By JACK WEATHERLY
The restaurant has had a soft opening since March 21.
A week later, a sign still isn’t up.
Some passersby might think it’s the return of Chimneyville Smokehouse, which occupied the train terminal-style building at 970 High St. from 1989 till last November.
But the inviting front-end deck and the refurbished, brightened and refurnished interior tell you that something has changed.
And the menu confirms it.
I had chicken and dumplings at Dave’s Triple B, which was thick, creamy and filling. A house-made biscuit rode in the center.
It was the Thursday special menu item, for $10, including drink and tax.
This is the second phase of David Raines’ evolving business plan.
The first day, with no advertising of any sort, drew about 100 customers; the next day more than doubled that, he said. Catering and special delivery are two outreaches. About 100 meals were sent out to offices the first day.
Raines is a devotee of beef. But not just any beef. He is totally committed to wagyu beef from cattle that are raised in a strict Japanese regimen and are known for intense marbling — and thus juiciness — and high prices.
Raines eliminates several costly steps in his beef chain because of his vertically integrated enterprise.
His father operates a wagyu ranch in Louisiana between Monroe and Vicksburg, which provides meat to Raines’ Flora Butcher Shop, which opened Aug. 1, 2016.
And Dave’s Triple B (the butcher, the baker and the barbecue maker) offers pork, catfish and vegetables from local producers.
And, yes, the menu includes barbecue, beef and pork.
Raines studied the in-house menu and marveled at the price of his wagyu burger at $11, served on a house-made bun (one of six breads made on the premises).
Waiting in the wings to make its debut on the menu is Big Rhonda. At three pounds and costing $60, it is a huge chicken-fried steak smothered in white gravy. The Big Rhonda Challenge, at $80, is the same size, but with two pounds of french fires (cooked in wagyu tallow), six biscuits and a salad. If the challenger is successful in eating the whole meal, it’s free. A T-shirt goes to the challenger, whether he or she is successful or not. A food network has already contacted Raines about the meal.
“We don’t do anything skimpy,” said Raines, who, at 6 foot 5 inches and about 275 pounds, looks like he would have no trouble manhandling a side of beef.
For purposes of this review, Raines provided an impressive “sampler” of the menu – beef and pork barbecue, brisket, andouille, meat loaf, pot roast, spaghetti and meatballs, mac and cheese, roasted vegetables, braised greens and cornbread and Texas toast.
His Triple B menu is “comfort food,” he says.
Raines doesn’t see an end to his journey in which he traveled the world learning his art and craft.
He joined the Army right out of high school in Monroe, La., and he was stationed primarily in Mannheim, Germany. He completed his three-year tour and took a degree in history at LSU.
His first idea was to get into international trade, so he learned Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan. That didn’t last long, as he found the business “too shady.”
So he took up international cuisine.
One stop was in Italy, where he discovered the poetry of Mario Luzi, one of whose poems contains the line “endlessly I become what I am,” which became Raines’ motto.
Raines interprets that as a motivation never to rest on his laurels.
Now that he sees an opportunity in the offing to catch a breath, does he think he might succumb to becoming comfortable?
He sees another restaurant in the next year and one-half, this one for fine dining, in which he earned his chef’s stripes working in restaurants around the world, and for American masters Emril Lagasse and John Folse in New Orleans.
When Folse and business partner Rick Tramonto opened Seafood R’Evolution in Ridgeland in 2014, they brought on Raines as chef de cuisine.
Two years later, Raines opened his butchery in Flora.
Meantime, a road sign is supposed to go up at the new restaurant and maybe the hours (10:30 a.m. till 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday) will be put on the entry.
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