Monday, April 27, 2009
One of my favorite college watering holes has turned into a destination for Southern Comfort Food. The End Zone on located on 4th Street has been open since 1977, and was long know as one of Hattiesburg original sports bars. About two years ago owners Mike and Gail Walker opened a full service grill and expanded by adding a seating area that is more family friendly.
The End Zone offers a daily lunch plate that ranges from red beans and rice to pork chops to country fried steak. They also have one of the most under-rated burgers in town. The gravy cheese fries may be Hattiesburg's best bar food offering.
Today I met a colleague there for lunch and sidled up to their best selling (according to Mike himself) entree - the hamburger steak platter. This is good, down-home Southern Comfort Food. The Platter consists of a half-pound hamburger steak grilled served with gravy, sauteed mushrooms and onions. I oped for their home fries and requested that grave be poured all over them as well. I may die of a clogged artery in the near future but I'm counting on the gravy to help keep things sliding along.
The service was good, the lunch was good and the atmosphere was uniquely - The End Zone.
My guess is that many reading this review only know of the sports bar portion of the End Zone, if you've not tried them for lunch you're really missing out.
You can choose to eat in the Bar or in the Grill, due to the Hattiesburg city ban on smoking in bars and restaurants the End Zone is no longer the smoke filled pool hall and sports bar of my youth, in a way I miss that. But, since I don't smoke and rarely drink, I'm pretty happy to see the grill packed on just about every occasion I've been there recently.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
While attending school La Fiesta Brave became a regular hang-out for my group of friends. Last week a few friends came back to town and we took in "the Brava" at the new location near the Grand Theatre. This was the first time that I've been to the west location since it moved into the current building. I usually dine at the University location on Hwy 49.
I was surprised at the décor which was much nicer than the old west location or the University location. Bright, open with large tables and wide booths. They were busy as I have come to expect the the service was quick and efficient.
I ordered a staple – the Big Burrito which is a giant stuffed with rice, beans, beef and chicken. The massive burrito is then covered with their signature white cheese sauce and chili con carne sauce. This burrito is pushing two pounds, I've seen big guys not come close to finishing it, although I've never seemed to have that problem.
The Big Burrito can be a bit inconsistent and can change a little in what comes stuffed inside depending on who's in the kitchen, but it's a safer bet than drinking the water in Tijauna. Sometimes it could be a little more chicken or maybe you'll find some steak strips instead of the usual ground beef, but it's all good, it's a 2-pound burrito for $7.
I won't pretend that "the Brava" is authentic Mexican fare, it's pretty much Tex/Mex in the tradition that most American pallets have forced them into being. I won't say that it's the best Mexican in Hattiesburg, or even really good Mexican, but it's an old favorite that I still enjoy from time to time. "The Brava" won't win many culinary awards, but hey, it brings back a lot of memories.
To be honest the best part was probably catching up with some of my best friends from college.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Having dined at Brownstone's several times I was looking for a little something different and asked the waiter for a recommendation. The owner/manger was walking by at the time and suggested that I try their signature “Zesty Tuna Steak”. I agreed and ordered the crab cakes appetizer. My wife ordered the Cajun Shrimp Alfredo.
The crab cakes were good, not great. The texture was good, and there was an ample amount of crab. They blacken their crab cakes, for my taste it's just not needed. The crawfish bordelaise sauce that is served on top of the crab cakes was a nice touch.
I had the Spring Mix side salad and it was nice, very fresh mix of baby greens topped with blue cheese and roasted pecans. A very nice, very light salad. I chose to just lightly drizzle my salad with some EVOO (extra virgin olive oil).
Now the main course, the Zesty Tuna Steak. I've had quality tuna steaks at different restaurants round the country, but this was as unique of an interpretation as I have experienced. The well proportioned tuna steak was grilled to near perfection. It was plated on top of a bed of garlic mashed potatoes, which was a very interesting take on a traditional dish. Over the tuna steak and potatoes they poured a cream sauce of roasted red peppers with sweet citrus and honey. The dish was garnished with tomatoes and fresh green onions.
This is without question the most unique tuna steaks I've ever encountered and the grilled tuna lends it self so well with the sweet and lightly spicy cream sauce. When married with the garlic mashed potatoes it's an excellent combination. This is not a melding of flavor that I would have ever considered and I am so glad I took the recommendation to try this very unique dish.
The portions were generous, the presentation was very nice, and the atmosphere was well received. A very nice dining experience that was highlighted by the flavor of wonderful, unique signature dish – the Zesty Tuna Steak!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
After hearing rave reviews from friends and fellow foodies I decided to give Jutamas Thai Restaurant a try today.
Nestled in an unassuming cinder block building between West Pine Street and Broadway Drive, this may be one of the best kept secrets in Hattiesburg.
The decor is contemporary and upbeat with white table cloths and fresh flowers on each table. It far exceeded my expectations.
I took in a late lunch and found an interesting mix of college students, professionals, and working class patrons.
I'll be the first to admit I am not as familiar with Thai fare as some other offerings so I decided that I would order one dish that I was at least semi-familiar with and something else of which I was totally unfamiliar. I'm no Andrew Zimmern, but I'm not afraid to try something different.
I began with the unfamiliar and ordered an appetizer - Toong Tong.
Toong Tong - Is a combination of three meats (crab, shirmp and pork) mixed with onions, garlic and Thai spices formed into a ball, wrapped in filo dough and deep fried.
The presentation of the dish was very nice, with two of the dough wrapped concoctions placed on a bed of shredded cabbage garnished with tomatoes and cucumbers.
The Toong Tong was a delightful surprise. It was light, delicate and the filo was crispy. The filling was moist but was not weighed down by the oil in which it was cooked. It was served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce that was very good.
For the main course I took the advise of a fellow foodie who raved about the Thai Fried Rice with Shrimp.
Thai Rice - Basic description for just about any Asian fried rice - stir-fried rice with onions, tomatoes, eggs and shrimp. The difference is the Thai spices.
The presentation was again very nice, garnished with cucumbers onions and a spicy Thai chili sauce. I enjoy spicy foods.
This was the single best Asian dish I have encountered in Hattiesburg. I am big on texture, and this dish was outstanding. The texture was perfect, it was not mushy or oily. The dish featured a fantastic blend of Thai spices including cilantro, white pepper, chili powder, and several they wouldn't disclose. The onions, garlic, and tomatoes were fresh and the color was wonderful. The shrimp were large and were lightly grilled before being turned into the fried rice.
This will not be my last visit to Jutamas, and I look forward to trying many other dishes, but I'll admit it will be hard for them to top one of the best first impressions I can remember at a local eatery.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Today I had lunch with a couple of friends at a Hattiesburg landmark – Po Boy Express. I won't even try to pretend that I'm not a bit biased to this establishment. For the past decade proprietor Darren Smith has been serving one of the most consistent selections of Po Boys, burgers and salads you can find in town.
Located on 4th street on the east side of the Highway 49 overpass, where they've been a staple for an eclectic mix of college students, professors, firemen, police officers, bankers, construction workers and just about every other demographic you can think about.
Today I ordered the lunch special with a PBE original “Floyd Special” which is a meat lover's favorite. Between the sliced fresh bagget you'll find ham, turkey and roast beef stuffed inside with a couple of slices of provolone cheese and your favorite toppings. A consistent product that doesn't promise to be more than it is – a really good sandwich.
You can get a good po-boy at a lot of places in Hattiesburg, but I think the atmosphere draws me back, from the Southern Miss memorabilia on the walls to the cast of regular “characters” that congregate at the back tables and hold court on a daily basis. You may find anyone from Southern Miss coaches Corky Palmer and Larry Fedora to local outdoor writer and radio personality Ben Willoughby talking more than they're eating. It's not uncommon to see local politicians, community leaders, and other Hub City movers and shakers.
The place is usually packed at lunch and for good reason. Fun, food and friends is the best way I can describe a lunch at Po-Boy Express.
They deliver, but be mindful they are one of the busiest delivery places in town, so make sure you get your order in before 11:00 AM.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
I've long enjoyed reading the food blogs to cities in which I often travel - New Orleans, Memphis, Tampa, Charlotte, ect. When you try looking online for reviews of Hattiesburg dining establishments they are dreadful. When you have page after page of fast food joints being rated four and five stars you have to ask yourself have these folks ever eaten more than Spaghetti O's and TV dinners?
In this blog I will review various dining establishments in and around Hattiesburg and South Mississippi. My reviews are totally anonymous, the establishments don't know when I am coming and they don't even know who I am. I don't ask for free meals or any perks, I'm just a guy sometimes with sometimes without the family who loves a good meal.
Unlike many food critics, I'm not a chef nor have I had any culinary training, I'm not a food snob, you can get a great meal almost anywhere. I'm just a guy with a big appetite who loves good food and wants to share it with others. I'm a pretty decent cook, and I love to entertain.
What you won't find is a review of any chain resturants, while some do a very nice job and provide a quality product you likely wouldn't find me there.
Thanks for dropping by and happy eating.