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Vicki's on walnut.

My favorite restaurant in Hattiesburg is Vicki's on Walnut The meatloaf is by far the best I have ever eaten. Could you possibly get them to share the recipe? Thank you!

Judy Stechmann

Satsuma, Alabama

Hattiesburg has experienced a renaissance of its downtown in recent years. One pioneer group of this movement was the McElroy family who opened Walnut Circle Grill. The beautiful location was a great spot to grab a seat on the patio and enjoy good food and a cold beverage. When the McElroys chose to sell the restaurant, chef Stuart Gates was ready to take over and continue its fine-dining tradition.

Prior to acquiring the property, Gates was tempting Hattiesburg with creative menus at The Depot Bistro and Coffeehouse. When he took over Walnut Circle in 2014, he honored his mother by changing the name to Vicki's on Walnut. "The decor of the building, both inside and out, is impeccable, and I take zero credit," shares Gates. "The McElroy family owns the building and spared no expense making it one of the most beautiful rooms and patio areas in town. We wanted to keep the pre-existing charm, but also let our guests know that casual is welcome."

For what the McElroys established in the building and atmosphere, Gates brought the food to complement them. "We have a unique mix of starters and entrees, house-cut steaks, local seafood delivered multiple times a week, and a good bit of creative flair mixed in," says Gates. He also made the addition of special menus and features to take advantage of the outdoor dining. Vicki's has a wealth of Southern favorites spun into unique offerings. Dishes like Red Wine Braised Short Rib Debris on Scallion Johnnycakes that feature shaved Gruyere with a house-made tomato and bacon jam or Rosemary Skewered Mississippi Gulf Shrimp served over local stone-ground smoked Gouda grits with tasso ham cream sauce and chives are just of couple of options. "Other favorites include our slow-roasted duck quesadilla and a fried green tomato appetizer layered with our jalapeno pimiento cheese and house-made bacon," says Gates. "An entree favorite is seared yellowfin tuna over a lobster, crawfish, charred corn, and Parmesan orzo with grilled asparagus and a roasted red-pepper beurre blanc. We just started lunch service, and one 'must-try' is our country-fried pork loin sliders with tomato and bacon jam, house pickles, and a Suzy B Creole beer mustard."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

While these are incredible, one of the most popular dishes is the House Applewood Smoked Meatloaf and Sriracha Tomato Gravy served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and flash-fried onions. "The meatloaf recipe basically evolved from an old meatball recipe," shares Gates. "Everyone has a childhood memory of meatloaf, most of which are a bit forgettable. We wanted a version that was updated and delicious. The key is pulsing bacon in the food processor until it's a paste, then adding the paste to ground beef and ground sausage. What sets our version apart is smoking the meatloaf with applewood on low in a smoker. The Sriracha Tomato Gravy is our take on an 'all-grown-up' ketchup-like element." Gates' meatloaf garnered the honor "Best Sandwich in the South" in 2014 when he entered it into the Merchants Food Services' competition. "It was truly an honor to have something as humble as meatloaf generate such a positive distinction."

The menu includes everything from soups and salads to many great entrees, but when you visit Vicki's, save room for dessert. The sweet endings here are truly calorie-worthy picks. "MasterChef" winner and cookbook author Whitney Miller crafts the restaurant's dessert menu and many will have a difficult time choosing between Mississippi mud pie served in a jar with Creole cream cheese ice cream, white chocolate bread pudding beignets with a Chambord-raspberry glaze, and a semi-frozen Key lime tart with house whipped cream. And, if you're lucky, you might be able to catch a special like buttered popcorn panna cotta with salted caramel and chopped peanuts.

In Hattiesburg? Head downtown. Vicki's on Walnut won't disappoint and will be a relaxing stop with incredible eats.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
APPLEWOOD SMOKED MEATLOAF

1/2 pound bacon
 6  garlic cloves, peeled
 5  pounds ground beef (Vicki's uses grass-fed beef from
    Stonnington Farm In Perkinston)
 7  pounds ground sausage
 1  cups panko breadcrumbs
 4  farm eggs
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
 2  tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon each: cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder,
    onion powder, dried thyme, dried basil, Cajun
    seasoning Spanish paprika, and oregano

Pulse bacon and garlic cloves in food processer to from a "paste."
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients carefully and form into
loaves. On a 200-degree smoker, smoke for 3 hours. Finish in oven
until cooked through. Allow to rest for 20 minutes; slice and
serve.

Yield: 5 family-size loaves

SRIRACHA TOMATO GRAVY

  2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced onions
1/4 cup minced garlic
  1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  1 cup beef stock
  2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
  4 bay leaves
  2 tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce *
  6 pounds, 6 ounces diced tomatoes
  2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  1 teaspoon each: dried thyme, dried
    oregano, celery seed, and ground mustard

In a stockpot over medium heat, add olive oil, onions, and garlic.
Stir for 10 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce, beef stock, and
balsamic vinegar. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add remaining ingredients
and simmer on low, ideally for at least an hour, and up to 2 hours.
Remove bay leaves, and blend in food processor or with an immersion
blender. * Sriracha amount can be increased or decreased based on
desired spice level.

Yield: about 2 Vi cups


Vicki's on Walnut Lunch served Monday-Friday from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Dinner served Tuesday-Saturday, 5-10 p.m., bar open later Thursday through Saturday with live music 115 Walnut Street, Hattiesburg, 601.602.6399 or vickisonwalnut.com

Photograph by starling and sage
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Title Annotation:FOOD & ENTERTAINING: Dish It Out
Author:Ward, Melanie M.
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:Sep 1, 2015
Words:988
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