By Grace Sudderth
Walnut Hills restaurant in Vicksburg, Mississippi is home to award-winning country fried chicken, rice and gravy, peach cobbler and other southern delicacies, representing the traditional Southern mecca everyone seeks.
The restaurant embodies southern charm and tradition—some old and some new—by serving award-winning and nationally-recognized southern comfort food. The restaurant first established itself in the 1880s.
There is deep-rooted history within this house-turned-restaurant, even within the name. Before the historical town of Vicksburg was founded, the Spanish stumbled across the rolling hills and took notice of the many walnut trees. The Spaniards gave the land the name of Nogales, which later translated to “Walnut Hills.”
Some years later in 1863, a city emerged from the bluffs refined in tradition. Vicksburg began to take shape into what might be known as the typical idea of the “Old South.” Elegant mansions, plantation farms and homes, and thriving merchant businesses began to emerge. The 47-day siege of the Civil War had come to Vicksburg and severely wounded the quaint southern town. The old ideas, spirit, and ways from the past were gone forever and needed to reemerge from the ash.
From the wounds and fallen spirits, Vicksburg began to rebuild itself coming into the era of what is known as the “New South.” A man by the name of George Rogers built a quaint southern house in the town. This house served as a family home to the Rodgers family for many years and embodies bold southern architecture of the time. For a while, this home was kept as a historical home and landmark.
In 1980, this charming house in the historic district of Vicksburg was opened as a roundtable restaurant. Today, Walnut Hills still has the original porch, columns, window shutters, and other features included inside. The aurora of the old charming house adds to the authentic feel and experience restaurant goers may feel. One can feel as if they are traveling back in time.
Still holding true to its southern tradition and history, Walnut Hills serves award-winning southern comfort food to all. The menu entails typical southern cuisine: fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, catfish, and a variety of delectable desserts. The magic behind the kitchen is whipped up by Ms. Herdcine Williams, the main cook.
Williams said she has been cooking in that kitchen for 31 years.
“I began cooking here with my late mother. Cooking was my mother’s most favorite activity, as well as my favorite thing to do with her,” shes said. “My son actually has been serving my food here for quite some time now. It is so crazy to think the third generation of the Williams’ is still hands-on with this restaurant. This is our home and our family.”
According to the Walnut Hills’s website, they have been featured in Good Morning America, “Southern Living”, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, “Delta Magazine”, and “Saveur Magazine.” Paula Dean has even traveled down to the hidden gem to have a taste of the food.
Restaurant owner Joyce Clingan understands how important it is to keep the tradition in a town so deeply enriched in history.
“Walnut Hills is the hotspot southern ideal of what it truly means to live in the South,” she said. “Greeting familiar and unfamiliar faces like family, being authentically genuine, creating the ultimate southern charm experience, and cooking food that represents all of that is what makes Walnut Hills so great.”
In the South, the hidden gems are what make each rural area the best. Walnut Hills has proven this with the rich history, genuine southern hospitality, and comfort food that reflects its upstanding reputation.