Down home cookin’ steeped in family tradition at the Lion’s Den in New Boston
New Boston and Bowie County residents have fond memories about a small, brick building on Front street where they used to flock for lunchtime, when it was the home of Shirley’s. Well, that same location is now home again to the down home, Southern foods that made Shirley’s famous, as local chef Roshonna Stewart and her husband Kion have opened The Lion’s Den-Southern Dining.
Roshonna has been cooking pretty much her entire life. As a child, she spent weekends, holidays, and summer breaks with her grandparents on their farm in Foreman, Arkansas, where her grandmother Willie Mae Crutchfield taught Roshonna anything and everything pertaining to Southern farm life.
“We baled and stacked hay, picked pecans, cooked, cleaned, and shelled peas - we did anything you could imagine on my grandparents farm,” she remembered fondly. “During the holidays, I always helped in the kitchen, from a very young age. We basically grew up Southern kids.”
Roshonna began working at age 16 at a local bakery/deli, and after graduation from New Boston High School, continued to work in the food service industry.
But she always dreamed of something more.
“I always wanted a mom and pop restaurant,” she explained. “It started out as my grandmother’s dream - she baked and cooked really well - and I always saw myself running my own restaurant, maybe an ice cream parlor.”
But as the years passed, Roshonna also realized her knack for decorating, and strayed from her original path a bit. “I thought for a while that decorating was the route I was taking,” she said. “But God just kept turning me toward this.”
Roshonna was cooking from home, preparing lunch plates and delivering them locally, when a family member told her about Shirley’s old building coming open. She immediately knew it was meant to be.
“When I started inquiring about the building, doors were opened that I never imagined,” Roshonna said. “People just came out of the woodwork to help. You can’t imagine how blessed I have been.” A mother of five, Roshonna has not always had things easy, but this came about differently.
“It’s like God just paved the way for me,” she said tearfully. “I had begun to wonder if I was going to grow old before I ever see some sunshine, but God just laid this all out for me.”
And though no one will disagree that the Stewarts have been blessed, customers will tell you there is something else behind the success of The Lion’s Den - darn good food. From her extremely popular fried fish plates on Fridays, to a classic bacon cheeseburger, Roshonna is yet to make a dish that hasn’t been meet with success. Customers choose from four different entrees each day, and a variety of side dishes, along with drink and dessert for just $10. And during lunch, you can bet the parking lot at The Lion’s Den is always full.
The Lion’s Den is open Tuesday-Friday 11am to 3pm and every other Sunday 11am to 3pm.