I mean no disrespect toward the Delta Café when I say this, but North Mississippi's Miss Delta, co-owned by former Delta mastermind Anastasia Corya, is like a fresher, more ambitious version of the Delta—maybe something like the Delta in its younger days, before years of hard living and Reed College students took a toll.
The Delta was sold to new owners in January—and while the old space on Woodstock reportedly hasn't been altered much since it changed hands, the forces behind the original Delta have thrown their energy into Miss Delta.
Corya told me that with the new place, she's aiming for a "more conscientious soul food restaurant," trying to adhere to the local, organic, sustainable ethos that is now de rigueur among new Portland restaurants. That's why in addition to a menu of Southern staples like fried chicken, black-eyed peas, gumbo, and jambalaya, you'll find a rotating selection of seasonal sides and entrées like cauliflower casserole, braised brussels sprouts, and chicken and dumplings.
Miss Delta is a well-designed little space: Wood floors, exposed brick walls, and quirky light fixtures that suffuse the place with a bourbon-y hue create an atmosphere redolent with both Southern gentility and North Portland chic.
The portions, however, are pure Southern abundance. Do not eat here if you plan on doing any of the following activities after your meal: dancing, playing Wii tennis, arguing politics, or having any but the most cautious sex. Honestly, I had a hard time making it from the table to the car.
We started out with an appetizer of jalapeño hush puppies, which could've used an accompanying dipping sauce—ketchup and a variety of hot sauces are available, but it seemed like a missed opportunity to demonstrate a little flair with condiment.
Granted, starting a meal out with balls of fried dough is generally unwise—but even so, the size of the subsequent entrée was daunting. The massive chicken breast, battered just right and as moist as white meat gets, was accompanied by a welcome but thoroughly gratuitous drumstick, and a choice of two sides. The collard greens are some of the best I've had—they're available vegetarian or not, but if you swing that way, definitely opt for the carnivorous version, with generous bits of ham hock buried in the vinegary greens. The mac and cheese, too, is better than average, though the mashed potatoes and salad with house green-apple vinaigrette are both unremarkable. The jambalaya is spicy and studded generously with shrimp, chicken, and hearty chunks of sausage, while the ribs are as tender as I've ever experienced.
You won't find any PBR in champagne buckets here, but as for where the well-priced drink menu fits into the Southern-inspired theme of things, Corya says, "Our theory is to try and revamp traditional cocktails, which is what we're doing with traditional cuisine as well. The South is pretty eclectic anyway, there are a lot of influences when you live along a coastline." You'll find standards like a Bloody Mary made with basil-infused vodka, or an Old-Fashioned dressed up with "fancy Italian cherries."
Miss Delta is a welcome evolution of Corya's Southern vision, and a welcome addition to a neighborhood that, with Gravy just down the street, is becoming something of a comfort food destination.