The smell of smoked meats will lure you in from the sidewalk, then the menu using those meats will surprise you at Kermit’s Soul Kitchen in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Location: Kermit’s Soul Kitchen, 124 West Main Street, Tupelo, Mississippi
Menu: The slogan “Where Mississippi Farms Meet Mississippi Tables” is a completely accurate description of what can be found on the menu at Kermit’s Soul Kitchen. Smoked ribs, chicken, pork, and brisket may be the headliners, but the vast array of local produce raises this to a higher level than the average barbecue joint. An entire smoked hog can be ordered at Kermit’s with a week’s notice and $1400, but most items are entirely budget-friendly. The restaurant is sourced by eight nearby farms providing grain-fed beef, free-range chickens, heritage pigs, milk, tomatoes, organic fruits and vegetables, homemade jams, and baked goods. The taste of the resulting dishes is the delight of Tupelo diners.
The menu reflects the casual atmosphere at Kermit’s with categories such as Salads & Bowls, Wangs & Thangs, Sammies & Such, plus 8 sauces, desserts and kid-friendly items. A salad is not “just a salad.” Instead, it is a generous bowl with a smattering of lettuce topped with an abundance of fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, edamame, quinoa, guacamole, onions, and almonds. The sides are creative and bursting with flavor. In addition to traditional choices of fries or mac and cheese, Kermit’s offers coconut slaw, Brunswick stew, red beans and rice, diced sweet potatoes, a combo of marinated broccoli, farro, and almonds or a mixture of honey, goat cheese, and chickpeas. Desserts are as simple as house recipes for Rice Krispie treats and chocolate chip cookies to Crack Pie and Banana Fluff. The cornbread at Kermit’s is sweet, or cauliflower breadsticks can be substituted for the more adventurous and health-conscious diners. Many items on the menu are marked as gluten-free or vegan, which is helpful for careful eaters.
Thoughts: Kermit’s Soul Kitchen is well aware of the CDC guidelines for safety and social distancing. There are several tables outdoors in front of the restaurant, six or seven tables on the lower level inside, and a large dining room upstairs. Customers have to place their order at the front counter, but from that point on the food is brought to your table and served promptly and courteously.
Everywhere you look, upstairs and downstairs, you’ll find something fascinating on the walls or hanging from the ceilings and windows. Much of the art is related to music or movies (and, of course, Elvis, since Tupelo was his birthplace), but there are other intriguing works, too. The largest piece upstairs is a portrait someone did of local paraplegic artist William Flewellen Heard wearing a ball cap with the name “Outlaw.” Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen was the restaurant’s previous name. Heard founded an art center where people with disabilities can create and practice art, so several works from that center can be seen on the walls. Spray-painted tennis shoes and giant jingle bells hang from the ceiling, and a guitar is in every window. The downstairs restrooms bear the labels, Bonnie or Clyde, while upstairs the labels are June or Johnny (Cash, of course).
The weathered wood floors and brick walls hint of a long history for the building. In fact, the owner of the building was there when I visited, so I found out that it is 129 years old. Before becoming a restaurant, the building was Kermit’s Bakery which was started in the 1940’s. One of its claims to fame was baking several of Elvis’ birthday cakes.
Mitchell McCamey is the restaurant owner, chef, and all-around brains of the cooking and gathering of ingredients. He is also the co-owner and butcher for Neon Pig Tupelo and Neon Pig Oxford (Mississippi) and branched out to be the co-owner and chef of King Chicken Fillin Station in Belden, Mississippi. He was immersed in the tastes and seasonings of the South from his childhood, and those influences continue to guide his culinary creations today.
Price range: Bowls and salads range from $9.50-10.50. Small plates and appetizers are $5.89-18.00. Sandwiches are $8.00 to 18.00, and smoked meat plates are $6.99-24.99. Desserts are $3.00-8.00.