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Tastes Like Home

The Camellia Bean Blog

Seven Decades of Home Cooking at News Restaurant is Good News Indeed

Chris Belvin, owner of News Restaurant.

Chris Belvin, owner of News Restaurant.

In an age of restaurant chains, people will go miles out of their way for an authentic dining experience, and News Restaurant in Meridian, Mississippi, is sure to deliver.  It’s a classic Southern diner, as famous for its musical events and visits from celebrities as it is for its traditional home-cooking. In this restaurant’s long history, everyone from local church ladies in colorful Sunday hats to truckers, blues and country musicians, politicians and movie stars have come to sample their Southern diner fare, freshly baked pie and live music.

“This restaurant is a blessing. It’s a way to help.”

The key to News Restaurant is, it’s all about family, says current owner Chris Belvin as he walks past rows of signed celebrity photos in the restaurant’s dining room – The O’Jays, Sela Ward, The Temptations, Patrick Swayze – and when Belvin, who took over the place’s management after his mom and brother retired, talks about family, he does so in the broadest, finest sense of the word. For him, the whole restaurant is a family, from the owners to the staff to the customers. Says Belvin, “This business takes care of itself, maybe because the way we see it, it’s a blessing, a way to help all the people involved.”

From gas station to diner, without a hitch.

“Uncle Hermon” New started the restaurant as a gas station in 1935, only to find his business in trouble in 1942, when World War II gas-rationing put many small, independently owned service stations in the South and across America out of business. Uncle Hermon’s wife, whom everyone called “Mrs. Hattie Jane,” began serving hamburgers to customers for ten cents apiece to make ends meet, and soon locals and travelers had spread the word that News Service Station was the place to gather and grab a bite while gassing up the car or waiting for a repair to be done. Next came the car hops, serving travelers at their car windows, and by the 1950s, News Service Station had become News Restaurant, employing many friends and family members along the way.

News Restaurant in 1942.

News Restaurant in 1942.

Homemade pie, freshly baked every day.

Ask a dozen regular customers what they love about the food at News Restaurant and you’ll get a dozen different answers, but all can agree that their home-made pies, baked fresh daily, are a favorite dessert that one just doesn’t find too often in restaurants these days. Order a slice à la mode and be taken back to the glory days of the American diner, when fresh-made was the only way.

The menu also pays homage to varied cuisines that have made Mississippi their home over the last two centuries. Alongside Southern classics like field peas with cornbread, candied yams and fried okra or chicken and dumplings you’ll find Mexican hot tamales, Italian sandwiches and pasta dishes, and plenty of Gulf Coast seafood. And in a nod to not-so-far-away New Orleans, customers can order that city’s iconic red beans & rice dish as well as Louisiana Creole specialties like gumbo and étouffée.

The original gas station signage is still visible in the restaurant's dining room.

The original gas station signage is still visible in the restaurant’s dining room.

The beans are popular, just like the music.

As beans are a beloved ingredient in Southern cooking, Belvin is well acquainted with the Camellia Brand family of beans and peas. Besides red beans & rice, he regularly serves blackeye peas, field peas and white beans, all stewed down to perfection. But great home-cooked food isn’t the only reason to gather at News Restaurant. There’s also the music. Belvin left the music industry to take over the restaurant, and, in a manner of speaking, he brought his friends with him. On one end of the dining room is an erstwhile stage where country and blues bands regularly gig, to the delight of diners. There’s a happy, party atmosphere at News Restaurant, and it doesn’t take long to understand that it’s a direct reflection of Chris Belvin’s love of life, family, food, music and all things creative.

News Restaurant is the winner of the 2020 Camellia Beans Giveaway and recipient of 200 pounds of Camellia Brand Beans, of which Chris Belvin has generously donated 100 pounds to The Care Lodge, a shelter for battered women in Meridian.