As much as fun as actual games are, the best parts of sports are often the things going on outside of the actual play itself. The people, the places, and most importantly, the food. I love road trips because I get to try new restaurants. I love baseball because at Mississippi State that means fresh-grilled everything in the Left Field Lounge.
Sport and food, for whatever reason, are natural allies. It’s no coincidence that Super Bowl Sunday also happens to be the busiest day of the year for grocery stores, or that Thanksgiving tradition includes four days full of football. Why do you think Buffalo Wild Wings has all those TVs?
It was for those reasons (and my selfish desire to get free food) that I pitched for several months the idea of a food-centric show focusing on Starkville restaurants. I love Starkville with all my heart, having been born, raised, educated and employed here. When I spent six months living in Orlando for an internship, the thing I missed the most was the food.
For a long time, Starkville was a punchline, a place no one wanted to go and that was often ridiculed in the world of college sports (though it deserved no such treatment). That’s been, to me, one of the greatest upsides of the year that Mississippi State football has been having – that all the people who shot down the idea of Starkville, either privately or publicly, were forced to make the trip to town. Turns out, every single one of them had a good time.
Writers, producers and hosts from Sports Illustrated, ESPN, CBS, FOX, Yahoo! Sports, the Wall Street Journal and dozens more entities found their way to little old Starkville, where they were surprised to find the nickname ‘StarkVegas’ has gone from tongue-in-cheek to vaguely realistic moniker for a college town-sized center of food, drink and southern hospitality.
As much as Dan Mullen’s football team benefitted from the upswing in attention and success, so has the quietly growing city of Starkville. As those around the country came to town, myself and others who live here were happy to host the newcomers (or just the ones who hadn’t been in a while) and show them around.
As it happened, my wish for a show on Starkville food was granted just before the big season began, coming as MSU established an entirely new video department. I managed to convince new Assistant Athletic Director for Video Drew Walker (hired this summer) that it would be fun, and he had the idea to include it in the weekly coach’s show he was in charge of producing.
We got the go-ahead on a Monday and started taping that Wednesday afternoon for a show called This is Our Plate, a five-ish minute segment we’d put together every week. Turned out, the places we visited were a part of the culinary path Starkville’s new visitors were taken on as the regular season wound to a close.
Drew, with his eye for presentation and skill in the editing room, filmed and produced each episode every week, a task rewarded with little appreciation outside of free meals at each stop. Golf clap and dessert for Drew.
Anyway, now that the season is over, I thought putting all the episodes in one place would be nice. There’s a YouTube channel here with all of them together, but I’ve got all the episodes along with descriptions embedded below in order of appearance.
1. Restaurant Tyler – Cold-smoked pork chop
One of my favorites spots and chefs in town, Ty Thames’ pork chop is better than most steaks.
2. DawgHouse Sports Grill – Blackened redfish po-boy
From a chef trained in Louisiana and with fresh-caught fish, the signature sandwich at one of the newest places in Starkville (in the old State Theatre) is tasty one.
3. Stagger In – Boardtown Burger
Starkville, for those unaware, was originally named Boardtown before being re-named in honor of a general John Stark, hero of the American revolution. The dish, however, is a deep-fried cheeseburger. It’s exactly as heart attack-inducing as it sounds.
4. Dave’s Dark Horse Tavern – Dave’s deep dish Second City pizza
There’s no other tavern in town, and there’s certainly no other place in Starkville (or anywhere nearby) to get pizza like this.
5. Central Station Grill – Filet of Oscar
When Drew and I ponder which dish was the best throughout the fall, this steak always makes the short list.
6. The Veranda – Fried soft-shell crab
You know who Jay Yates is. You’ve seen him on the video board, heard him on TV, and you’ve likely tasted his flavor. As you can see at the end, this creation of his leaves me relatively speechless.
7. Mugshots Bar and Grill – The McDonald
Click to see Starkville’s best burger, stay to watch me attempt (and fail) to eat a 2 1/2 pound behemoth cheeseburger.
8. The Little Dooey – Beef brisket sloppy joes
Re-read the name of the sandwich. It’s on Texas toast. That’s your tease. Outstanding.
9. Davis Wade Stadium – Jambalaya
True story: Davis Wade Stadium has its own chef, and Chef Elvis is the King of cuisine. Aramark takes care of all the concessions, but Elvis is the one cooking up all the fun stuff in skyboxes, club level and premium seating.
10. Old Venice Pizza Company – Crawfish rolls
Three meats, four cheese, two sauces, one happy host. Roll, fry, repeat.
11. Stromboli’s – Chicken ranchero calzone, full Stromboli, cookie dough bites
Our season (series?) finale` was an all-out feast, or as one inspirational twitter friend/viewer called it, a tour de force of doughy deliciousness.