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The spice of life to go'

By Staff
THECHILIHOUSE.COM Kim O'Neill, left, Martha Ruffin and Tammy Lewis stand behind the counter at TheChilihouse.com. Above them is a childhood photo of O'Neill and Lewis, and a selection of canned relishes and peppers for sale. Open for two months, the restaurant's hours are 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Photo by Carisa McCain / The Meridian Star
By Penny Randall / staff writer
May 22, 2002
Family photographs adorn the walls and homemade pies line the counter tops of TheChilihouse.com, one of the newest restaurants in Meridian.
Canned jars of vegetables and pickles sit on shelves in the corner opposite a large bin of fresh onions all in seeming unison with the slogan at the top of the menu: "The spice of life to go."
The owners of TheChilihouse.com, sisters Tammy Lewis and Kim O'Neill, said that's what you'll get from their cooking and their restaurant which got its start two years ago as an Internet-based business.
The Chilihouse.com, open for two months, is a dream come true for the Alabama natives. They said the key to their success is "making our customers drool over our Southern delights."
Two of five children, the girls grew up on a cotton farm and learned from their mother how to can vegetables and fruits.
Cajun influence
The sisters said most of the dishes they cook and serve are influenced by Cajun cooking.
Everything is made to-go. Walk-ins are welcome and customers can have a seat outside under one of the several umbrella-covered tables.
Featured items include chili, red beans and rice, Ragin' Cajun Shrimp Creole and Brunswick Stew. And then there's the daily special, or as O'Neill described it, "just what we're in the mood to cook."
Salads are made to order, either in a bowl or in a boat. The boat is made from Cuban bread that is hollowed-out, covered with garlic butter and toasted.
The salad is stuffed inside the bread and covered in dressing. Said Lewis: "It's like a salad wrapped up in a crouton."
Fresh desserts
Everything is made from scratch including the desserts.
Banana pudding is a regular on the menu and then there are dessert "Specials of the Week," which could be a sweet potato pie or New Orleans bread pudding with a whiskey sauce topping.
TheChilihouse.com sits on the west side of Meridian, perched between the Ice Plant and Red Pylates Machine and Welding Works.
The sisters said they picked the location because of its good traffic flow.
Their lunch business is booming, and dinner business is picking up. The sisters said people are beginning to realize they can call ahead to place an order and pick it up on the way home.
Future plans are to open a traditional sit-down restaurant. But for now, the sisters are happy just to be doing what they love cooking.
Lewis and O'Neill work in the kitchen alongside a family friend, Martha Ruffin who, Lewis said, "makes the best cornbread. It will melt in your mouth."

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