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Porta Call Restaurant Kimmswick

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    Porta Call Restaurant Kimmswick

    If I understand correctly there will be a new restaurant in Kimmswick, Mo. which will feature "a taste of the Delta Queen". I'm not sure what exactly that would be because in my DQ days the food was basically good ol' American comfort food with a very heavy Southern influence.
    When Ed Gallagher was the Chief Steward all the recipes came from a big US Navy cookbook which he kept on the top bunk in his room. There were no "red wine reductions" or hollandaise sauces anywhere on the menu. About the fanciest we got was sour cream for the baked potatoes (I remember one time Katie Mae Cain (Timberhead), not knowing what the sour cream was for saying, "Yuck, that stuff tastes like soap".
    The colored crew had a completely different menu ("they don't like the rich food the passengers get") of real soul food. About half the time Capt. Wagner would ask the waiter in the officers dining room "what's ya serving downstairs?" and that's what he would have.
    I believe that the year after I got off the boat Betty Blake and Bill Muster had the meals idea that didn't last very long.
    The menu's must have changed greatly after my time if they warrant a restaurant featuring them. What was the food like in the later days?

    *DELTA QUEEN anniversary/Steamboat food*
    Steamboating colleagues:
    Thanks, Jim, for your vivid memories of food offered on the DELTA QUEEN in earlier years as many of us knew it. A far cry from what later fans experienced under new management. Again, YOU were then with many of us here NOW. We're also now celebrating the completion, delivery of the DELTA QUEEN from her builders in Stockton, California to her owners, the 'California Transportation Company' in San Francisco. My recrods here state the boat was "Given farewell" from Stockton on May 24, 1927 for several days of "tests" before entered into service. Both the DK/DQ termed the "million dollar boats" then costing $875,000 each at a time when Capt. Fred Way wrote " the late period when packetboating was in the hands of the undertaker." The fact they were even built at all a miracle considering the financial issues the C.T. Co. faced in issuing "$650,00 in bonds and $875,000 to pay off its debts." I have in my family files stock certificates issued then.

    Capt. Tom Greene's rule on his company boats was good food always "with hot food hot, cold food cold." Jim is correct on the food offered to passengers and that to the crew. Crew food often considered a favorite by both white and black veteran crew members and officers. In even earlier days my dad recalled the crew rousters eating on tin pans with just a spoon--no knife or fork. It was good, solid, well prepared food with no dramatic frills, ceremony. Many passengers new to the boat imagined the glory of foods reputed to have been offered on the big, brag cotton packets in days of yore. Who here remembers the fine steaks, salads, cornbread, hushpuppies, fresh vegetables bought along the way, prime beef rib, fried chicken, chess pie, rice pudding, bread pudding whipped up by steward Gallager and chef Hicks in their time? Farmers sold vegetables, corn, fruit in season along the way that was cleaned, snapped, shucked by the crew sitting on the boat's bow. For years all breads, rolls were made aboard. Ed Gallagher, after lunch, would seek a deck chair on the stern of the DQ to catch some winks before prepping the dinner. Many of us walked by letting him rest in peace for an hour or so.

    Ed Gallager, Chef Hicks worked like dogs long hours down in that lower 'cook house' under working conditions that would be condemmed today. So let's cut the 'romance' about life on a steamboat for the crew. The home office on the GREENE LINE wharfboat counted pennies to make sure they could afford to purchase the prime rib beef they needed. Again, the Greene family for years practiced MBWA--Mangaement by walking around. That meant watching all the food bills, lifting cooking pot lids, opening ovens, talking with crew and passengers. In later years new company ownership fell to ignoring dollars to save pennies. Another observer noted, "There was a big SYSCO food truck meeting us at every landing."

    Betty Blake, Bill Muster hit on a plan to have so called gourmet meals prepared, shipped to be thawed, cooked by microwave supplemented with fresh offerings aboard. That didn't last long. 'Fads' in food tastes, cullinary arts came and went with the boat. Remember the days when foods were heavy on Cajun recipes? Betty herself favored southern foods with her eggs based in fat sunny side up with lots of bacon, rolls and butter as I recall. Capt. Wagner liked fried green tomatoes that once gave him a case of indegestion that laid him low. One Purser of the day known to have consumed four steaks at one sitting. Many very sophisticated travelers at first were dismayed with the limited offerings until they sat down and bellied up. From then on they were hooked. Early travel writers commented on being disappointed with the limited menu but raved over what the old GREENE LINE produced on the DQ.

    Steamboat food way back often good but could be deadly for the crew/officers on a daily basis in saturated fats, salt, lard, sugar. Old Jim Burns who built the DK/DQ avoided food on the boats as much as possible. His son, John Burns, told me here in my home he also cut back keeping a small crate of fresh fruits/vegetables under his boat bunk to eat raw. Often on steamboats a large can hung on the side of the cooking ranges so fats and drippings could be ladeled off, used for the next meal or the next day. Capt. Alan Bates commented, "They could make anything taste good with lots of lard, sugar and flour."

    I think what many later DQ fans experienced a far cry from what some of us knew back then. It's possibly just 'time and place.' But, what do I know?

    R. Dale Flick
    Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati


      Think the year was 1968. The company (as I recall) was Zabo (spelling ??). Don't think they lasted thru the Summer................maybe even the month of June. A Roddy story involving a slice of pie is involved with that short experiment in foodservice by the yet still Greene Line Steamers..............with a tattered carbon copy to Mrs Greene.


        *DQ's gourmet food/Mrs. Greene's letters*
        Morning, Steamboating colleagues:
        DELTA QUEEN food, from what I read here and in other older postings, always a topic of interest. Jim Blum another one who was there THEN with all of us here NOW as were Capt. Don Sanders, Capt. Clarke Doc Hawley and others. Both Don and Doc have vivid, colorful memories of their culinary experiences back earlier on the then AVALON. Doc and I have talked frequently about DELTA QUEEN food, how it was purchased from the wholesale markets in Cincinnati or along the way, fresh vegetables, some fruits farmers sold at stops along the river. Granted many condiments, supplies, later breads, dairy products were loaded aboard here in Cincinnati. Periodically a local exterminator company would come down with a truck to treat the boat inside on layover day. Back then the DQ didn't steam in early and then out the same day. There were schedules when she would often lay at the wharfboat 24 hours or longer for turn around. Looking at a yearly calendar, later management saw how to cut the layover here to put the days together for additional revenue making trips. This not without logistical problems, hard work for all aboard, time missed ashore or home here with family. The big blue water cruise babies do this now loading, unloading thousands of passengers in a single day, resupplying, refueling and then out again. It's the nature of the business.

        Mrs. Greene mentioned to me more than once, "With a boat like this you have a marine operation, crew and officers, hotel department, food, beverage, entertaiment--and I inherited it all." Many passengers coming/going on the DQ may have seen some of this briefly or were not conscious of it at all.

        Jim correct on the food company but I'm also foggy on the name being ZABO or something like that. And, as stated, it didn't last long. I don't know about the "Roddy story about a slice of pie" but wouldn't be surprised. With any cruise vessel, hotel, resort, club, restaurant there is the daily grind in maintaining 'quality control.' Those veteran DELTA QUEEN cooks and chefs down there in that cookhouse were their own 'quality control' masters. I went down in there several times, when invited, to see the operation totally amazed what they could turn out in those spaces under the prevailing working conditions. Those huge old ranges and ovens belched heat. One commentor said, "I even saw water drops condensing on the ceilings above from heat/humidity."

        I'm sure Mrs. Letha C. Greene received many a letter, call or "tattered carbon copy" in her years as manager. By 1968 she and her family were in their final stages of management under the new regime with the title 'President Emeritus.' In 1968 I was already on actitve military duty and had been several years following university graduation. Mrs. Greene always seemed to find time to pen me a letter with all she had on her hands, her own family, several times health issues, from her office desk as did her other family members. She was circumspect but often wrote cutting to the quick about the company, "rapidly advancing changes...grand ideas" in some detail. One of her comments to all was, "They'll soon find out." I've keep those letters filed here for years. But again, what do I know?

        R. Dale Flick
        Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati


          While I followed the DQ and Greene Line since the mid 1960s, I wasn't able to ride Her Majesty until March, 2007--first trip of the season and first under MAL (how appropriate those initials). They were serving West Coast, or "California Cuisine" created by some fru-fra chef from Seattle, WA. Now Seattle is a "Foodie" town, and that's what the offerings were. I, and a number of other passengers, expressed our dismay at the offerings. I, for one, did not travel half-way across the country to eat the same stuff I got at home when dining out! All of us made enough noise that the dismissed "Picnic" was hurriedly re-instated, and by the end of the trip some optional "local" fare was begrudgingly provided. As Mrs. Greene stated, "They'll soon find out." By our next trip later that year the menu had changed some. I think that trip down the Black Warrior was my favorite of the trips for scenery, although the farewell trip still holds some great memories, mostly caused by the folks on board. Now there was trip where the food was "put together on the run," and foodstuffs were running low--I even bought some honey at a Dollar General just so we could have some for our grits n biscuits. What's that say when the passengers have to help provide the food??!!!!
          Steamboatin' is the best!
          Attached Files


            Jim, I cannot speak for the owners of Port Call Restaurant or the owners of the DELTA QUEEN, but here's my idea on the new restaurant: They have space there and are trying to generate some interest. Few, if any, restaurant patrons will know or even care what food used to be served on the DQ, especially 50 years ago. My take is that the restaurant and boat owners are trying to generate interest in the DELTA QUEEN as well as providing a new restaurant for Kimmswick and generate some much-needed revenue for the company. If the menu at the restaurant reflects the menu(s) to be served on the boat once she comes back out, and that generates interest in the boat and business, all well and good.

            Even if they serve a "sailing buffet" of fried chicken, ham, corn pudding a big ol' salad bowl and prime rib with baked potato, catfish on Fridays and relatively simple lunches, there is a market for that sort of thing, too in the restaurant biz. If it helps the DQ, then all well and good.


              Here is the menu from their Facebook page. Nothing outlandish -- it looks very good to me!


                I think that menu is just sort of a tasting menu that was offered at Kimmswick's Strawberry Festival. You'll notice that no prices are given. The food listed looks wonderful, but if that's all the restaurant will offer, especially for dinner, the pickins' seem a bit slim!