article by Mary Napoli | photos by Martin G Meyers
Downtown Ruston is known for its unique shops and charming aesthetic. The quaint area has experienced somewhat of a revival in recent years with an increase in economic activity and youthful creativity. A new generation has set up shop within the storefronts their grandparents built, and the area is alive with energy. Recently, locals have been drawn to Rosemary’s Kitchen, where they find delicious, organic meals prepared by a mother-daughter duo who know how to create dishes that are as healthy as they are palate pleasing.
South Bonner Street is lined with charming homes, inviting front porches, and the shade of aged live oak trees. Small businesses intermingle inconspicuously among the houses, some more noticeable than others. When it came time to choose a location for their business, Rosemary Thomas and her daughter, Sara Corley knew that South Bonner would be ideal.
Long before the restaurant came to be, Thomas and Corley enjoyed time together in the kitchen of their home. Cooking was a bonding experience for the mother and daughter. Great family meals were an expression of love and togetherness, as they are in many southern homes. Thomas instilled in her daughter an appreciation and respect for farm fresh foods and a value for local farmers that became the basis for their future business.
It all began simply enough. The two began to cook for friends, occasionally catering small-scale events. Their food grew in popularity as word spread locally and requests poured in. In 2011, the duo decided to try their hand at selling baked goods at the Ruston’s beloved Farmer’s Market. Their pies, cakes, and other items were definite crowd pleasers and became immensely popular. They enjoyed the experience so much that the idea of a restaurant began to percolate in their minds. When they began to test the waters and do a little investigating, the path to success seemed to appear before them.
“The doors just kept opening,” explains Corley. “We just kept hearing ‘yes’.”
In September of 2012, destiny and determination combined, and Rosemary’s Kitchen opened its doors to rave reviews. Located just steps away from the main downtown area, the restaurant is housed in an enchanting home that served as a family residence for decades. Lush plant life and vibrantly colored flowers surround the building and seem to invite passersby to enter. Customers approach the home and enter by the whimsical and alluring front deck, which was added by Thomas and Corley. Tables and chairs, along with a front porch swing, entice guests to stop, relax, and enjoy the view. When the weather cooperates, it’s a perfect spot to enjoy the tasty delights that the popular lunch spot has to offer. Inside, mouthwatering aromas beckon hungry visitors to take a seat in one of the dining areas, converted from areas that once served as living spaces within the former home.
Thomas and Corley designed the menus with their maxim in mind: simple, fresh, good. They focus on delivering this through healthful, organic foods, most of which are locally obtained. The menu rotates daily and changes with the seasons in order to provide the freshest produce possible. Typically, three entrees are featured on any given day, which include at least one vegetarian option. Their gourmet sandwiches are incredibly popular for good reason. The fresh sourdough bread is made delightfully crisp and warm by panini press, and each bite is better than the last. Current paninis include the BBQ Chicken Panini, which is comprised of hand shredded, organic chicken in a flavorful local BBQ sauce and topped with cilantro, red onion and creamy, melted provolone, and the Artichoke and Spinach Panini, which combines fresh baby spinach with an artichoke cream cheese spread and sliced red onions. Not to be missed is the Apple, Smoked Cheddar and Bacon Panini, made with fresh, organic apples, rich cheddar, and thick, peppered bacon. Popular salads include the Roasted Veggie Taco Salad with House Chipotle Ranch Dressing, and Garlic Grilled Chicken on Mediterranean Spinach Salad. For a heartier lunch entrée, guests choose the Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas, which feature a tangy house made enchilada sauce, or the Spinach Alfredo Ravioli Lasagna with layers of tender cheese ravioli, fresh spinach and mushrooms enveloped in a rich alfredo sauce. The King Ranch Chicken is a zesty option, with layers of tortilla chips, cheese, and creamy sauce.
Diners also enjoy the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadilla, featuring organic sweet potatoes. Tempting quiches include the Italian Sausage and Roasted Red Pepper Quiche and Bacon and Broccoli Quiche, made with fresh broccoli, local milk, thickly sliced peppered bacon and a trio of cheeses in a buttery pie crust.
Dessert also rotates daily, as a different pie is featured each weekday. A true Southern staple, buttermilk pie is a local favorite, as well as apple and strawberry pies. The coconut pie is the stuff of dreams: creamy coconut custard is topped with a lightly sweet whip contained in a flaky, buttery crust. However, nothing is requested more than the house specialty: Ruston peach pie. In this town, it just doesn’t get any better.
While Rosemary’s Kitchen is known for its focus on organic and local products, the juice bar is a distinctive aspect of the restaurant that customers enjoy immensely. So many of the juices that can be purchased in regular grocery stores include copious amounts of sugar and preservatives. Even the mass produced, so-called healthy juices are pasteurized, which removes many of the vitamins and nutrients which come from the raw fruits and vegetables. Knowing this, Thomas and Corley began to juice their own organic fruits and veggies for optimum freshness and nutrients. After experimenting with various combinations, they settled on four concoctions that were packed with flavor and nutritional benefits. The “Everyday Green” contains kale, spinach, apple, orange, celery and cucumber. Bright green and slightly sweet, it is refreshing and packed with goodness. The golden colored “Fruitilicious” combines the tartness or pineapple and orange with cantaloupe, beet and apple for a unique fruity taste. “Immunity” is a vibrant purple hue made by joining kale, parsley, orange, celery, beet and ginger. Nutrient rich sweet potato, apple, orange and carrot are united to form the vivid “Orange Cream.” With such wholesome and gratifying combinations, clean eating has never been more delicious.
Locals and visitors to the area lunch at Rosemary’s Kitchen for the incredibly delicious, fresh, organic food and also enjoy the quaint, comfortable environment. The restaurant is casually welcoming and allows all those who enter to feel instantly at home.
“People used to live in this house,” explains Corley. “I wanted our customers to feel like they were coming to eat in our home when they walked in.”
The dining spaces are cheerful, casual and creative, with heart-warming touches of the homey environment Thomas and Corley envisioned. One of the most endearing aspects of the décor is a set of four photos taken of generations of the women of the family, displayed prominently together. Each photo mirrors the next: apron-clad women attentively preparing a meal with love.
“The first woman is my great grandmother,” Corley says, motioning to the photo on the far left. “Next is my maternal grandmother. My mother, Rosemary, follows. Then, there’s me.”
Such special touches adds to the warmth of the restaurant, which feels as comforting as a childhood memory. In addition to the photos and interesting décor, guests can view mosaics of reclaimed wood created by local artist and designer, Joshua Mitchell. Every corner of each room seems to tell the story of the community and the families that it contains.
The grocery and gift shop sections of the business offer guests to take home part of what makes Rosemary’s Kitchen special. The grocery section offers to-go options, ranging from light snacks to complete meals, which are prepared and prepacked in house. Shoppers can grab healthful, tasty meals to-go, such as a black bean burger with all the toppings, or explore the cooler for containers of their favorites, like pimento cheese or chicken salad, to enjoy at home. In addition, there is also a wide assortment of organic sodas, sauces, chips, and other edibles available for purchase. Thomas and Corley also offer the baked goods they originally became known for to take home and share.
Mother and daughter believe in the organic products they use to prepare the delicious meals they provide and are proud to offer them to customers. Much of the merchandise in the grocery section actually come from farms located in their own backyard. Honey from Ruston’s Jennings Apiaries is packaged by hand and displayed in beautiful, glass bottles. Local, fresh eggs from Ladelle Farms and organic beef from Harris Ranch of Coushatta, Louisiana are available for purchase. In addition, milk and dairy products from Flowing Hills Creamery, located in Belmont, Louisiana, and an assortment of artisanal cheeses from Haute Goat Creamery in nearby Longview, Texas are purchasable. Corley consistently looks for new local products to use in the restaurant’s kitchen and enjoys offering them to her customers.
The restaurant’s gift shop offers many cute products that customers love to peruse. The shelves stock home and kitchen goods that range from colorful napkins to fragrant, handmade hand soaps. Tea lovers will enjoy the assortment of loose teas, like Rooibos Red Tea and Fruit Blend Herbal Tea. Pair a package of tea with a lovely tea ball infuser, hand beaded with delicate, colorful beads by Rosemary Thomas herself for a unique gift. Delightful possibilities await in the grocery and gift shop area.
Whether enticed by the healthful nature of eating organic or simply for a delightful and delicious meal prepared by wonderful people, Rosemary’s Kitchen is every bit worth the trip.
“We serve food the way we like to make it, and our customers seem to like it, too,” says Corley. “I know more than half of the faces that walk through out doors on a first name basis, and that means something to the people here.”
It seems that all of Ruston would agree with her.
Rosemary’s Kitchen is located at 400 South Bonner Street in Ruston. Contact them at 318.202.5951, or visit their website at www.rosemarys-kitchen.com. Follow Rosemary’s Kitchen on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to find current menus and special events.