Woodard cooks up great food inside local gas station

Published 12:00 pm Monday, January 4, 2016

In Mississippi, you can sometimes find gourmet at a gas station.

That’s how Tim Woodard, 41, thinks of his kitchen inside Littlejohn’s store off Highway 30 in Lafayette County.

Email newsletter signup

The Oakland native, who has lived in Oxford the past 20 years, said the food he serves at Little Easy Express Lunches is “kind of like Square food off the Square with free parking.”

“We just don’t put up with horrible food around here, I think,” said Woodard, explaining why you can often find good food in the most unlikely places, like gas stations. “You’re not going to be open long around here if your food is terrible.

“People come from other states, and they’re like, ‘Are you serious? Why would I go eat at a gas station?’ A lady was telling me that when she had traveled in Europe, it was expected that little travel lodges would have really good food there. So there is a culture of having really good food in places like this in other countries, and I think it’s that way in the South.

“I think everyone prides themselves on serving like a really good lunch — not just opening up a can and heating it up.”

Woodard said “Little Easy,” instead of the “Big Easy” has been a nickname for Oxford. This January marks the fourth year he has operated the kitchen inside Littlejohn’s.

“We make Southern comfort food,” he said. “We make it readily accessible and quick for lunch breaks.”

Woodard said he began cooking at age 7.

“That’s been my favorite thing to do,” he said. “It was just a hobby before, because I worked at Ole Miss in administration with international students for 11 years.”

His first cooking memory was an attempt to cook cornbread.

“I probably made a big mess,” he said. “I got into the cabinets, and I got all the things that a child would think about to make cornbread.

“I got cornmeal, and I thought it needed a little color to it, so I put Pepto-Bismol in it. So it was something inedible, and I probably got in trouble.”

Woodard said he was known for cooking, so people began asking him to cater events when he was around 20.

“It was kind of like a hobby then,” he said. “Around 1999, I went and started working for Oxford Catering. I was kind of the front of the house manager.”

He worked there two years before beginning work at the University of Mississippi.

“I got sucked back into it,” he said. “That’s what I do on weekends. It’s kind of like a stress reliever. I’ll just start cooking. It’s kind of therapeutic to me.”

Woodard describes the Little Easy as a quick place for area people to eat.

“But we have customers who live out of state that, when they travel here to Oxford for work, they make sure they come here and have lunch,” he said.

“It’s kind of been a big word-of-mouth business. They don’t really know the name of the business, but they’re like, ‘You know that Littlejohn’s store. They have really good plate lunches there.’”

Woodard said plate lunches are their niche, but they also do full service catering.

“We are known for our boneless fried pork loins,” he said. “Before, it was pork chops, and we’ve been written up in several magazines about that, includingThe Local Palate magazine from Charleston, South Carolina.

‘We’re known for our pork chops, country fried steak, our meatloaf. We make a really good roast chicken several times a week in different ways.”

Woodard said the Little Easy will be adding more grab-and-go items to the menu for the new year.

“We’ll expand beyond lunches,” he said.

For more information, visit littleeasycatering.com or find the restaurant’s Facebook page where contact information and sample menus are located.

Customers can also call Littlejohn’s to inquire.

About LaReeca Rucker

LaReeca Rucker is a writer, reporter and adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

A veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she spent a decade at the Gannett-owned Clarion-Ledger - Mississippi's largest daily newspaper - covering stories about crime, city government, civil rights, social justice, religion, art, culture and entertainment for the paper's print and web editions. She was also a USA Today contributor.

This year, she received a first place award from the Mississippi Press Association for “Best In-Depth Investigative Reporting.” The story written in 2014 for The Oxford Eagle chronicles the life of a young mother with two sons who have epilepsy, and details how she is patiently hoping legalized cannabis oil experimentation will lead to a cure for their disorder.

Her website is www.lareecarucker.com.

email author More by LaReeca