Blue Plate Delight

Story Cherri Golden | Photograph Tanner Imes

There is a gracious plenty of interesting dining options in Starkville, Miss., not the least of which is Restaurant Tyler, an upscale bistro providing a varied menu using fresh, mostly locally-sourced ingredients and in-house smoked bacon. Chef Ty Thames is a firm believer in the “Eat Local” movement.

Midday menu offerings range from shrimp and grits, po-boys and burgers to duck pizza and blue plate specials consisting of an entrée and two sides — making Tyler a very popular weekday lunch stop.

For this particular outing my dining companions were Catfish Alley publisher Birney Imes and his daughter, Tanner. We placed our lunch orders and chatted about the building’s previous life as Kleban’s Shoe Store. Miss Moon Pie fondly remembers the ritual August trip from Eupora to Starkville to buy new school shoes at Kleban’s. Now the walls are trendy partially-exposed brick and cheery Tuscan yellow. Large canvases of vibrant abstract art line the walls. Many of these paintings are by area artist Paul Buckley, and all are available for purchase.

Birney and I both ordered blue plates while Tanner opted for a vegetable plate. Birney had crispy fried chicken covered in a very tasty crawfish sauce and turnip greens. My entrée choice was Delta catfish, pan-seared and covered in the aforementioned crawfish sauce and accompanied by corn salad and macaroni and cheese. We each had a muffin of sweet potato cornbread made with sweet potatoes from Vardaman, Miss. After all, nearby Vardaman is THE Sweet Potato Capital of the World.

Tanner was pleased with her butterbeans and black-eyed peas. I snitched a spoonful of her cheese grits and can attest that they were as creamy and cheesy as they should be. I also sampled a bite of the fried chicken and can vouch it was crispy outside, tender inside. My macaroni and cheese was a basic version, and I thought the corn salad was good but perhaps a little too mayonnaise-y. I had chosen to have my catfish entrée pan-seared as opposed to fried or blackened, and I was extremely happy with the flaky texture combined with the creamy, slightly piquant crawfish sauce. It was a delightful lunch and quite a bargain.

Other blue plate entrees we could have chosen were hamburger steak topped with mushrooms, onions and mozzarella cheese, fried pork chops with brown gravy or fried shrimp. Additional side options included green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole and sweet potato fries.

Restaurant Tyler’s dinner menu is much more sophisticated and reflects Chef Ty’s culinary experience in the Washington D.C. area and Parma, Italy, and his great love for Italian cuisine. He creates dishes with rabbit, duck and 100-day, cave-aged blue cheese. Miss Moon Pie’s curiosity is piqued by “turnip green pesto.” And where is this cave?

Miss Moon Pie is also extremely fond of brunch, and Restaurant Tyler’s brunch menu looks like a doozie! Plans are in the works to partake with sister CrabPuff. Brioche French Toast, pancakes, chicken and waffles, waffles topped with berry coulis and a dozen other options are available. Omelets and Benedicts and Biscuits! Oh my!

Ty Thames and business partner Brian Kelley also operate Zorba’s Greek Tavern located above Restaurant Tyler; Bin 612 at 612 University Drive; and Rock Bottom Bar and Grill at 701 University Drive. Restaurant Tyler is open daily. For more information call 662-324-1014 or visit