By Mary Ann Fitzmorris
We first started visiting Meridian, Mississippi in 2003, when my daughter and I took regular trips to the big city of Atlanta. We visited my niece, who was living there. It was a good break-up-the-trip stop, but mainly to get out of the car. Sadly, there wasn’t much to the town. A great pity too, because I often compare downtown Covington to Meridian, contrasting what is and what could be.
On these pass-throughs, we rolled the few barren streets of downtown and stopped in the old furniture store, picked up a pastry and tea in one of the many coffee shops that have come and gone, and somehow stumbled on Loeb’s, (think Perlis) whose existence in these parts has puzzled us from our first discovery of it.
What somehow went unnoticed was Weidmann’s, a charming and truly delicious old restaurant a block from the bridge in downtown, on 22nd St. Even when we were semi-based in DC after Katrina, and Loeb’s became an essential stop in countless trips, we still missed Weidmann’s.
But in the spring of 2018, ML’s job took her to Meridian, where she lived for four months as head scenic for the MAEEX. Mississippi Arts And Entertainment Experience. It was only then that I learned that everyone who is anyone in the American arts and entertainment world from the 20th century hails from Mississippi. If you are at all interested in media and pop culture, music, literary or even the cooking worlds, don’t miss this place. Very interactive, and beautiful, if bragging on ML’s work is permitted.
Our daughter was highly suspicious of her new assignment in Meridian, because heretofore her only experience had been those sad little stops en route somewhere else. It didn’t matter though, because 16-30 hour days were not uncommon in her work on MAEEX. Her one respite from this intensity was lunch or dinner at Weidmann’s a block away from the museum. Like when a movie moves into town, this was the hangout of the crew from New Orleans.
Dinner and lunch are completely different at Weidmann’s and Happy Hour is different from both. Happy Hour is upstairs in the bar, which feels so unlike the restaurant they could be different operations. Eating upstairs is allowed but it is so utilitarian in decor as to be unappealing. To us at least. The small upstairs porch outside is definitely worth a visit.
Any meal at Weidmann’s is a treat, but we prefer dinner, because the place actually buzzes at night. Normally there isn’t that much distinction between these two meals in a restaurant, but it is striking here. Maybe it’s the dinner rolls, which are otherworldly. They are fluffy, so hot the butter melts in an almost sensual way, and they taste yummy. These only appear at dinner. Or it could be the conviviality in the dining room at night. Always a happy electricity here, the dining room vibe becomes alluring.
ML has been back over a year since the big opening gala featuring Oprah Winfrey and Morgan Freeman and Sela Ward, so we decided to return on Father’s Day for her to show Tom her work. I have seen it several times. The museum is just gorgeous, and I highly recommend it. But don’t visit without a trip to Weidmann’s too. The food is not brilliant, but we still love everything about this place, beginning with the multicolored neon sign out front.
There would be only one meal here, so we would not be visiting the upstairs patio, known as the Balcony Upstairs. The girls were disappointed by this, having spent more than a few happy hours at Happy Hour here. The time worked out for us to have brunch. There would be no dinner rolls.
But there was peanut butter, a signature item on the table for every meal. It comes in a handmade crock that we learned was available for purchase at $28. Peanut butter is complimentary. Why peanut butter? Goes back to WW2 when there was a shortage of butter. A patron suggested to Henry Weidmann that peanut butter be served instead, and it remains to this day.
The menu here is daunting, but we have our favorites. ML loves the fried green tomato BLT. She loves fried green tomato anything. This comes on a sourdough bread which is quite good. Stiff and dense as sourdough should be. I love this bread, and it is rarely seen in these parts. Refreshing to have the opportunity to have some here.
Tom went for something he gets whenever he sees it on a menu - grilled catfish. I have eaten my way around this menu, and love the burger, but for some reason I went with Shrimp and Grits YaYa. I never get shrimp and grits on a menu - must have been the YaYa, which meant portobello mushrooms and spinach in a smoked Gouda sauce over a stone ground grit cake from Sciple’s Mill. My least favorite thing I’ve had there. That was probably a good thing, because we ordered Quiche Lorraine as an appetizer, along with sun dried tomato and pesto bruschetta.
The quiche came with a slice of fresh tomato on top so thin, juicy, and red that it looked almost unreal. But it was real. Real as a tomato should be but never is. A thing of beauty. Sweet and delicious too. Hard, pale, tasteless tomatoes are a real annoyance to me. This was a delightful surprise. The quiche itself was large, tall, and fluffy, with an excellent crust. This was very tasty and everyone shared it. The bruschetta was unusual, and had these same real and ripe tomatoes chopped over a paste of pesto and sundried tomato. Not the best version of this we have ever had, but good enough to share.
Tom’s catfish came over Caesar salad that the waitress was proud to announce as a true Caesar with anchovies in the dressing. It was oily but otherwise good, though the anchovy did not come in too strong.
This place has a very large side dish list of offerings, all heavy on the “Southern.” Corn pudding is our favorite, but obviously everyone’s favorite, because they were out. Collards and butter beans, black-eyed peas, turnip greens, Hoppin’ John, cheese grits, Creole cabbage and glazed carrots, along with basics like sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes which were also possibilities. We love the mac’n’cheese, but passed on it this time.
The dessert menu at Weidmann’s is as overwhelming as the savory items. They are famous for their Black Bottom Pie, and Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie, both of which are excellent. And of course the Peanut Butter Pie.
Calling this a destination restaurant is a stretch because it is three hours each way, but combined with the museum, it is a lovely day trip. And when the new Marriott Courtyard moves into an iconic downtown building, it will be a nice overnight on the train. We’re still pulling for Meridian.
210 22nd Avenue Meridian, Ms
Friday & Saturday till 11pm