Some people think of Oxford and immediately think of The Square, The Grove, and Ole Miss. For me, Oxford is a bastion of Mississippi culture and great Southern dining. So it disheartens me to report that Yocona River Inn, one of the community’s culinary landmarks, was destroyed by fire on on Thursday, March 12.
Proprietor Paige Osborn, who lives next door to the restaurant, woke up around 1:30 a.m. when she heard her dog barking. "As soon as I opened the bedroom door, I saw a barrage of flashing colors through the window, and I knew something was wrong," she says.
The fire began on the enclosed back porch, which functioned as the restaurant’s kitchen. "The back wall is completely gone. Some of the interior walls are gone. The rooms on the back side of the building are pretty well gutted. The floor’s still there, and three outside walls are still standing," says Paige. It was first reported around 1 a.m. by a local community fire fighter who was returning from another call and noticed the building ablaze. The exact cause of the fire is undetermined.
Paige, a New Orleans native, moved to Oxford for grad school in Southern Studies in 1991. She fell so in love with the town, she chose to stick around and opened the Yocona River Inn in June 1995. "It’s been my baby for over a decade–it’s my life," says Osborn. "I’m definitely planning to rebuild."
Yocona is more than just another college town restaurant. Located out in the sticks (you better know where you’re going if you hope to find it), it is a grass-roots BYOB eatery founded on community pride and great food. As John T. Edge, director of the Oxford-based Southern Foodways Alliance says, "Yocona is among our most community-focused restaurants. It matters to the people of Lafayette County, both as a place for peerless filet mignon and as place of neighborly congregation."
Updates on the restaurant can be found at www.yocona.com.
HOW TO HELP REBUILD: Yocona River Inn Patron Share Program
In the wake of the fire at Yocona River Inn, a cadre of loyal customers is raising funds to aid proprietor Paige Osborne as she works to reopen the restaurant.
Leading the charge are Randy Yates, proprietor of Ajax Diner, John Currence, proprietor of City Grocery, and John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance.
Dollars raised will serve as bridge funds for Osborne and her employees, offsetting some of the expenses incurred between the date of the fire and the date of the restaurant’s reopening.
Here’s how the "patron share" program works:
1) Write a check for $250, payable to Yocona River Inn, and mail it to Paige Osborne, Yocona River Inn, P.O. Box 2609, Oxford, MS 38655.
(Gifts in the name of friends and family are encouraged; so are multiple shares.)
2) Yocona River Inn will acknowledge your "patron share" with a letter and then open a house account for you.
3) Each time you dine at Yocona, one-half of your bill total will be paid from your house account balance, until that balance is retired.
4) In recognition of your purchase of a "patron share," Paige will install bricks, engraved with the names of supporting patrons, in a new courtyard that will front the building.
For questions on the logistics of this effort, email John T. Edge at firstname.lastname@example.org