OXFORD — On a recent trip Up North — North Mississippi, that is — we took the opportunity to revisit City Grocery.
The recently revised spring lunch menu has some new and interesting features as well as retaining some of the favorites from the previous bill of fare.
We had to try one of the all-time favorites, shrimp and grits ($12,) which our waiter assured us was sufficient for two persons. The large Gulf shrimp were sauteed to perfection with mushrooms, scallions, garlic, smoked bacon, lemon juice and white wine, topping a mound of spicy, herbed cheese grits that were simply marvelous.
The stone-ground grits were boiled to just the correct melt-in-your-mouth texture while retaining the proper striation to stay just as they were mounded up on the plate. The shrimp were just pink and tickled the tongues. It remains one of our favorite dishes to be found in the entire state.
One of our party tried a daily special, a muffaletta, which was served on a French baguette rather than a round. The olive dressing was piquant and oily and quite close to that of Central Grocery, the creator of the sandwich, some 300 miles to the south. Aside from the lack of mortadella, it was a close replica. We thought it worthy of the name and very tasty.
We also sampled a pasta salad, another daily special, that was ample enough for two persons. It was nicely herbed, the pasta was served al dente. Filling and tasty.
The soup was an oven-roasted chicken and tomato. Salads included a grilled catfish and spinach, hours-cured salmon, grilled leek, gingered crawfish and, of course, the requisite Caesar, which may be ordered with or without a grilled chicken breast (add a dollar).
An addition was the giant Idaho baked potato, which comes with “the works” — sour cream, sauteed mushrooms, scallions, bacon bits, butter and cheddar cheese for $5.50; plain ($3.50); or a build-your-own which, in addition to the aforementioned toppings may also include red onion, green chilies, olives, toasted pecans, goat cheese and feta cheese and is listed at $7.50. Grilled chicken may be added for another dollar.
Entrees ($10-$12) are spinach and pancetta fritatta, lasagna, pan-fried pork loin, grilled lemon pepper salmon and the previously mentioned shrimp and grits.
Much to our chagrin, the highly acclaimed Epicurious burger has been removed from the menu.
Dinner entrees are in the $19 to $25 range and include such intriguing offerings as filet of Australian beef, burgundy-braised oxtail, grilled Szechwan peppercorn-rubbed tuna, pepper-roasted leg of Summerfield Farms lamb, applewood bacon-seared filet of Atlantic salmon; tea-smoked duck stir fry, grilled cumin-rubbed mahi mahi, pan-roasted grainy mustard-crusted chicken and, of course, shrimp and grits.
City Grocery also sports an excellent wine list.
City Grocery, 52 Courthouse Square, Oxford is open 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday for lunch. Evening hours are from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m., Monday through Wednesday and until 10:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday. Closed on Sunday. Major credit cards accepted. No non-smoking section. No handicap facilities, but assistance is readily available to anyone in need of it. Reservations are recommended and are a must if you are traveling. Telephone: (622) 232-8080. Fax: (662) 281-8876. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Chef Currence also operates a catering business.
Bill Patrick’s restaurant reviews appear from time to time in the Mississippi Business Journal. The opinions expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the MBJ, its staff or advertisers. Send your comments to email@example.com.