After lunch at SAW’s, Nancy and I drove from Birmingham to visit the Oxford, Mississippi, Tanners — my nephew Griffin, his wife Molly, their children Anne Douglas and Henry, and my younger nephew Dave. If you haven’t visited Oxford, you should. It’s a lovely town with an even lovelier college campus, and, of course, Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s home. Definitely visit Rowan Oak.
The heart of Oxford is the courthouse square, or simply the Square. It has the excellent Square Books, various shopping opportunities, and lots of college-oriented bars, notably the Levee, the Cellar, and the Round Table. And there are acclaimed restaurants run by celebrity chef John Currence. The Square is a great place for an adult (or adult-ish) evening. If you have children with you, however, or if you prefer the college scene in small doses — I’m sort of skittish about reminders of my college years — you want to slip away from the Square and go to Southern Craft Stove + Tap. That’s what we did, and it was a great decision.
It’s an attractive place, clean, sleek and modern, with seating inside and out.
There’s a bar area with something like 30 beers on tap, and an impressive selection of the stronger stuff.
There’s even an outdoor play area in which restless young children can burn off energy while the grown-ups relax and talk. Anyone with children will appreciate that.
And, not to give the results away, they have their own future celebrity chef, Bubba Gross, who was valedictorian at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.
On Griffin’s recommendation — and I should say up front that Griffin has a financial interest in Southern Craft — we started with two appetizers for the table, the Fried Pimiento Cheese Sandwich with pepper jelly. Actually they gave us at least four pieces, but they went pretty fast.
And we ordered the Double Dip, a pimiento cheese dip and a turnip green and artichoke dip, both served with pretzel bread and tortilla chips.
Nancy, of all people, loved the fried pimiento cheese sandwich. That’s quite an advertisement, since (1) she stays far, far away from fried foods, and, (2) being from the Northeast, she has a cultural wariness of pimiento cheese. (And I’ll admit that adding mayonnaise to cheese isn’t for the diet-conscious.) I enjoyed it, too, unsurprisingly, but I what really impressed me was the turnip greens and artichoke dip. Replacing the usual spinach, which can be astringent, with the robustness of turnip greens was a great idea. Well done, Chef Gross. And the pretzel bread and chips were very good.
I ordered a cup of gumbo to start, as if the table appetizers weren’t enough, because, after all, it was on the menu. I’m glad that I did. It was flavorful and thick with good quality andouille and shrimp, a very good gumbo. I didn’t even add tabasco sauce to it.
We had an assortment of main courses. I ordered the Delta Burger, a half pound of meat with bacon, fried dill pickles, and a generous portion of pimiento cheese. Fried green tomatoes arrived on the side.
The Delta Burger was outstanding, easily the best pimiento cheese burger I have ever eaten. Unlike all other pimiento cheese burgers I’ve had, the pimiento cheese is not just a melted schmear that gets lost among the other elements. Here the pimiento cheese retains its integrity as a distinct element of the sandwich. And it’s excellent pimiento cheese, not the usual over-mayonnaised glop. The meat was well-grilled and not packed too firmly, and the fried dill pickles and green tomatoes were quite good. I do prefer frying tomatoes and pickles (and fish, and …) in cornmeal, but these were great.
Nancy really enjoyed her shrimp tacos, fresh shrimp generously topped with lots of guacamole, but I was so enchanted with my Delta Burger that I failed to get a picture. I also neglected to photograph Dave’s fried chicken and Anne Douglas’s and Henry’s plates. But I did get Griffin’s ribeye (with okra, wisely, instead of Brussels sprouts),
and Molly’s grilled salmon over veggie orzo salad.
They look good, don’t they? No one got one of the Southern Craft pizzas, although I was tempted by several. I did see pizzas heading to other tables. They looked good and the customers looked pleased.
I think that Anne Douglas and Henry got chicken tenders and grilled cheese, both with fries — pretty standard kid fare. The thing that caught my eye on the kids’ menu was what has to be the ultimate kid food: the macaroni and cheese pizza. What a concept!
Southern Craft Stove + Tap is a well thought-out restaurant, with very good food in a very pleasant setting. It’s place where adults and children alike can really enjoy dinner at the same time, with neither ruining the other’s dinner. You really should go there even if you don’t have kids, and even if you don’t approach reliving your misspent college years with fear and trepidation. The atmosphere and the food are top-notch, and the prices prices are very reasonable, especially considering the quality of the ingredients. And the varied menu has something for everyone. I heartily recommend it.
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