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Tupelo Honey Cafe Arlington: A Half-Hearted Ode to Southern Comfort Food

November 27, 2017

When I read Tupelo Honey Cafe Arlington served dainty entrees like crispy, fried green tomatoes nestled on a bed of creamy, rich goat cheese grits garnished with flagrant basil, sweet potato pancakes with buttermilk fried chicken and buttery, melt-in-your-mouth apple cider pork belly, I was excited to retire from another variation of french toast and meat for a last-minute Saturday Brunch. Something about Tupelo — from reading public opinions and the “About” page– seemed comforting, and reassuring .

Tupelo glorifies having a twist on classic Southern Dishes, with local farms and suppliers in mind. An option resembling  a missed 8 AM reservation at Founding Farmers due to a collective decision to plan for a brunch gathering at a later time and Tupelo was an easy book.

And so we found ourselves pouring in for something new at around 12:30 pm, the peak of brunch hour. We were greeted pleasantly, seated quickly, and while I was grateful, something about not having to wait struck a chord with me especially for a weekend brunch, but then there was the reminder we weren’t in D.C.

In fact we were on a small corner in Arlington situated across from a charming neighborhood just down the hill from a bustling scene, lined with walkable eateries and shops. And maybe Tupelo Honey was perhaps a more tranquil approach to  a weekend brunch.

The uncovering of an explanation for this began with Tupelo’s house biscuits accompanied with a soupy blueberry jam. While the sentiment for homemade buttermilk biscuits were appreciated, the biscuit was no better than a drop biscuit one could create at home. Bland, doughy and uninteresting the biscuit paled in comparison to the warm, light, buttery taste and soft-crumble of a biscuit you split open at Grandma’s. The blueberry jam (if we can even call it that) wasn’t much of supporting act to catastrophic, sink-water biscuit, since the small blueberries provided more depth and sweetness than the jam itself. Usually in the case of free table fares, I’d opt for a second helping. In this case, I did not.

The fried green tomatoes were a second attempt at salvaging an underwhelming first impression finding some sort of essence of Southern cooking . The tomatoes were plated beautifully. The green tomatoes were crunchy, slightly acidic  and married well with the  creamy grits, flagrant basil and marinara sauce. The dish was mostly successful. But, I needed a touch more salt and goat cheese.

When the time came to order entrees I was waddling on the fence of optimism. Tupelo’s ode to southern cuisine was an endeavor for bronze at best, and having an entree for the sake of a well-rounded experience seemed forced.

15 minutes later I was served a terribly shredded pork belly and formerly-crispy, uneven chunks of potatoes swimming in enough grease to reserve for a shallow fish fry. There was a poached egg too, better yet, a soft-boiled one. At some point I took a fork to it thinking mixing the egg throughout might avenge the dish and shortly thereafter requested a new plate of food.

The next best thing and  possibly a pity meal for having been displeased with the meal prior, was a simpler, less riskier dish of french toast, eggs & two scrappy, troubled pieces of bacon. Not a pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon or even a sprinkle of sugar were included in the french toast. Back of house was more successful at creating it to be the texture of a spongy,microwaved breakfast sandwich steamed in a plastic bag than actual french toast. And somehow the blueberry jam served earlier with the biscuits reappeared for redemption and like before, failed disastrously.

Heh. Check please.

Tupelo Honey of Arlington is more appetizing in pictures than in person. Nothing screamed “Come back, and stay a while!”. Not the atmosphere, hospitality and certainly not the food. That’s not say the  food is terrible, it’s just you’re expecting one thing and getting another. Dish after dish, elongated the search for the twist and bold flavor Tupelo emphasized on their website. I never arrived to the nostalgia of the good Southern cooking I had growing up and after my final dish, I realized I never would.

 

Overall Score: 2/5

Price: Fairly Inexpensive

The Vibe: Young-family oriented, with a mix of all ages sat in rustic environment

Enjoy: Brunch, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Noise: Moderate, Easy to talk to the person across the table

Parking: Easily accessible, garage and street parking

 

1-Star: Proceed with caution, poor.

2-Star:  Not too shabby, but not too good either

3-Star: Good, with a few flaws, yet worthy of another visit

4-Star: Excellent, remarkable and delicious

5-Star: Superb, and truly one-of-a-kind

 

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