheels with a heart of gold, and anybody who knows her knows exactly what that means.”
Which brings me back to my first encounter. The Queen herself was holding court as I had my first meal there. Graham was a baby and Lucas was in preschool. They were mesmerized by her, that hair a moving beacon at which they couldn’t stop staring. She eased them with that “old Mobile” accent, but insisting they have ice cream may have sealed the deal with my children loving Queen G.
She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, was privately charitable to many and stood her ground when she believed it right. She was an honest woman with childlike faith and the restaurant she created became one of the most important in Mobile.
Queen G’s was a meat-and-three (sometimes four for me) that I could have had five days a week. I never had a negative thing to say about any dish. The atmosphere was just right; you had to basically sit on top of one another when it was crowded. Love thy neighbor or get out.
But the oysters … these were the best fried oysters I ever had. I miss that old restaurant. I miss hanging out with Carolyn. And I, along with the rest of Mobile, will Miss Queen G.
Kitchen on George closes sooner
Higher-end restaurant Kitchen on George in the OGD was an active teaching lab under Virginia College’s culinary program. The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools suspended their accreditation and all 74 campuses across the country are closing. There was a rumor the restaurant would close in March, but it suddenly shuttered last week.
This is not a reflection on the performance of the restaurant, just the college. With many out of a job right now, just before the holidays, we hate to see this happen.
Next door, Catbird Seat was to replace Cream and Sugar but is now reportedly going to be called Sempre. More on that as it develops.