This is a continuation of my food fare posts. I’ve already discussed New Orleans,Baltimore and Wilmington, Laurel, Natchez, and The Mississippi Gulf Coast. Go back and take a look if you like. In this post I’ll be discussing my home town of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Hattiesburg is my home. I was born and raised here. I have never lived anywhere else in all of my, almost, thirty-five years. Since I was born, at least, it has been one of the major cities in Mississippi, but that’s not saying much as large cities here are not really large compared to even the major cities in surrounding states, such as New Orleans, Atlanta, Birmingham, or Memphis. However, it has grown rapidly in the past ten years and is now higher on the list of major cities of the state.
In years past you couldn’t step outside of this state and find someone who’d heard of Hattiesburg, much less who had visited or passed through it. Now, suddenly everyone’s been here or knows about it. Which is primarily due to our major university, USM, as well as the exponential growth of the city. But we have always been known as The Hub City, because we are only about two hours away from everywhere else that you want to be. Mobile, Alabama; New Orleans, Louisiana; The Mississippi Gulf Coast; or the capital of the state, Jackson. We were always a weigh station to other destinations, but it seems as if people are actually staying, which in culinary terms is a very excellent thing. Here, let me show you all the wonderful things we have to eat!
C’est La Vie
You would be fooled by the nondescript exterior into thinking that this was nothing special. I wouldn’t blame you for that. But this is something very special, indeed. The owner, and his family, are from France. This is the real deal here. You won’t even find this wonderful type of thing in New Orleans, Mobile, or Jackson. But you will find it here in this unassuming façade. You will find France, le patisserie extroidinaire!
The owner crafts elegant fruit tartes, monstrously delicious omelette, plethora’s of the most beautiful gâteaux, and divine confectionary creations to make your mouth water simply looking at them. The croissant, all of them be it plain, almonde, chocolate, are superb perfection. Why wouldn’t they be? If anyone’s going to know how to make all of this stuff it would be Monsieur Januz! I have never personally met, nor have I spoken directly to him, but I have seen him working his pastry magic behind the counter. I absolutely adore him.
Is this not the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen? Wee mice confections! I can not attest to their goodness, because I haven’t had the heart to sink my teeth into one, but I’m sure they are delicious!
You want good Bar-B-Que this is where you go. This place is not fancy, at all. But you are here for the food. The awesome, beautiful, wonderful, delicious food. It is pricey, but so worth it. We generally come here for lunch. Still a good amount of food in the lunch portion and a price better for our wallets.
Mississippi is known for pork. Leatha’s is known for Pork. I’m sure all the other meats are wonderful, but here order the pork ribs. From everyone we’ve ever brought here, and that is quite a lot of people, the consensus is that all the other meat is good, but not explosively wonderful like the pork ribs. There’s a consensus for the sides as well. Stick to the fried potatoes, the baked beans or the salad and your meal will be sublime.
Strick’s started out as a petrol station back in 1980; my birth year. It was your typical place with fridges of canned and bottled soda and racks of chips, but they were also smoking up ribs. After awhile that was really the only reason you went there. Not to fill up your gas tank, but to buy BBQ.
After Hurricane Katrina, the place was heavily destroyed. They thankfully decided to reopen, but this time just as a BBQ place, no petrol in sight.
If you know BBQ, then you know there are differences. Leatha’s is wet. Strick’s is dry. Meaning all the flavour at Leatha’s is in the sauce, while all the flavour at Strick’s is directly in the meat because of the spice rub. People prefer their specific ways, but we’re a family who enjoys both, though Leatha’s is our favourite. Stick’s is a different kind of BBQ, more St. Louis style, but they do it well. My suggestions for meat are either pork ribs, beef brisket sandwich (do NOT forget the side of au jus), sausage, or drumettes. During the season you can also get boiled crawfish. I, myself, do not eat crawfish, but according to my dad and sister it’s really great here. Sides I’d suggest are fried okra, potato logs, or baked beans. They also do a lunch buffet and it’s pretty fantastic as far as buffets go.
We also enjoy the banana pudding, though it’s not nearly as good as we can make it at home, from scratch, but there’s not a lot of places you can get banana pudding here. It’s better than on any Chinese or Fried Catfish House buffet. If you’ve not had it, then this is not a bad place to try it. If, however, you’d like to try making southern banana pudding at home, I have a recipe for that. It’s not difficult and it’s worth it over the recipes that call for instant pudding mix. Also? Make the meringue from scratch and brown it in the oven. Don’t use Cool Whip. You’ll thank me.
This place is old. It’s not showing its age all that well, but you can’t beat the food. It opened in the 1960’s and the Gold Post name refers to USM football. It’s a place my parents went to in their teens and early twenties. Actually my dad manufactured and sold Jewelry in the seventies – the early 2000s. His store was right across the street from this. So, yes, I have many fond memories of going to the shop and all of us walking across Hardy Street to go and eat here. It’s not fancy, but some things they do really right.
It’s basically diner food. If you want greasy spoon, diner food, skip Waffle House, Huddle House, or IHOP, unless you’re looking into breakfast, and go here. Just about anything solid is good. People do love the vegetable soup and gumbo, but eh… I’d stick to the plates and sandwich deals like patty melts and hamburgers. Add french fries. Theirs are good.
The Garcia’s opened The Mexican Kitchen in the early 1970s. They’ve had several locations, but they’re still here. Now, they reside in a former Catfish House. I find that people either absolutely love or hate this place. I think, perhaps, they might not realize that Mexico doesn’t do one thing. There are lots of regions and all of those regions do their own things, as with food. This is food from whichever region in Mexico the Garcia’s were from originally. I can’t remember. The history is on the walls, but not on the internet.
Chances are, you’ll be eating food here you didn’t think existed. As in, it’s not Mexican Tapas, it’s not Tex Mex, it’s not Americanized and it’s not what you might have had at a local Taqueria. It doesn’t mean it’s not authentic, you’ve just not experienced that region in Mexico… before now.
The taco shells are handmade, and they break them up as your chips for chips and salsa. The salsa is not chunky and it is very, very spicy. So good. I, personally, don’t go all in for that sides of rice and beans, so I choose The Split Plate. Two beef enchilada’s and two taco’s. They have different plates and with bigger portions, tamale’s and the sides, but a split plate it just perfect pour moi. Also Mrs. Garcia is not one to be trifled with. You watch your manners when you’re in there. No cursing, no being disruptive, and if you smoke outside on the back patio for heaven’s sake ask for an ashtray! Not that you wouldn’t, but if there was any place I’ve ever been that respectfulness needed to be exerted, it is here.
Besides the food being really great dive food, I’ve also added this for another reason. The owner, Floyd Patterson, was a man with a dream. Several years ago he was just a man with a food cart in front of Lowe’s flipping burgers and grilling up steaks trying to get people to try his food after having just purchased home supplies. Now he has his own, permanent business. I like that. I like that he knew what he wanted and went for it. And now it’s real.
He serves hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks, and cheesesteaks. While Gold Post is diner food and the hamburger is a greasy spoon burger like that of Waffle House (don’t knock it, they’re good). Floyd’s is the char-grilled fast food variety of Backyard Burgers or Five Guys. It’s good. It’s fresh. It’s like you grilled the food yourself. And it’s local and not a chain, which is fantastic.
Petra was the first Middle Eastern food in Hattiesburg. It’s a chain of the original in Jackson. Another restaurant arrived shortly after, and then closed, though its counterpart in Jackson was excellent, the one here, not so much. A gyro shop on HWY 49 has now expanded its menu in order to garner business from Petra. I’d stick to Petra. It’s Lebanese cuisine, the owner is Lebanese, the cooks as well.
Everything I have had at Petra I have enjoyed, which is quite a few items. In Appetizers, definitely have the Kibbeh, the fried haloomi cheese and the lebna. I suggest anything with lamb, because well, lamb is scarce to find on a menu or in a grocery store around here. The lamb shwarma or kabob are excellent. The gyro plate, as well as the regular gyro are delectable. The baklava is of course wonderful. I mean, who can’t do baklava? And I suggest the Lebanese iced tea. Lemon and rosewater. Mmm!
Jutamas is one of four Thai places I have dined at, in various cities & to me it is the best one. The one in Baltimore would be a close second. I like the location and the exterior with its 60’s French green and white striped awning and flowers hanging from pots. I also like the interior. Refined, but casual.
But really, as always, it is the food. The food is exquisite and all the ingredients fresh. I am rather picky about seafood items, so have not tried any dishes of that sort, but I’m sure they are wonderful. I highly recommend the wontons, the chicken Phad med ma Moung, the chicken Yellow Curry, and either the Tom Yum Gai or the Tom Ka Gai soup as it is just as heavenly as the Yellow Curry they make. Actually just try anything, everyone raves about all of the dishes, so I don’t think you can go wrong at all.
Tabella is the only Italian restaurant in town now-a-days that isn’t Olive Garden. It’s good. There are things they do well, and others can be hit or miss. The bread is phenomenal, as are the rosemary romano potatoes, and the salad. Be warned however, that a single serve salad could easily be split amongst two people. Do not get the large if it’s only for you. The specials are always, always excellent. They have always been superb every time I have ordered off the board.
Yes, this is a chain, and quite an extensive one at that. But I’m not worried about the concretes. Only at a few Bop’s in Mississippi can you obtain Delta tamales. They are every bit as delicious as those to be found at Fat Mama’s in Natchez. That is why this place is on the list. The tamales. And yes, you should get the extra’s of sour cream, crackers, and hot sauce that comes with them.
This is an honorable mention of sorts as it is not in Hattiesburg, but in the nearby town of Petal. They did have a second restaurant here, but shut it to focus more on their original location. I have been twice to the one in Petal. Once when it was in a strip mall, and now their new location across the road. They up-scaled the atmosphere in the new location and it’s just not right. It was better when they were more simple like Little Rays in Gulfport. But, the food is still excellent. Great seafood and they do excellent crawfish when in season. Also I highly recommend the french fries with a side of gravy. I’m not even kidding, it is so good. The beignets can’t be missed. They’re they only people in the area that fry up beignets.