ANDERSON – Bright-colored pennants announced the grand opening of Rebecca’s Soul Food Diner last week. The new eatery is the inspiration and dream come true of lifelong Anderson resident Mary Jane Shell.
“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. It’s all I like to do – cook,” said Shell, 56. “Cook, and let people eat my cooking, see what they think.”
Just like the name announces, look for soul food on the menu. Shell said that among the offerings diners will find selections like “collard greens, beans, black-eyed peas, chicken wings – a little bit of everything.”
“I love cooking. It’s the gift that God gave me, I guess,” said Shell.
The diner is named for Shell’s mother, Rebecca Perry. Shell credits her late mom with passing her love of the kitchen on to her daughter. Shell, in turn, passed the cooking passion on to her granddaughter, Perazha Porter, who is helping out with the restaurant.
Shell’s husband, Louis, 71, was out stringing the grand opening pennants on Thursday before taking a turn in the kitchen.
“We used to fuss about who was going to cook,” said Shell. Another thing the couple has in common? “He loves people and I do, too.”
Shell said that she and Louis have been together about 30 years, but finally tied the knot in 2009, when Shell catered her own wedding.
“We just said what the heck,” said Shell. “Might as well, he wasn’t going anywhere and I wasn’t getting rid of him.”
Both Shell and her husband are tackling the restaurant business in the wake of other personal challenges. Shell has faced down five heart attacks. Louis had lung cancer. “He beat it, thank God,” said Shell.
Other family members are helping out with the venture as well. Although last week marked the grand opening, Shell said Rebecca’s Soul Food Diner has been open for about five months.
“I love it. It keeps me going,” said Shell.
Shell said they acquired the building at the corner of Madison Avenue and Ninth Street in late November 2012. Over the years it had morphed from a real estate office to a motorcycle club to a church — its most recent incarnation. Prior to opening the doors, the facility was cleaned and decorated. Shell purposefully left a little piece of evidence from its days as a church — a cross displayed on the wall.
“I’m going to leave that up there,” said Shell. She acknowledged, “The Lord helped me get this building.”
Customers place their orders up front, then take a seat in the ample dining area. That’s where Jon Edmonson, of Anderson, and Carolyn Hensley, of Alexandria, picked a table. They were among the diners tempted to try the diner at its grand opening last Thursday.
“They’re just getting started, and soul food hit us,” said Hensley. “We were going to try some things we’ve never tried.” Others were placing orders for takeout. Fried chicken and okra had appeal for some of the diners that day.
The menu reflects very reasonable prices, with sandwiches and burgers running from $3.50 to $6. Dinners run $7.50 to $13.50.
The diner is open Thursday through Sunday. Hours run from noon to 5 a.m. Shell said they’ll be opening up one day a week for breakfast as well, probably Sunday. Of the late-night hours, Shell said, “There’s people that be out late and wanting something to eat.”
Rebecca’s Soul Food Diner is located at 903 Madison Ave. It can be reached at 765-602-9816.
If you go: What: Rebecca's Soul Food Diner Where: 903 Madison Ave., Anderson When: noon to 5 a.m., Thursday through Sunday What: Soul food, dine in or carryout Contact: 765-602-9816