A few weeks ago I wrote a column about dining in joints. In the column I asked readers to e-mail their favorite joint. Before I publish the reader’s submissions and comments, I would like to revisit the definition of a joint.
At first glance, a joint might not look like a restaurant one wouldn’t even want to step into, much less dine in. The atmosphere has accidentally evolved over the years. Nothing is contrived. The food is above average and mostly consistent. The wait staff is efficient enough to take care of your needs. A joint is clean in all of the places the count and is usually run by a family, or co-workers who have worked together so long that they consider themselves family. A joint is usually located in what a realtor would consider a B or C location, but it wouldn’t have the charm if it were located anywhere else.
There is nothing corporate about a joint. It is full of character and is usually operated by characters. Most specialize in one particular food item. It is usually that particular food that has put them on the map. It might be one individual dish or it could be a broad category of food such as steak or barbeque. A joint might even specialize in a particular meal period such as breakfast or late-night dining. The one universal characteristic of a joint is that it is casual. A joint wears its casualness as a badge of honor.
There are joints with good food, bad food, and excellent food. They key is to find the ones with excellent food and put them into your dining rotation.
Note: The following list is listed in no particular order and is comprised of reader’s submissions along with selected comments from their submissions. The author has not visited any of these establishments (but looks forward to checking them out in the near future) and can make no claims as to their authenticity or excellence.
Jacques’ Café, Vicksburg— “I have eaten there wearing everything from ripped jeans to a formal dress.” Hopefully this was sent in by a woman.
Ol’ Hickory, Columbus— “Cindy is always my waitress. Everyone is ‘baby’ or ‘honey’ to her.” A true joint waitress.
Doe’s Eat Place, Greenville— “Doe's has the best steak, cut and grilled right in front of you when you order and hot tamales that are out of this world!”
Edd’s Drive Inn, Pascagoula— “Not exactly organic, tasty burgers and dogs, same location for 50 years.” I received multiple submissions on this one.
Tate’s, Clinton, MS— Try the “Shamburger, a smoked hamburger served only when there's some smokin' goin' on.”
Davey's Restaurant, Montrose, MS— “Miss Earline serves everything: steak, ribs, fried chicken and pork chops, spaghetti, peas, green beans, okra, cabbage, collard greens, turnips, rutabagas, rice and gravy, and potato salad...as well as numerous desserts.”
Stonewall’s BBQ, Picayune— “…the most tender and juicy baby-back ribs… but it is only open two days a week.” Again, multiple submissions.
The Mexican Kitchen, Columbus— “Robert, be sure to get a couple of the homemade coconut candies on the way out the door. They take care of the after effects of the hot sauce very nicely.” I’ll try to remember that.
Shady's New World Cuisine, Biloxi— “Where else can you go at midnight and get Thai curry, gumbo, charbroiled steaks, fried pork chops with grits and gravy, Pad Thai noodles, homemade pasta Bolognese, Creole crawfish pasta? On Thursdays its $1 Margaritas for Ladies and free Belly Dance Lessons.” They haven’t seen my belly.
Beatty Street Grocery, Jackson— “Every governor since Ross Barnett has eaten at Beatty Street. Governor William Winter is still an occasional client.”
The Shed, Vancleve— “I have never had a bad rib there.”
Home Town, Inverness— “Frog legs, steaks, seafood, veal cutlets, fun.”
Port au Prince, Monroe, LA— “The best bean soup ever, hushpuppies, and a great ribeye steak.”
Lonnie and Pat's Cafe, Meridian— “They are famous for their cheeseburgers.”
Red Door Barbecue, Meehan, MS— “(owner) Ms. Jean McWashington does not advertise and does not need to.”
Far Away Places in Marion, MS— “The building is actually a double-wide trailer with a porch that runs the length of it. They feature live entertainment (everything from a guy with an acoustic guitar to the Queen City Gypsies belly dancers, of which I'm one). If they're not too busy Tim (the lady who owns the joint) will come out of the kitchen to visit with her guests, discussing everything from shopping to quantum physics.” Belly dancing, I see a future trend developing.
Liuzza’s,New Orleans— “The BBQ Shrimp Po-Boy is to die for.” But I want to live.
Elizabeth’s in the Bywater, New Orleans— “The breakfast po-boy is awesome.”
The Tune Inn, Washington, D.C. — “It is honestly the only place that I can remember routinely eating an omelet with a beer.” Enough said.
Garlic Cheese Spread
Garlic is listed first for a reason. Store in the refrigerator, serve at room temperature.
1 /2 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 /2 pound cream cheese, softened
1 /4 tsp salt
1 1 /2 tsp finely minced garlic
1 1 /2 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp mayonnaise
1 /4 tsp dry mustard
1 1 /2 tsp paprika
In a food processor or mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, blend all ingredients together.
Wrap and refrigerate for 3-4 hours before serving.