By GWEN SISSON
Chef Ty Thames said the support from the people of Starkville has been overwhelming.
“We just want to say thank you to city of Starkville for this honor,” Thames said. “The people of Starkville are why we are here.”
Restaurant Tyler was recently named “Best Overall Business” in the Starkville Daily News Reader’s Poll. Thames also owns BIN 612, Zorba’s Greek Tavern and Rock Bottom.
“As a company, we feel we are not only continually putting out a better food product at each of our locations but also a unique product and experience that can’t be found elsewhere,” Thames said. “We believe we have a responsibility to support each other here in our community in an effort to better Starkville, better ourselves and the people that surround us.”
Thames has been a ring-leader in the “Eat Local Starkville” movement, encouraging residents to find ways to eat fresh, locally-grown food — a major food trend that Thames incorporates at all four restaurants.
Thames said the “Eat Local Starkville” movement has really picked up steam through somewhat of a grassroots marketing campaign started last year.
“We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from that campaign and want to continue to expand on eating local,” Thames said.
Thames said his business is in a constant effort to improve. Restaurant Tyler, and the other three establishments, are obtaining more and more of products from local farmers and community sources, such as Sansing Farms in Mathiston and John Miller of Small Victories Farming.
Thames’ restaurants are now serving Strangebrew Coffee in an effort to provide opportunities for local partnerships.
“We cannot thank those guys enough for what they do,” Thames said. “They provide us with top quality fresh products that make our job so much easier and more enjoyable.”
In a new “market” section, Thames now offers house cured and smoked bacon, desserts, preserves, pickles, and coffee among other unique products. “Our bacon takes seven days to make, a number of our sauces take three days — our pastrami 17 days,” Thames said. “All of that just to say we take pride in what we do here, we have a true passion for it and that passion is what we want to share with our customers. I feel our culture and creativity is what separates us from the pack.”
Brian Kelley, Thames’ business partner, said he really enjoys seeing the passion, the creativity and the teamwork of everyone in the kitchen, led by Thames.
“It’s pretty awesome watching those guys in action in what could be described as a controlled chaos,” Kelley said. “They take a lot of pride in what they do and I think it shows.”
Thames’ creativity in the kitchen can be found in a variety of ways, but as passionate as he is about locally-grown food, he is equally passionate about Southern flavors.
Thames said his favorite menu items are the ones that have flavors with which we have all grown up but done in a way that is fresh and new. An example is the new catfish and hush-puppy dish that is served with a tartar vinaigrette.
“We take Delta catfish and crust it with horseradish and cornmeal, then fry it and pair it with garlic and fresh herb hush-puppies,” Thames said. “At this point we will top the catfish with a tartar vinaigrette.”
Thames said the trick with the tartar vinaigrette is when you make a traditional tartar sauce you add egg, pickles, and mayo.
“What we do is a mustard emulsification with some of the same seasoning tartar sauce has, then de-construct the other ingredients of the sauce only to add them as a garnish to the dish at the end of plating,” Thames said. “In this case we garnish with gherkin pickles, hard boiled egg, herbs, and fresh tomatoes.”
Another one of Thames’ favorite dishes is the Duck Burger where they grind their own duck meat then form it into 8 oz. patties. After grilling it to mid-rare they top it with a foie Gras cheese and serve it with a side of Dijon and sweet potato fries.
“This is not a ketchup kind of burger, if you know what I mean,” Thames said.
In addition to being named Starkville’s Best Overall Business, Restaurant Tyler was voted Mississippi’s Best Brunch for the second year in a row by Mississippi Magazine’s Best of Mississippi Readership Poll, and also named one of the top five Best Fine Dining Restaurants in Mississippi.
“We’ve had a great year thanks to the people of Starkville and we’ve got a few things up our sleeve for the coming year we think the community will really enjoy,” Thames said. “We are truly excited about what is to come and want to thank all the readers and everyone that supports what we are all about.”