The Big Muddy

Published 12:23 pm Saturday, December 31, 2016

Good food. Good music. Good fun.

That’s the slogan of a new family friendly restaurant called The Big Muddy coming to downtown Vicksburg in the new year.

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Owned by mother daughter duo Sandi McCraine and Claire Minnie, the restaurant is based on the mighty Mississippi River and the music it has inspired for decades like jazz, blues and zydeco.

The restaurant’s name came from a quick search for river nicknames, and McCraine knew immediately which one fit best. She said it also harkens thoughts of famed blues musician Muddy Waters.

“That’s why we chose (the name) because we wanted to be tied to the river as well as the music because it’s such an important part of the history and even the present in Vicksburg,” McCraine said.

On the weekends, the restaurant will have live music. The menu features family recipes of southern comfort food with a little Cajun flair.

“We want to give people a taste of New Orleans without having to drive three hours,” McCraine said.

The restaurant covers three sections of a large building located at 1414 Washington St. where The Brick once resided. Two rooms are for dining and the third is a game room with multiple pool tables and a foosball table. In the future, more games may be added, McCraine said.

Above the game room there is an upstairs loft-like area where guests can make reservations for private parties of up to 20.

The duo is using local businesses to decorate their restaurant with paintings by H.C. Porter adorning the inside and signs made by Thad Pratt at Vicksburg Woodworks on the outside.

“We do want colorful, bright artwork in here,” McCraine said.

The two bring together business and dining minds respectively. McCraine has a business background having managed a household and a horse farm in the past, and Minnie has worked in food service since she was 16 with jobs from dishwasher to assistant manager.

“I love it. It’s literally a passion of mine,” Minnie said. “When you cook for people, it ends up bringing them happiness… We love to see the joy, and we love to give to others. That’s one of the main reasons we decided to do it together, to make sure we could pass on some of the joy we’ve had together.”

Minnie said her mom taught her how to cook and they’ve been cooking together since she was a teenager.

“It’s something we’ve always done together, and we talked about (owning a restaurant) since I was probably 13,” she said.

“This had been our dream,” McCraine said. “She’s been cooking at my side since she was tiny. There’s stuff she can cook better than me.”

McCraine and Minnie both say they have fallen in love with downtown Vicksburg and are excited to be a part of the city’s growth. The family, originally from the area, left for Arkansas when Minnie was young, but McCraine came back in 2014 and Minnie followed in 2015.

“We love downtown Vicksburg and the historic part of the city,” McCraine said.

“To me Vicksburg has always been home, and I’ve always wanted to come back home,” Minnie said. “I want to see it grow and prosper immensely, and I know it’s getting there.”

McCraine said she has always thought Vicksburg had the same potential as places like New Orleans or Charleston, S.C. She said to make it to that level, it is important for Vicksburg to tap into the city’s resources and the citizen’s opinions. Both women have been talking to other downtown merchants, residents and tourists they see during the day to learn what it is they want out of a downtown restaurant.

“We’re getting extremely good feedback,” McCraine said.

The women want to foster a sense of family with their crew and the customers. An atmosphere of openness and love is their goal.

“We can’t do it without them. They are valuable assets. Their minds, their ideas, we want those. We want them to communicate with us what they think or see that we might could do better or different,” McCraine said.

They leased the location in late October and have been working to get it up and running by late January. Hours will be Tuesday through Thursday 2 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 2 p.m. to midnight.

“I really have a heart to see Vicksburg and downtown thrive, and that’s something we intend to get involved with helping promote,” McCraine said.