For many in Phoenix, "soul food" is synonymous with Mrs. White's Golden Rule Café. Since 1964, the landmark has been serving southern classics like catfish, smothered chicken, and a mean peach cobber.
At the heart of it all is one woman: Mrs. Elizabeth White.
This week we sat down with Mrs. White to hear about her experience owning a business that's outlasted nine U.S. presidencies, the turn of the century, and the building of the light rail.
How did you get started in Phoenix?
We came here [from Texas] to help my brother, Floyd, in the café. His café was Church Café and he asked me to come and help him in the church and the café. We came in '63. We rode all night--New Years--and we got here on the second day of 1963, me and my four kids. We worked for him for about a year and he decided that he was going to go to Roswell [GA] and he moved to Roswell and that left me and my kids here. I had to do something. So I reopened the café and called it The Golden Rule...the people started calling it Mrs. White's Golden Rule but I called it the Golden Rule.
Why did you choose the name "The Golden Rule?"
So we wouldn't give people the tickets (bill). They wrote about that back then they said, "Mrs. White won't give you a ticket. She'll let you come up and tell her what you had." But we have the tickets; if you want the tickets we'll give them to you because we write it down. They wrote about that in the paper and they said, "Mrs. White won't give you a ticket but she'll ask you what you had when you come to pay her." Some people used to say, "I just had water and a toothpick." I said, "Oh that cost $25!" Then they say, "Oh no I had smothered chicken!"
Times they are a-changin'
Our prices used to be $2.50 to $3.00. The highest one was $3.00 when we started in '63. People didn't have any money then but, the Lord let us make it up till now. We sold smothered chicken, fried chicken--we had a lot on our menu. One day I went to my church meeting in Texas and when I came back they had narrowed that thing down! We used to have veal cutlets, pork cutlets, chicken fried steak, fish, baby beef liver, lamb patties, fried chicken, smothered chicken, and barbeque. Now we have fish, chicken fried steak, smothered chicken, fried chicken, and pork chops. They been asking for ox tails so I'll get some, but just having them everyday...they too high. They so high. Everything is high now.
The light rail
The stores they going up too, they got to make their money to stay in business but that light rail, that'd like to put us out of business. Yes, that like to put us out of business because they would dig up [the street] out there and people couldn't get in here. They would have to go all around and come back and come back down instead of just coming down and in. Now some days are better and some days are just about the same. We have good and bad days. The problem is where you get off the light rail is up on 12th street--that's four blocks. People have called and asked us how far is the light rail from your place and when we say four blocks and they say, "We not able to walk that's far."
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Check back tomorrow to hear more from Mrs. White.