Ruby McIntyre, longtime owner of Ruby’s Soul Food Cafe in Kansas City, dies aged 95


Ruby McIntyre, in the kitchen at Ruby’s Soul Food Cafe, was known as “Miss Ruby” or even “Mama”.

Don Bowerman

Ruby W. McIntyre, who for 50 years offered as much affection and goodwill as she made heaps of fried chicken, andouilles and peach cobbler at Ruby’s Soul Food Cafe, died Tuesday in the age 95.

Opened in 1952, the small restaurant on 15th Street and Brooklyn Avenue has become an institution. Regulars who filled the place daily, including generations of law enforcement officers, have come to know McIntyre as “Miss Ruby” or even “Mama.”

“When she was there she was both a very gracious, brilliant host in her restaurant, very calm, very kind,” recalls Don Bowerman, who first met McIntyre 40 years ago as a that Kansas City rookie policeman and stayed his life. friend. “But if you ran into her, she might come up with four-letter words so fast it would make your head spin.”

McIntyre died in hospice care in the town where she grew up, Lexington, Tennessee, said Bowerman, who created a Facebook page in honor of McIntyre and his restaurant, the former patrons of the Ruby’s Soul Food Cafe.

Boddie Parker, one of McIntyre’s cousins ​​from Tennessee who was raised to call McIntyre his aunt Ruby, said McIntyre was known in the family as someone who was not afraid to stretch a little truth in the service of a good story.

“We have always agreed with what she said,” Parker said.

In 1988, McIntyre told The Star that she started cooking at the age of 3 on a plantation in Tennessee, although in other news articles she said she was 5. Parker said some family members suspected McIntyre’s parents worked as sharecroppers rather than plantation workers.

“Miss Effie Howe – she owned the plantation – taught me how to cook,” McIntyre said in 1988. “Everyone went out into the fields and picked cotton. I stayed in the house and did all the cooking and cleaning too.

In-depth biographical information on Ruby McIntyre is scarce. Parker stated that McIntyre was born Ruby Watson on February 18, 1920. She was formerly married to Joshua McIntyre, who is believed to have died in the 1960s.

McIntyre arrived in Kansas City in 1949 and took a cooking job at William Jewell College, the first place she received a formal education.

“I tell people that you are never too old to learn,” she said.

In previous interviews, McIntyre told The Star that she started her business selling pies in the back of her car, followed by sandwiches. She eventually opened a counter where she sold chicken, andouilles, meatloaf, salad dressing, black-eyed peas and an assortment of cobblers, pies and homemade ice cream.

McIntyre did not have any biological children but raised a niece, Jackie Murray, as his daughter. Murray lives in Kansas City and has children of their own, whom McIntyre considered to be his grandchildren.

At the cafe, which has since closed, McIntyre was well known for her collection of naughty sayings, such as her advice to busy diners: “Slow down. You will like it longer.

McIntyre’s years of activity have not been without drama.

In October 1976, three men attempted to rob McIntyre and four customers shortly before 5:30 a.m., about 30 minutes after the restaurant opened. McIntyre escaped through the back door. A report of the theft prompted officers in Kansas City and Jackson County to converge on their favorite restaurant. In an attempt to escape, the robbers took a hostage. Police shot dead two of the men and injured the third.

A year later, an accident outside the restaurant sent a Cadillac smashing through the front of its business. In 1991, a fire closed the café for four months. The restaurant reopened after each incident, often with the help of dedicated patrons.

Parker said McIntyre returned to Tennessee in 2003.

“She said she wanted to come home,” Parker said.

Until the past two years, when her health slowed her down, McIntyre, even in the early 90s, spent days helping the elderly in a nursing home.

“She would always do whatever she wanted to do,” Parker said.

For seniors, that included getting into the kitchen.

“She loved to cook for people,” Parker said.

This story was originally published May 13, 2015 2:04 PM.

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