The Oxford Bar & Restaurant Crawl
Over the last two weeks I have begun what I know is an enviable assignment for OxfordMississippi.com. My task – to evaluate Oxford’s restaurant and bar scene and report back with an ideal night on the town. So, rather than a simple restaurant review, I have compiled what I’ll call the “Oxford Crawl” (my take on a traditional pub crawl). Below is the first installment, which includes destinations for happy hour, appetizer and dinner. Check back later to see my picks for after dinner drinks, dessert, end of the night drinks and a midnight snack.
Anyone who has lived in or visited Oxford is no doubt familiar with the City Grocery. The Grocery is renowned for its dining, but the upstairs bar should not be overlooked. The balcony provides a perfect view of the Square, and if you arrive early you can claim a table on the shady side. The bartenders are among the best in Oxford, and will happily mix up a wide variety of cocktails. On a hot summer afternoon I often choose a Mojito – the Grocery is one of the few bars that keeps a stash of fresh mint. While you enjoy your drink, keep an eye out for a variety of locals (and some local celebrities) who begin almost every evening with a stop upstairs.
My appetizer choice requires a walk up North Lamar to one of Oxford’s newest fine dining additions, Prime. Prime is a steakhouse, and is located inside the Downtown Oxford Inn & Suites (yes, it replaced longtime Oxford favorite, Doe’s). I’m a big fan of Prime – the dinner menu has a number of fine offerings and the wait staff is friendly and punctual. Prime offers a number of appetizer choices, including a Jumbo Crab Cake, Smoked Salmon Plate and an Artisanal Cheese & Charcuterie Plate. My favorite is the last, which mixes sweet and savory tastes with three meats and cheeses alongside sun-dried cranberries and blueberries. The cheese plate is perfect with a nice glass of red wine (wide variety available), and it won’t spoil your dinner. The Artisanal Cheese & Charcuterie Plate comes at market price.
Now that your palate is “Primed” for a fine meal, take a walk back to the other side of the Square to 208 (208 is the name of the restaurant as well as its address, 208 South Lamar. Interestingly, 208 is owned by Russell French who also owns The 5 Twelve – Russell clearly has a thing for addresses.). 208 is a popular destination for Oxford locals. In fact, keep your eye out for me when you visit. Its popularity is well deserved as the menu offers a wide variety certain to appeal to you and the quality of each dish is consistently high. I have two favorites, so I’ll tell you about both.
First, the 208 Burger is, in my opinion, the best burger in Oxford. 10 ounces of ground beef tenderloin cooked to your preference and served with your choice of cheddar, blue or swiss cheese (I recommend swiss), topped with sauteed mushrooms and onions, dressed, and served with fries. I cannot overstate the consistent perfection of the 208 Burger – look around and you’ll see a number of locals savoring one at the bar or picking one up to-go. The 208 burger is priced at ten dollars.
If you aren’t in the mood for a burger, I recommend the Andouille and Pecan Crusted Halibut which is served over a sweet potato hash and county ham braised napa cabbage, topped off with a pineapple salsa. The dish arrives looking exquisite (nearby diners invariably ask me what I’ve ordered) and tastes that way as well. The pineapple salsa strikes the perfect combination of sweet and spicy, and is a great compliment to the halibut. The dish is priced at twenty four dollars and is worth every penny.
Now that you’re hungry, take a break tonight and start the Oxford Crawl! I’ll fill you in on after-dinner destinations in my next post.