AUTHENTIC: Ms. Ann’s Restaurant

Everybody knows her as Miss Ann.

And everybody loves her food.

Addie M. Bowie is Miss Ann, proprietor of St. Paul’s classic soul food diner… Everybody knows her as Miss Ann.

And everybody loves her food.

Addie M. Bowie is Miss Ann, proprietor of St. Paul’s classic soul food diner that bears her name. Miss Ann’s is attached to and leased from the Twin Star Veteran of Foreign Wars Post 8854 and Canteen. The adjacent establishments are at 822 and 820 Concordia Avenue, respectively.

Bowie hails from Tallulah, La. Her husband S.D. Bowie, also a Southerner, is from Jackson, Mississippi. “He is one of 18 children in his family,” Bowie told Insight in an interview last week. “After so many, they stopped giving names and just gave out initials.” They made Twin Cities their home in 1960.

Bowie entered the restaurant business as a sideline. She started just preparing tamales to sell to the Canteen patrons. She had worked 18 years at Armour & Co. food processing plant in South St. Paul. When the plant closed, she approached the VFW with the idea of preparing and selling tamales.

“I came to do hot tamales. But people who knew me from work at Armour’s already knew about the food that I would bring for my lunch at work. What I cooked for dinner the night before, I would bring for lunch. They would ask me to bring them lunch,” she said.

“When I opened the tamale stand here at the Post, they would ask me to prepare the dishes I made at home for them. Pretty soon, the call for dinners got bigger and bigger. I couldn’t do the tamales. I had to do a full dinner menu.”

Bowie maintains a staff of three, including herself. Getting and keeping good workers has always been a challenge, she said. “We often looked at getting a bigger place. But I wonder if we would have been able to find the right help to make a go of it. We signed a five-year lease. Five years roll by pretty fast. And while we thought about moving to a bigger place, as each lease ended, we simply renewed…and here we are today.”

“We opened on about March 20, 1981. After 22 years, I’m about ready to get out of the business. I’m looking at 2005,” she said.

“Then again,” she added, “I said I was looking at leaving the business when my husband retired. That was about 12 years ago.”

Miss Ann’s is famous for its Southern home cooking style. The restaurant is known from the East Coast to the West Coast, throughout the North and South, Bowie said. The clientele includes a lot of young people and old-timers as well. “Most of the young people started coming here at an early age. A lot of husbands come for meals when their wives don’t cook a full meal at home. Wives send for or come and get family dinners when they don’t have time to cook or don’t want to cook, but want a Southern, home-cooked meal,” she said.

The food is legendary. People throughout Twin Cities and visitors from around the country sing praises to Miss Ann’s, both for the superb food, and for the soulful ambience. Part of the restaurant’s huge popularity comes from its connection to the VFW Post.

Michael Skinner, post Quartermaster and general manager of the Canteen, said Twin Star is a private organization for veterans of foreign wars and their guests. This Post was organized in 1962. The 130 plus members meet there and socialize with their guests. The Post from time to time features live music and/or DJ entertainment. A jukebox carries both new and classic blues, soul, and jazz.

In a sense, if there ever was a Black version of the “Cheers” television series concept, this is it. In the VFW you find friendly neighborliness and bartender wit engaging friends and strangers in pun, innuendo and smiling one-upmanship. You walk in feeling good. You walk out feeling better, knowing you’ve been in good company. So the truth of the matter is, more than likely, the creators of “Cheers”, probably picked up on the vibe of a place like Twin Star VFW Post and packaged it for primetime television.

September 8, 2003
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