Food Fare: More restaurants, coming to The District at Midtown.By HASKEL BURNS,
By now, Hattiesburg residents are familiar with the current culinary offerings at The District at Midtown, with Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, Asian Café, Taziki’s Mediterranean Café and Southern Kernels Gourmet Popcorn opening their doors during the last few months.
But more is yet to come, as several more restaurants – including PYRO’S Fire Fresh Pizza, Chicken Salad Chick and Rock N Roll Sushi – are expected to open by Labor Day. The new eateries will round out the 17,541 square feet of restaurant space at The District at Midtown, the $35 million mixed-use development at the former site of the Elam Arms dormitory and parking lot off Hardy Street.
“I’m excited,” said Rob Tatum, the local developer heading up the project. “I’m excited for the tenants to open their spaces and start making revenue for themselves, and I’m excited about the whole development coming to fruition and most of it opening in time for USM’s first (football) game.”
Rock N Roll Sushi, which is expected to open in early August, will offer appetizers like beef tataki, crispy crab wontons, spicy sashimi salad and cucumber salad. Rock-inspired “Headliners” include sushi rolls like the Guns ‘N Roses Roll, Pearl Jam Roll, Johnny Cash Roll and Rolling Stones Roll.
“We’re a little more modernized, as opposed to the Japanese style,” co-owner Leslie McCluskey said. “We cater to all – we have sushi, we have hibachi, we have a long appetizer list for anybody who might not be a sushi fan.
“We’re going to have a bar – beer, liquor and wine – and when you come in, our menu will be on vinyl covers. This will be our 23rd location for Rock N Roll Sushi, which actually started in Mobile, Alabama. We’re excited about the new development, and how close we’re about to be to Southern Miss – within walking distance, right across the street.”
As its name suggests, Chicken Salad Chick will specialize in 12 flavors of chicken salad, as well as deli sandwiches like turkey, roast beef, Virginia ham and pimento cheese. PYRO’S Fire Fresh Pizza will serve customizable gourmet pizza with toppings including steak, Cajun chicken, artichoke hearts, zucchini and roasted broccoli.
Southern Kernals owner Taj Stewart recently opened his second Hub City location at Midtown. His West Hattiesburg location on Weathersby Road emains open also.
The gourmet popcorn shop even created a new Midtown Mix for the new store. Joining old favorites like Birthday Cake, Cinnamon Roll, Dill Pickle, Hub City Mix and Golden Eagle Mix are new flavors such as Sea Salt & Black Pepper, Caramel & Peanuts, and Caramel & Sea Salt.
"Reception has been great for us, and the store is doing really good," Stewart said. "Traffic and excitement for the entire midtown development is really picking up with each new business that opens up.
"We are super excited about being in a position where we can service our customers in the midtown/downtown area, as well as our west Hattiesbnug/Oak Grove customers at our Weathersby Road location."
Hattiesburg restaurateur and author Robert St. John is expected to open his two newest concepts next week: The Midtowner, which will serve a breakfast and brunch menu, and the small-batch donut shop Midtown Donuts.
“I’m a midtown guy – we’ve planted our flag in midtown,” St. John said in a previous story. “I grew up just about six blocks from here, and currently live eight or nine blocks from here.
“This is my neighborhood, and that’s what we’re looking to do, is bring in what we say is ‘real breakfast, real lunch and real local.”
Also expected to open next week is Brass Hat, the in-house restaurant/bar at Hotel Indigo. Brass Hat, which is designed to be reminiscent of a 1930s railroad dining car, will focus on tapas, small plates and specialty items.
The hotel will serve a wide range of local products, including Grin Coffee, Country Girls Creamery and Bee Gold Honey, and hotel staff has also partnered with St. John to serve some of his breakfast fare from The Midtowner.
Hotel Indigo and Brass Hat were expected to open July 17, but that date was recently pushed to July 26.
“We are so excited,” general manager Rhonda Cunningham said. “We’ve had a couple of private events where we have run through the menu and everything, and the response has been great.
“And the architecture and décor here is so beautiful; it really makes it a fun vibe.”
If the success of The District at Midtown’s current restaurants is any indicator, the upcoming eateries will be well-welcomed to the midtown area.
“It’s been great,” said Scott Stephen, operating partner at Taziki’s Mediterranean Café, which serves fare like gyros, grilled chicken roll-ups and turkey club ciabatta. “(The reception) has been very warm and welcoming, and I feel like I’m surrounded by a lot of good people.
“I think with the Mediterranean style with a little Southern flair to it, and (The District) being a new development, in addition to the fact that we’ve been around for 20 years, it was great timing. It’s going to add a little something to the area.”
The staff at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, which serves items like tempura shrimp salad, shredded brisket tacos, special ground beef burritos and spicy pork nachos, also are excited to be a part of The District at Midtown and look forward to working with the future tenants.
“We’ve been very excited about the reception, and are really excited about the fall and our first football season here,” owner Trey Ziegler said. “We plan to have live music for all the home football games, and tailgate and after-game parties.
“I think with some of the operators that are in here already – next door at Taziki’s, the Asian Café, the hotel – there seems to be a lot of synergy and everybody is pulling for everybody else.”
And the new restaurants aren’t all The District at Midtown will have to offer. The area also will boast 12 luxury condos and 23,958 square of retail space, featuring shops like 5 Star Nutrition, AT&T, Hancock Bank and South Boutique, which are also expected to open by Labor Day.
“We’ve started closing on the condos already,” Tatum said. “We’ve closed on about half of them, and over the next week we should close on all of them.”
The District at Midtown is being undertaken with Tatum and his brother Craig – partners at CR Properties – along with David Oliver, Joel Ingram and Hattiesburg architect Larry Albert. Construction is being handled by Probity Contracting Group out of Florence.
When completed, the development is expected to create 200 new jobs in the area.
“It’s great to see the continued progress in midtown and a hotel opening in the heart of Hattiesburg,” Ward 1 Councilman Jeffrey George said. “To have such a large investment into our city is just another reason why people are excited about the great things happening in our city.
“Having the majority of The District at Midtown, and especially Hotel Indigo, complete by the time school starts back and football season begins will be a huge economic boost for our city.”