It all started with gumbo. Lin Carruth, owner of the Coffee Pot Café at Creekside in Enterprise, Mississippi, wanted to offer lunch to the ladies shopping in her antique store, and, instead of the light salad she’d imagined, her husband suggested a pot of her famous gumbo. “I had just a regular little house stove,” she says, “and we made gumbo, and it just started going from there. And now it is what it is—it’s an evolution.”
Enterprise, a sleepy town of just more than 500, is nestled where the Chunky River and Okatibbee Creek converge to become the Chickasawhay River. It’s about as far from a culinary scene as imaginable, making the story of the Coffee Pot Café at Creekside all the more fascinating. Before it was Creekside Mercantile, (Lin’s antique store through which guests enter the cafe), it was a truck garage that belonged to her husband, Ed. When the building was due to be torn down five years ago, Lin had the idea to open the antique and gift shop. From there, the progression was natural, although swift; a pot of gumbo turned into a full menu, and the focus shifted from the antique store to the Coffee Pot Café.
The restaurant is a physical metaphor for Lin’s union with Ed: the Coffee Pot Café at Creekside takes its name from a restaurant begun by Ed’s grandparents in Brookhaven in 1930, and the food is representative of Lin’s Louisiana roots. She has no formal culinary training; rather, she learned at the knees of her mother, who learned to cook from the midwife who delivered five of her eight children, and paternal grandmother—“two of the best cooks in Louisiana.” Using their recipes, Lin has created an authentic Creole menu. She makes a point to emphasize that it is, in fact, Creole, and not Cajun.
“There’s a difference between Creole and Cajun,” she says. “Most people don’t know that. Creole has more of a European influence because it comes from all over—you’ve got Africa, you’ve got France, you’ve got Spain, England, all of it. Creole is a little of everything. Cajuns are from Acadia. That’s what I wanted to do here.”
The culinary legacy of her family is further upheld by Lin’s dedication to making everything from scratch daily, for a flavor that’s “more like you’d have at home, if you wanted to cook.” It’s arguably that detail that has given the Coffee Pot Cafe its almost cult-like status among both regulars and tourists passing through on nearby Interstate 59.
There’s no real consensus about the best thing on the menu. When asked, Lin seemingly lists the entire menu, and, based on her descriptions, it’s easy to believe. The crab cake, on a salad with fried green tomatoes, is a favorite, as is the gumbo that started it all. The specials—unique to the day but unchanging week to week—often bring in repeat guests for shrimp creole, shrimp and grits, or “a big, big bone-in pork chop.” Another fan favorite is the hamburger, which, admittedly, is a “damn good burger.” Dubbed “The Driftwood,” it’s served on po-boy bread and features their creek sauce, a guest favorite.
“It’s similar to a comeback sauce, but not,” Lin says. “People usually ask for extra.”
As with the rest of the menu, the desserts are made in-house every day. The list itself is enough to induce a cavity: chocolate pie “with a big meringue on top,” coconut pie, peach cobbler, strawberry pie, bread pudding and lemon icebox pie. Many guests order dessert first in a bid for a sweets reservation as desserts almost always sell out. Another guest said she always takes hers to go for a mid-afternoon treat, then echoed Lin’s statement—“it’s like homemade, only better.”
The feeling of home is pervasive not only in the food but also in the décor.
Mismatched tables and antique fixtures from the original Coffee Pot Café give the space the feeling of a large family gathering. Lin had spent years collecting odd sets of doors, windows and stained glass from estate sales and cleverly used them as walls to separate dining spaces. Ed, Carruth’s “best cheerleader,” pitched in by cutting large pines and cypress along the property to use as wood in the renovation.
A favorite detail of guests is the plating—each dish is served on blue willow china. In the back is the Stuckey Room, named for the mural of the famously haunted bridge in neighboring Lauderdale County. It’s a popular setting for bridal luncheons and bridge clubs, but when it’s not rented, the space becomes extra seating for the restaurant’s patrons.
When the weather behaves, guests spread to the patio, to bask in the sun and Lin’s unmatched hospitality. She treats her guests like any good Southern hostess would, with little things, like tastefully raucous birthday serenades accompanied by a mixing bowl and spoon, ending with Mardi Gras beads and free dessert.
She readily gives credit to her staff, whom she says operates the restaurant with precision, delivering food and pies and smiles with ease. “I couldn’t do it without them,” she says.
As for the future, Lin is quick to shoot down the idea of opening another location, saying “It’s hard enough to keep one place perfect.” She’s not opposed to bottling the signature creek sauce, however, and hopes to one day extend hours to include dinner. In the meantime, the Coffee Pot Café at Creekside continues to evolve, with the installation of a vintage soda fountain bringing milk shakes, malts and other sweet treats to the menu soon. Overall, she trusts the Café itself to do what’s best.
“It just keeps doing its thing,” she says. “I almost have to ask it permission, like, ‘Okay, what do you want me to do now?’”
Want to go?
The Coffee Pot Cafe at Creekside
is located at 120 West Bridge St.,
Hours are are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Tuesdays through Saturdays.
The Mercantile is open
from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tuesdays through Saturdays.
For more information,
phone (601) 659-0500.