Hot house (of) tomato: The Tomato Place

Hot house (of) tomato: The Tomato Place

 

What’s better than those Mississippi restaurants that serve up comfort food made from fresh produce and home-style cooking? One that also sells the produce, quirky gifts and a little liquid sunshine with a smile.

Now, I appreciate those fancy Mississippi restaurants as much as the next gal, and the kind of gourmet food where you aren’t really sure what it is, but you know it’s supposed to impress you. But I also enjoy a slice of down-home cooking served up with friendly service, and The Tomato Place in Vicksburg, Mississippi, has garnered quite a reputation for both in these parts.

I ventured in the first time on a lark, after I had done some shopping at the local Big Blue Generic Warehouse of Goods down the street to check out the place. First of all, watch for it closely as it’s literally just an extra-wide shoulder of the highway and you can easily drive on by. Second, you may not have much parking space, as this cafe stays pretty busy all day.

But if you find it and park your booty there, you’re greeted with brightly-colored buildings and very casual outdoor seating area. There might be some homemade pork rinds cooking outside, smoking up a bit. One building is cooks only, but the other is a produce stand and a wall of freezers full of delicious and nutritious smoothies to go.

Or stay, if you choose.

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Inside you’ll find sauces (try the Mississippi Fever made with real tomatoes and fresh hot peppers) and containers of rice or beans for sale, but also hats, gifts and local-themed odds and ends, like the wonderful book I discovered there, “Eat, Drink, Delta,” full of lovely photos and stories from Delta restaurants and kitchens.

And of course, the cafe.

You know they gotta have fried green tomatoes, but also some other expected classics like fresh squeezed lemonade, po’ boys, fried catfish and burgers, but prepare yourself for plenty of surprises, like the meatball plate: Three large meatballs on a bed of stone ground cheese grits, with tomatoes, and your choice of squash or green beans. Or maybe get a southern-style BLT, as in BL and FGT (Fried Green Tomatoes) in case your arteries aren’t quite clogged enough.

But all that matters is dying with a smile on your face, right?

A decidedly non-southern popular meal is the Jamaican Burger plate, with fried yams and jerk sauce. And check out this list of available side items: fried okra, mac and cheese, cheese grits, fried yams and baked beans, just to name a few.

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I had the Tomato Place Pie plate, and it sounds sort of lasagna-like or even a little pizza-like, but much milder on the spice, and shouldn’t kick up the ol’ reflux. As I had the misfortune of coming on a Sunday evening after the huge rush of the day, I had to go with okra instead of green beans. And the salad was a marinated cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, and… why, I believe they threw some watermelon in there.

I have to tell you, I’m not a big raw tomato or cucumber person, but that was a very good salad, and refreshing sitting outside in the heat. Personally, I think I’d kick up the spice just a bit on that tomato pie, but it was tasty, and with all the food I had, I took a healthy portion home.

Perhaps I’ve watched one too many episodes of “Chopped,” but I “transformed” those leftovers into a nice breakfast hash the next morning, and that was mighty tasty. Alex Guarnaschelli would have been so proud. Or Geoffrey Zakarian, who I have personally dubbed, “The Silver Fox.”

I’m a lonely woman, okay. I use cable to window-shop hot guys.

Anyway, the fried green tomatoes here are very lightly breaded with mostly a cornmeal breading, and btw, if you want to make your own, this is one place you can find green tomatoes for sale. If they haven’t used them all themselves. But this appetizer here is light with a zesty remoulade sauce making it a nice start to any meal.

They have nice little indoor dining area, but plenty of outdoor seating if you can take the heat. Check out lots of photos below, and make a little trip south of Vicksburg on Highway 61 for some casual, comfort cuisine.