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Fiddlers Seafood offers food, fellowship

  • Photos Fiddlers Seafood Garlic crabs are some of dishes you can grab at Fiddlers Seafood in Ridgeland during Gopher Hill weekend.

Fiddlers Seafood Restaurant in Ridgeland has been in business since 1999. Located in downtown, the business is right in the heart of the Gopher Hill Festival’s festivities. Owner Donna Rowell offered her thoughts on the restaurant and her affection for the festival:

JCST: What has always been the inspiration for your menu?

Rowell: The inspiration has been from my husband Billy who is a commercial fisherman and shrimper. Always fresh local seafood cooked in a traditional Lowcountry style. Our recipes are handed down from family members. Not fancy just good and simple.

JCST: What are some of your signature dishes?

Rowell: Our signature dishes include our creamy homemade crab stew. Hand cut fried squash. Our lightly dusted fried shrimp are very popular. The collard greens are delicious as well. Our dirty rice is pretty dirty! All our sauces are homemade. Our desserts are homemade by my 91-year-old mother, Grace Boyles, who helped me in the restaurant until last year after she had a terrible fall. Our Tartar sauces are off the chain.

JCST: How would you describe the atmosphere on a daily basis at Fiddlers Seafood?

Rowell: The daily atmosphere is always filled with the hustle and bustle of the locals. Who we appreciate dearly. There is a lot of plans, purposes and pursuits discussed around those tables. From lawyers, pastors, real estate agents, graduating Marines, and newlyweds straight from the courthouse The Gopher Hill Committee also meets throughout the year at Fiddlers to plan out the festival. We also have live entertainment on the weekends.

JCST: Since 1999 the business has been in Ridgeland. What do you enjoy most about being downtown on Main Street?

Rowell: I enjoy being … part of the daily hustle and bustle of life. We have met people from all walks of life and people from all over the world. They say never discuss politics and religion, which are the most discussed topics around the tables! God put me on Main Street until He tells me to go home I’ll be right there.

JCST: Gopher Hill kicks off this week. What are some of the things you look forward to (having never missed one) and do you have any particular memories through the years that stand out?

Rowell: I always look forward to Gopher Hill. The food, crafts, and music. I look forward to seeing folks that you only see once a year when they come for the festival. My best memory of Gopher Hill was when it used to be by the library and eating Gopher Burgers. That was a big deal back then. As a child, Momma would give me a certain amount of money to spend. She would give me $10. That would buy my food, carnival tickets and a necklace or some kind of trinket. My mother had a fabric store for 18 years where Dr. Bostick has his dentistry business. It was a profitable time for the local businesses when so many people were in town for the festival. And that is still true today.

JCST: The restaurant is adorned with knickknacks, crafts and signs with funny or interesting sayings. What do you look for in making a choice to display in your restaurant? Do you have a favorite?

Rowell: The walls are full with years of collecting whatnots and pictures. I’ve come to work and found packages at the door where folks would leave stuff. There are some things still to this day I don’t know where it came from it was just left on my door steps. Some are very special to me. A poem about the Chechessee River written by Edward Horry Sr. Hangs on the wall. Also a painting of Mother Emmanuel AME church hangs on the wall. I’ve made some of the signs and also a local artist. As long as I can see the bare wall there is still room for more!

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