The Halfway House: A Review

Story by G. E. Light

he Halfway House is a relatively new sports bar cum neighborhood pub lying equidistant from campus and downtown along the University Avenue spine of Starkville. This site was formerly one of Starkville’s original gas stations, a hair and nail salon and most recently an occasionally-open Quizno’s franchise. Lest this laundry list of former tenants scare you away, the new owners (Darrell, Nate and Kenneth) did a heroic job of renovating the building into a tasteful and comfortable setting for lunch or a pre/post-game session. Most notably, the lovely copper bar back wall sports a staggering (at least for our fair city) 35 taps of well-kept, and primarily craft-brewed beers: domestic and import.

Make no mistake: Halfway House is all about the beer — in terms of both quality and variety. Kudos to their cellarman; he serves the freshest, best-kept, most properly temperature-controlled pint I’ve had in the state of Mississippi (and that includes a certain large “pub” joining English and MSU animal traditions down Jackson way). My personal choice for the House’s best pint is the Tallgrass IPA, a cool refreshing draw full of hops but finished with more florally aromatic malt than your typical American hop-heavy IPA. If you want lighter fare, I’d suggest the Widmer Hefeweizen; heavier, you’d be hard-pressed to dislike the Rogue Chocolate Stout. Principal owner Darrell splits his drinking between the Guinness and the Drifter Pale Ale. Surely, you’re getting the point about quality and variety by now. Just ask Cory to pull you a fresh one.

But the Halfway House is more than just another campus boozer. It has a menu at once classic for its presentation of American pub fare and unique in its quality and spin on certain traditional favorites. My favorite sandwich is the Chicken Portobello: two succulent pieces of grilled chicken, several lovely slices of juicy mushroom and a tangy red aioli sauce. Don’t spend extra for the onion rings (good though they are); head straight for the fabulous scoop fries. The wings are also excellent — especially the Hawaiian and Garlic Parmesan versions. The one bad item I’ve eaten on the menu was the cheese sticks: not terrible, just obviously straight out of a frozen Sysco baggie. The house-made tortilla chips are fantastic, crisp and light without being overly greasy. Kudos also for the fantastic post-modern reinvention of S’mores as an almost haute cuisine-plated dessert. I don’t really know what to say about the Grilled Cheese Cheeseburger (a crazy concoction with the bun halves replaced by two grilled cheese sandwiches … no, seriously!). Is it a fantastical frat boy late-night innovation spurred on by a craving for carbs, a nightmare heart attack MS obesity red plate special or perhaps a bit of both?

Next time you’re wandering from campus to downtown or vice versa along University Drive, make sure to stop in at the halfway point. Your decision will most definitely be rewarded.