Housemade. Locally sourced. Seasonal. Farm to table. Artisanal. In the food world, these words have become the standard of the day. So what sets one restaurant above others? As usual, it comes down to execution.
The local catch of the day can easily turn into the local waste of the day if the fish is overcooked and plated in a lake of butter with soggy vegetables and mushy rice on the side. Such is not the case at Ms. Rose's. A redfish filet, tender, with a perfectly seasoned golden crust, sits on top of a vibrant spread of butternut squash puree, garnished with roasted Brussels sprouts, puffed rice, and bacon lardons ($22). Two days later, the fish is replaced with the new catch, mahi mahi.
To hell with soggy, under-seasoned fried chicken. Here in the South, I want a crispy, zesty crust that reveals a juicy meat inside. This is where Ms. Rose's soars. The breading is crispy and spicy without any saturated sogginess. It's bold and beautiful. Penetrating the crunchy outer shell reveals tender, mouth-watering meat. The chicken, three full thighs and legs, comes with a side of sweet, yet spicy, honey Tabasco dipping sauce. The chicken is mind-blowing enough to push the sauce aside. This is fried chicken done right.
And that's just it. Ms. Rose's brings us seasonal, locally sourced ingredients by way of comfort food, and they execute it well. We're talking big fluffy homemade biscuits with whipped butter and fruit jam ($1 each), savory sausage and dirty rice fritters with housemade honey mustard ($6), and chicken soup just like mom makes at home ($6).
They're baking bread, pickling, smoking, roasting, and making sauces in house.
Appetizers are aplenty. The smoked salmon ($8) melts in your mouth with a lingering saltiness, only to be countered with the creaminess of the dill crème fraiche. The Jamaican meat pies ($3), two in all, come out on a cast iron tray with a side of housemade ranch. The crispy golden-brown crust reveals a soft, sweet pepper inside. It's like a spiced-up sloppy joe housed in a crispy, flaky crust.
For sandwiches: sausage and fried chicken biscuits ($7), a reuben with housemade thousand island and sauerkraut ($11), and a traditional house-ground burger ($8 single/$10 double). The sausage dog ($8) is a juicy, fat smoked brat with delicate sour onions, pickles, and mustard, on a killer pretzel bun. Each component is tasty in itself, but the bun is too small, and that's my only complaint. Either make the bun bigger or move this to the entrée section and stick a fork and knife in it.
I've personally never seen my mother or grandmother smoking meat to make a meatloaf, but the smoked meatloaf sandwich ($8) is a pleasant surprise. The loaf is full of flavor, and the horseradish slaw adds a nice kick. Dressed with a little barbecue sauce, each component is piled in between two slices of crispy ciabatta.
Sides include sautéed local kale ($4) which comes in a small cast iron pot; they're tender and feature chiles, lemon, garlic, and a vinegar kick. Also in a cast iron pot is the Anson Mills farro with slices of juicy okra and savory bites of Benton's ham ($5). For an extra two bucks you can "beef" up your fries, and cholesterol level, by having the potato slices fried in beef fat and served alongside beef fat mayo. Moo.
The design of the place was executed well too. The building can't be missed, as the exterior boasts high wooden-ribbed walls with a neon light script of "Ms. Rose's." Out front there's a huge patio with several tables and projection screen. Inside, there are four more projection screens that are primarily cycling through random photos of rainbow castles, surfers, deer, and retro baseball players. In the back there are six small flat-screens flush with the wall. There's a large room in back with a wall covered in bowls, plates, silverware, trays, pots, and pans, forming an astonishing kitchenware mural. The bar area holds its own with several tall booths, high-top tables, and plenty of seats.
The bar is home to 16 taps, 11 craft and five macro. There's also a large selection of bottled beer with about a dozen or so wines by the glass or bottle. The cocktail menu is about as creative as it gets. The bourbon breakfast ($8) is both smoky and sweet with a little zest, while the carrot colada ($6) offers a refreshing refuel using carrots and orange juice in place of pineapple juice.
Even though the food may be on point, some farm-to-table places stumble on the service. Not at Ms. Rose's. I was quite impressed with the level of knowledge and attention to detail each of the servers had. Questions were answered, waters were refilled, silverware was replaced, and each visit to the table included a smile. You can't ask for much more.
We are at a time when the use of seasonal, locally sourced ingredients has become a standard in the restaurant industry. It's what diners expect. Yet if ingredients are sourced locally, but the final product doesn't taste good and is served to you with an attitude, then what's the point? When properly executed, we find ourselves eating food that not only tastes great, but makes us feel great. There's something about eating local that gives us a warm sense of community, and Ms. Rose's knows how to give us just that.