Tupelo Honey: 2018 Virginia Beach Restaurant Week
I’m going to say it again. I love restaurant week. It’s a great way to sample multiple-course menus at some of the city’s best restaurants. As much as I love restaurant week, I know that not every experience will be a winner.
It was my first time dining at Tupelo Honey. The restaurant, based out of Asheville, N.C., specializes in Southern comfort food with a twist. I love many types of cuisine, but Southern is my favorite. I eagerly rushed from work to get to the restaurant and beat the crowd.
When I walked in, the dining area wasn’t crowded since most patrons decided to enjoy the beautiful, warm weather and eat outside. I took a seat at the large bar and browsed the drink menu.
In honor of National Margarita Day, I ordered the Tupelo Honey Margarita. They use a smooth El Jimador Silver tequila, house-made sweet and sour mix and Tupelo Honey liqueur. The drink is then shaken and served on the rocks with a chili-salt rim.
This namesake margarita is sweeter than a typical margarita, but isn’t saccharine. Their fresh and tangy sweet and sour mix helped make this one of the best margaritas I’ve ever had.
While I sipped my drink, I placed my food order. Along with a $15 lunch deal, Tupelo Honey offered a $35 three-course prix fixe menu for restaurant week. I ordered the Blistered & Spiced Okra, Low Country Catfish and the Heavenly Banana Pudding.
The first course came out about 10 minutes after I ordered. I could smell the char on the okra as soon as the plate was placed in front of me. While the char smell was potent, the taste was much subtler. Charring the okra also took away the plant’s naturally slimy texture. It was served with a garlic ranch, perfect for dipping the many long halves. I started to get full after finishing the plate of okra. Little did I know, I’d have a long wait ahead of me.
Usually when I dine alone, I bring my book so I can read while I wait for my food. I mistakenly left my book in my other bag, and to make matters worse, my phone was struggling at 20 percent. To preserve my battery, I turned my phone off. I sat idly watching the Olympic coverage that was on both TVs at the bar. Time dragged on. The main dining room filled up and the restaurant quickly became very busy. It wasn’t until a woman had sat next to me, and ordered a slice of Chocolate Blackout Cake, that I realized how long it had been since I finished my first course. It didn’t take long for the woman to get her cake, that’s when I started to get irritated and hangry.
I asked the server if he could check on my entrée. I asked the woman next to me how what time it was and she told me 7:30 p.m. Turns out, it had been an hour since I initially placed my order. A staff member came out and informed me that because the kitchen lost my ticket, my entrée would be free.
A few minutes later, my catfish came out piping hot. The staff member then let me know that not just my entrée, but the entire meal would be on the house. The catfish was served with a side of macaroni and cheese and collard greens—both staples in a Southern diet.
I started with the catfish. I was eager to see if it was worth waiting an hour for. It almost was. The blackened catfish was seasoned with what tasted like Cajun spices that added a palatable heat. I ordered the recommended beer pairing for the dish—El Guapo IPA. The medium-bodied agave IPA from O’Connor Brewing Co. settled the heat and didn’t leave an aftertaste. I typically like my catfish fried, but this catfish was so tender and moist that I was a fan.
I moved to the greens next. I’m sad to report that these were the driest greens I’ve ever had in my life. I’m really hoping that I got a bad batch because there was not a single drop of liquid in my bowl. According to the menu, Tupelo Honey makes their collard greens with pork belly. Even though I could see the pieces of pork, I couldn’t taste a single bit of salt. I quickly choked down the collard greens and held my breath when I took the first bite of macaroni and cheese.
Tupelo Honey rebounded from those dreadful greens with their macaroni and cheese. It was baked cheesy goodness; almost as good as my grandmama and mom make it. The mac-n-cheese was topped with a light mix of breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, giving the creamy dish a crunchy texture.
Now that my meal was back on schedule, I got my third and final course shortly after finishing my entrée. I’ve never been a fan of banana pudding but I figured I’d try it.
I’m not sure what makes Tupelo Honey’s banana pudding so “heavenly,” but it was about what I expected. The vanilla pudding, with slices of banana and crumbled vanilla wafers, was topped with a bit too much whipped cream. I was happy that the pudding wasn’t overly sweet, but still rich in flavor.
While I was pleased with the deal I got on my meal, I was still a little baffled as to how my ticket got lost when everything, including my appetizer, should’ve been on one ticket. The bartender guessed that someone else got my order and no one realized it. I think my two biggest mistakes were:
Not saying anything sooner about my food. I assumed that there was just a huge back up in the kitchen since the restaurant did fill up very quickly at 7 p.m.
Sitting at the bar. There was only one bartender and he was busy during the peak hour. I understand that he could not serve the entire bar and check on food orders as well. The very least he could’ve done was fill up my water glass that sat empty during most of my meal.
I can forgive Tupelo Honey for losing my order, but not for those Sahara-dry greens. If I decide to dine there again, I’ll definitely get a table. That way a server will check on me and the status of my food. Overall my food was good. Even if I had paid full price for my meal, it was still still cheaper than the regular menu prices. Definitely a great deal for diners during restaurant week.