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Dining at The Dinner Bell

When planning our road trip to McComb, Miss., just over the Louisiana border, I consulted Jane and Michael Stern’s trusty “Road Food” guide to find out where to eat. Only one listing for McComb comes up: The Dinner Bell. It’s noted as a “Top Pick” with five stars. I scanned the description until the term lazy Susan caught my eye and immediately got visions of a table crowded with people and heaping with food. Turns out, I wasn’t too far off from how things are done at one of The Dinner Bell’s huge round tables, but there are rules to follow when engaging in this more than 80-year-old tradition of dining.

You have to wait to take your place at the table. Dishes must be picked up and served lest the lazy Susan spin away from you. And you have to try the fried eggplant. (You can hear the official rules as read by Owner Buddy Davis on our Featured Video.) Since we were visiting on a Saturday, the spread included BBQ ribs, smoked sausage, fried chicken, the famous fried eggplant, yams, chicken ‘n’ dumplings, cabbage, green beans, lima beans, red beans and rice, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob, potato salad and coleslaw. Syrupy sweet tea helps it all go down.

The Dinner Bell’s round table tradition first began in boarding houses in the area because it was an easy way to serve large numbers of people. The restaurant was never a boarding house itself, but its proximity to the railroad and bus station made it a popular lunch destination for travelers. It remains that way today and is one of only two lazy Susan-type restaurants left in the state of Mississippi. Sitting next to us at the table was a group from Hattiesburg, and across the expanse I heard tales of people flying in from other states just to eat here. As Road Food says, The Dinner Bell is “worth driving from anyplace.”

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