By Sheryl Oswalt
November’s assignment was the Rise-N-Dine in Vicksburg. The diner is owned and operated by Deb and John DeBault and their grown sons, Jake and Johnny. While we all celebrate Thanksgiving this time of year, it is a particularly special time of year for this family as it marks the anniversary of their leap of faith. This year they are especially thankful to have been given the opportunity to purchase the building at 121 S. Main Street, which has become their home away from home for the past three years.
The Portage family had spent their lives in the food industry; Deb had worked at Pappy’s Place in Portage for 30 years until it closed. While the closing was disappointing, the timing seemed just right for them to move forward with their dream of owning their own diner. The boys were grown and able to join in the endeavor. The building, once the site of Mar Jo’s, was vacant. They had a feeling that Vicksburg would welcome a downtown diner.
The diner is truly a family affair. Mom Deb and Jake enjoy the people part and keep the atmosphere friendly and comfortable. John and Johnny prefer to keep things going back in the kitchen. On weekends and special events, they employ the help of others but for the most part it’s the family. Even then, they joke that they don’t hire employees, they adopt extra family members.
Johnny joked that the back door is always open at Rise-N-Dine; meaning that guests are welcome to see where their food is prepared. Everything starts with fresh ingredients. They are especially proud of their Eggs Benedict with hollandaise sauce made from scratch. The senior DeBault says it was a little tricky at first but now he enjoys making it. Their southern skillet is also a popular breakfast item. I have to say, I could only tackle about half of mine; it’s a big serving! Potatoes with onions and fresh mushrooms, eggs and sausage gravy – yum! As hard as it is to cook a steak just right for a beef producer; they had that just right for my husband as well. For lunch they say their club sandwiches and wet burritos are favorites. Their chicken tenders are made with fresh chicken, not frozen, and are hand-breaded.
When talking to the boys, Jake commented that they take pride in having a clean establishment, particularly the restrooms. “We like to think we keep the cleanest restrooms in town.” Johnny chimed in that when a place has a dirty bathroom; you have to wonder what the kitchen looks like. Little did they know that when my husband returned from using the men’s room – he said to me “You have to check out the bathroom –I think it’s the cleanest bathroom in Vicksburg!” Sounds like mom did a great job with these two guys when it comes to cleanliness.
Jake was certainly the chatterbox of the group and before my “reveal” was bopping around checking tables and greeting diners. Mom was waiting tables, refilling beverages and making small talk with people. Johnny was obviously working in the kitchen but popping out to clear tables and keep things moving. It was Sunday morning and the tables were full. During the interview, they took turns “tapping in” and out to make sure guests were being taken care of. They obviously work very well as a family and as business partners. They pitch in where needed but they all have their areas of comfort and expertise.
As I got in the car to leave; I have to say that what impressed me the most was the family. They serve good home-cooked food with large portions at reasonable prices. Their diner is clean and the staff was very friendly and competent. Yet with all that said, I have a feeling a good reason people return is because the owners are gracious. Synonyms: Accommodating, approachable, congenial, friendly, good-natured, hospitable. Who wouldn’t want to dine with people like that?
They will be open Saturday, December 5 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. to participate in all the festivities planned including the Christmas parade. Sounds like a great time for me to check out that wet burrito!