Locke liver feed packs in diners

The Delta town of Locke has a long and storied history—from its founding in 1915 by a group of Chinese merchants, to its heyday as a lively city where upstanding Chinese families once shared space with brothels and opium dens, to its more recent role as a setting for filmmakers as diverse as Russ Meyer and Clint Eastwood.

Another part of the river town’s notable past is its annual liver feed, recently hosted at Al the Wop’s, Locke’s whimsically named bar and restaurant.

Exactly how long has this liver feed been a part of Locke culture? Well, no one seems to know. I asked the grizzled, mustachioed cook (mustaches seem to be de rigueur in this locale) who replied, “Hoo boy, long time. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.”

Inquiries were subsequently made as patrons were directed to open tables in the cramped, bustling back dining room. The cook returned shortly and, touching my arm in a friendly way, offered another answer: “25 or 30 years.”

Murky timeline aside, it’s inarguably popular. On this particular day, Al’s front bar area is packed with locals who started showing up at 11 a.m., many holding Budweisers and Coors wrapped in personal cozies, brought from home for the occasion.

Here, the women sport big, Tammy Wynette-style hair and bright, lipsticked mouths. The men are dressed in a uniform of baseball hat (sporting either a camouflage motif or, perhaps, featuring the logo of the aforementioned brews), plaid shirt and vest. There’s also a man with a long, snow-white beard and hair to match who looks so much like a wizard that I’m tempted to ask if I can pose for a picture with him, but I chicken out. Smiles and backslapping abound.

Our party is seated. In the middle of the table there’s a Styrofoam plate filled with sliced white bread—the kind that rips when you try to spread a pat of butter on it with a plastic knife. Each table also has a bowl filled with room temperature strips of beef heart, which could pass for roast beef if you closed your eyes. Soon, the waitress takes our drink order (Bloody Marys for all) and plops down four partitioned plates. There’s an iceberg salad with French dressing, a pile of borderline-charred bacon, and two large slices of beef liver, smothered with onions. The liver has been breaded and fried and is pretty good. Even better is the sandwich I invent with butter, bacon and onions.

The cook returns: “It’s been going on at least 40 years, maybe 50.” We finish our feed and relinquish our spots to the waiting wizard and company.

Outside, an old-timer with a cane sits on a bench and asks the cook (who seems to be everywhere at once), “Is the rush over yet?” A group of men chat in the street, clutching their cozies and trading good-natured barbs.

You guys wanna eat his liver?” one says, gesturing to his rotund pal.

“It’s already marinated,” another cracks, “Hell, it’s already pickled!”