Tupelo Junction Cafe

A Taste of the Dirty South on State Street

A couple years ago, when Tupelo Junction moved into a spot near the Granada Theatre on State Street, the breakfast world was abuzz with the Southern-style recipes featured on their menu. We’d been spoiled with the Cajun Kitchen’s reliable greasy spoon fare, but Tupelo made us rethink the South through a gourmet lens. Tupelo-Junction-Cafe-logo3.jpg Sure, breakfasts there were a little pricier than other spots, but they were worth it, and the coffee was solid. So when the restaurant began serving dinner in the years since — and doing so for bargain prices, at least compared to most other fancy State Street eateries — we had good reason to celebrate.

I hadn’t been to dinner there in quite awhile, and I narrowly missed it again the other night, when I walked in with my feminine associate around 8:35 p.m. “The kitchen closes at 8:30 p.m. sharp,” said the busy waitress, tending to the last few tables of the evening. “But if you order quick, then it should be okay.” We understood the dilemma and happily agreed to comply, as we were amidst our packing, work-finishing, and holiday shopping duties that needed to be completed before leaving town the next day. Upon seating, we scoured the menu.

My ladyfriend’s favorite — some seafood salad — was no longer on the seasonally shifting menu, so she was thrown for a bit of a loop. Meanwhile, I ordered a glass of Melville pinot for $11, and settled on the fried chicken dinner (a steal at $17), where a crispy “free range” bird gets propped atop roasted shallot mashed potatoes, sautéed mustard greens, sweet corn, and herbed pan gravy. The menu, which can be viewed here, is a mix of hearty foods and fresh produce, magically combining the grease and tasty grime of Southern cooking with the organically minded sentiment of Santa Barbara. My date eventually picked a glass of Rusack chardonnay ($9) and went out on a limb in ordering the whole roasted trout with creole crawfish stuffing, oven baked red potatoes, and creamed leeks. (She didn’t even ask them to remove the cream from the leeks, which was astonishing.)

When the food arrived, we were both extremely pleased. She proclaimed trout, half of which she took home, as her “new favorite dish” while I remembered that ordering fried chicken can indeed be a gourmet experience. For cramming a quick dinner into a busy schedule, Tupelo worked wonders for us. It’s casual and affordable while gourmet and fresh, making an excellent dinner choice for whatever day of the week. Just shoot for more like 8 p.m., or go there instead for a great lunch or the still legendary breakfast. Every meal is worth your while.

The Details: Tupelo Junction Cafe is located at 1218 State Street. See or call 899-3100.

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