Photos by Rob Walker (Walker Photo Works)
When it comes to Hattiesburg traditions, none compare to those of eating delicious food at local restaurants. In the late ’90s, my brother was attending The University of Southern Mississippi and my mother would bring me with her to visit him on occasion. We always had dinner at Chesterfield's, when it was located by the college.
Food With Friends’ latest excursion was to take on a true Hattiesburg staple in Chesterfield's at its relatively new location on Highway 98. And my goodness, they really rolled out the red carpet for us.
This month, Evan was unable to attend, so we were joined by local artist, Kyle Baughman (PineBelt Pickers and Hub City Stained Glass).
The evening started off with me and our fearless photographer, Rob Walker, arriving early to find the best place for our feast.
We were greeted by general manager Noll Goff and owner Chris Happ, who told us to sit wherever we'd like.
Rob took the reins and decided the best place to shoot would be outside – natural light and all. Chesterfield’s boasts an amazingly beautiful space and with the weather not being insanely hot, we decided to dine on the patio. There were ceiling fans for the warmer climes and during cooler temps, there’s a nice fireplace.
Kyle and Allison arrived shortly after and we decided to get some drinks while we waited for Brittany.
The owners suggested we try a few of their signature drinks (how fitting) to get started. We ordered a strawberry daiquiri and a Bushwhacker to get us primed and ready for what was about to take place.
The strawberry daiquiri was cool and refreshing and the Bushwacker was a big favorite. Upon Brittany’s arrival, she wasn’t shy about how much she enjoyed it. Throughout the evening, we sampled other drinks like the mojito and a blueberry mule. The girls also enjoyed Chesterfield’s Frosé, a wine slush.
We told Chris that our group was up for whatever they wanted to throw at us and the gala of gastronomy began.
Naturally, we started with appetizers.
BEEF NACHO PLATTER
The beef nacho platter played no games. As Brittany put it, "the nachos were amazing, with the perfect ratio of toppings." The platter was plentiful and was a great way to kick off the evening. I can definitely see myself coming in for a football game and ordering these.
AHI TUNA CRISPS
These are wonton chips topped with English cucumber, rare blackened tuna, jalapeno coleslaw, an Asian sesame dressing and a hint of sriracha. It was truly a beautiful appetizer and had the perfect balance of crispiness and heat from the sriracha. Allison made note of the blending of the vegetables and the kick of heat. This was a true highlight.
Moving onto the entrees, things started getting real and fast. When we do these Food With Friends dinners, the first thing we do when the food comes out is get it over to Rob so he can take pictures of it. Once Rob has completed that, we go to town. We try to stagger everything out so that Rob can take time to get photos of us enjoying the food. With this meal, Chris and Noll wanted us to try so many dishes that Rob was constantly taking pictures of food. It seemed like every time we turned around, here came another dish. Trust me, I wasn’t complaining; we were all just blown away.
Another one of the highlights of the evening was the Hawaiian Steak. It's a ribeye that has been marinated in Polynesian brine, cooked to perfection and topped with grilled pineapple slices.
"I think it answers the age-old question, does pineapple belong on pizza?” Allison said. “Wait… I don’t know, does it belong on pizza? It belongs on steak though; at least it does here." I loved the pairing of the pineapple with the steak. It was so good.
This was definitely a seafood platter for the record books. The sheer amount of variety really blew my mind. Chesterfield’s platter brought us crab claws, oysters, shrimp, catfish, steak fries, hushpuppies, and a crab cake, all fried to perfection. They didn’t spare a thing. I really loved the crab cake. It was one of the best I'd ever had.
This burger has bite. Chesterfield's Hattiesburger hits you with one pound of wagyu beef, bacon, mushrooms, onion, bell pepper, provolone and cheddar cheeses, and jalapeno peppers. If you want to know where's the beef, it's at Chesterfield’s. This thing was serious!
CREOLE CRAWFISH CRAB CAKE PASTA
Viva variety at Chesterfield’s. They have something for everyone, and they didn't disappoint with their seafood pasta either. Sometimes you go to a place and the pasta can be too saucy or not saucy enough. This was perfectly-executed pasta. The Italian part of me says, "Molto Bene!" For my non-Italian speaking friends, that means, “Very good!”
While we were enjoying these amazing dishes, Chris said he really wanted to show off some of his breakfast items. Chesterfield's has a legit breakfast/brunch on Saturdays and Sundays that has been gaining lots of attention.
These fluffy delights were topped with blueberry filling and topped with whipped cream and a healthy dousing of powdered sugar. Kyle was impressed. “The next time I come here it will be to brunch for the blueberry pancakes,” he said. “I’ve never had a pancake where I didn’t need any Aunt Jemima up on it, but that right there is where it's at." If you love pancakes, come see what Chesterfield's has. Their pancake game is strong.
I'm just gonna let you know, I love beignets. My folks used to take my brother and me to New Orleans when we were kids. You already know how this story goes. Of course, we went to Cafe Du Monde and had their beignets. It's what you do in New Orleans. Well, let me tell you when I bit into those beignets at Chesterfield's, I was magically warped back to my childhood with a puff of powdered sugar. Yes, please, thank you!
DEEP FRIED PECAN PIE
Speaking of sweet treats, our pièce de rèsistance, if you will, came in the form of a decadent deep-fried pecan pie with chocolate and served à la mode. This thing is a game-changer. This dish put us all in sugar shock and left our minds scattered on the ground.
ONE FOR THE ROAD
With all the food being served, Chris forgot he wanted to serve the FWF a certain dish. As we were getting ready to call it a night and go home and settle into our food comas, he brought out a dish for Rob to photograph. Also, as Rob had barely any time to snag a bite with us, it was only fitting that he got to take the dish home for himself, along with an entire French loaf.
The NOLA bowl is cheesy shrimp grits served with a crispy crab cake, covered in barbecue shrimp and topped with a fried egg. According to Rob, it is exactly what you would expect from something called the NOLA Bowl.
"The shrimp and grits were perfectly seasoned,” according to Rob. “I'll definitely be going back for that."
TALKING WITH CHRIS
Chris explained his background in the business and even provided me with a timeline because so many people are curious about the history of the restaurant. The old location was on the corner of Highway 49 and Hardy Street where CVS is now. In 2003, Chris had the opportunity to purchase the business from Bud Holmes and hasn't looked back. In 2010, Chris told me was made an offer from CVS he couldn't refuse. A year later in 2011, he and Noll opened the new location on Highway 98. Chris said he has no regrets about selling that spot and moving.
"I am happy out here; it’s a newer area, we get business off the interstate and we have like 500 parking places behind us,” he said. “If you know the old location, we had terrible parking."
It’s worth noting that the new building offers tons of space and the restaurant runs specials throughout the week.
"Monday night is half-off wings," Chris said. "Wednesday nights we do half-off appetizers for Party on the Patio. On Wednesday and Fridays, we have live music. Thursday nights we have karaoke and Sunday we are going to bring back our Sunday social and have live music again."
I could definitely feel that Chris enjoys his work. He told me about one of his work philosophies that he has always believed in.
"I’ve been in the restaurant business since I was 21,” he said. “I’ve traveled all over the U.S. building restaurants for a company out of Oklahoma, and the one thing I’ve learned is your restaurant will always be successful if your employees love your business as much as you do. And I believe mine do."
It is hard to argue, as everyone I encountered at Chesterfield's had a smile on his or her face and was delightful. I think that speaks volumes.
I can't wait to go back.