Kevin Marple Jalapeño-stuffed, bacon-wrapped quail

Restaurants

Hattie’s Is Bishop Arts’ Old Standard, for Better and Worse

You know what you get at Hattie's, which is its biggest advantage and disadvantage.

Hattie’s, tucked into the Bishop Arts District, has always felt like a secret. Service is smooth, you converse with ease. This place to which you bring family for dinner or old friends for brunch exudes Sunday-best Southern, and when sunlight pours into the main dining room with its white-painted tin ceiling, the walls are the color of lemon chiffon pie.

Nothing ruffles Hattie’s. Nothing shakes up the menu, either. You do not come hoping for togarashi blistered shishito peppers or Szechuan spiced fried chicken. You seek not excitement, but continuity.

On a recent evening, fried green tomatoes served with a garlic-zesty ranch had a cornmeal crust as stiff and brittle as a starched sheet. An inauspicious opening. But a nearly-naked salad of red and yellow beets with berries and whipped goat cheese was lovely in its minimalism.

Lamb chops were unremarkable with their syrupy cherry reduction and underwhelming spoonbread. The far better entrée was jalapeno-stuffed, bacon-wrapped quail, served with a sweet potato mash and proper bitter greens, their sweet and tangy Southern sass held in balance with a lingering heat. The gusto with which they wrap cornmeal-crusted oysters in bacon takes your breath away. This is their Southern pedigree. Salmon with petite veggies is a much lighter dish.

But one could say a visit to Hattie’s is less about the food than about certain intangibles. Do I remember my overly-sweet cocktail—the Orange Julius, with its improbable ingredients and half inch of foam? Only vaguely, and more because I knew it’s like already. But I remember the conversation I had. And the key lime pie with its textbook classic smooth filling and graham cracker crust. They can keep it making that pie as long as they’d like.

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