A Hattiesburg institution started by Sarah Newton in 2008, Live at Five is what happens when you bring all the best parts of Hattiesburg together: live music, local food and downtown. Much like Hattiesburg, Live at Five is ever expanding, now here for a whopping six weeks this fall. Every week a new musical guest and a new smorgasbord of treats from the food vendors show up as Hattiesburgers west and east bring the kids, the folding chairs and the picnic blankets to find their perfect vantage point for what they love about the evening. Some sit close to be near the music, some sit far to mingle with friends, some let their kids run around like wild animals so they can have some peace and quiet later, and some, such as myself, walk around, beer in hand, chatting up friends and acquaintances as we dodge kids on scooters and take in too much food and the sunset over our dreamy little town.
As we were serenaded by Tommie “T-Bone” Pruitt, the Food with Friends team, Rep. Missy McGee and Mayor Toby Barker decided to sample the culinary offerings so you’ll know who to check out next time you pop in to Live at Five.
MASTERS OF THE MEAT UNIVERSE
The first item up was a delicious offering from the Grumpy Man tent. Grumpy Man products are available across the Southeast, so we are quite spoiled to get to see them weekly during Live at Five seasons. When Southern people think pepper jelly, they usually think of the classic brick of cream cheese alongside pepper jelly and crackers, and while that is a classic for a reason, Grumpy Man tries to help us branch out and think of new ways to serve their products. Their item this evening was chicken tenders and cornbread with pepper jelly, which all went perfectly together. I definitely never thought to dip a chicken tender in pepper jelly before, and they made me and the rest of the friends believers.
We also sampled - dare I say destroyed - the Burnt Ends Sandwich from the Mississippi Meat Masters. Their tent is always easy to find, just follow the delicious smoke trail. The sandwich was such a popular item that I didn’t even get to sample it. Evan said that it had a beautiful smoke ring, and was “perfect, tender, delicious.” I guess I’ll have to take his word for it since it went so quickly in the chaos. With 10 years of experience behind their meat mastery, it is easy to see why their line is usually one of the longest. They have treats for every budget, so whether you pick out a barbeque plate or just a great hotdog, you’re sure to enjoy.
Next up was a Food with Friends alumni, La Mexicana. Carlos and his team consistently make great food that we all enjoy and tonight was no exception. We were treated to beef and chicken quesadillas and nachos, and his world famous (in my heart, at least) tamales. One of my dreams is to have La Mexicana cater my wedding because their food is universally loved by everyone I have known to try it.
I won’t wax poetic about their tamales anymore than I already have, but this evening their beef quesadilla blew me away. It was that beautiful blend of beef, cheese and onion that I have only ever seen Waffle House cheesesteaks perfect. And no visit with La Mexicana is complete without their perfect sauces to top everything off.
From the team at the Thirsty Hippo, we were treated to their Red Beans and Rice, a Southern staple from a Hattiesburg staple. Theirs is a true classic, with a little spice and just the right amount of sausage, but with plenty of room to add some hot sauce for the people who really like to spice things up. The Thirsty Hippo crew also runs one of my favorite parts of Live at Five – the beer truck. When it feels like it’s 100 degrees outside and you’re eating your way through a Hatties-buffet, nothing hits the spot quite like a cold beer. We also split some pizza slices from Bianchi’s, another downtown Hattiesburg staple. They offer the tried-and-true options of cheese and pepperoni during Live at Five, and their pizza is perfect for those parents who have picky eaters because who in their right mind could turn down a slice of pizza? One of my favorite things about their pizza is the thin crust that has a tangy flavor that always makes me think of baked cheese crackers.
A TASTY SEND OFF
Kassy’s Concessions has been in business for 15 years in Laurel, and we were delighted that dessert was provided by them. We were served my personal favorite dessert available at Live at Five – cheesecake on a stick. Available in chocolate and cherry dipped, this portable portion of sin on a stick is great for those hot days when you need a mood-saving sweet. They offer a variety of frozen treats for all tastes, but I really don’t think there is anything that could top their cheesecake slices.
The night had died down and people were packing up their folding chairs and coolers when Jessie and I decided to have a sit down at the table while he enjoyed some La Mexicana nachos. It was then that Nina from the Jones Meal Engine asked us if we were with Signature magazine. I confirmed we were and she asked if we would like to try their Pulled Pork Burger. With catering experience going back to when she was 15, Nina and her team can make a menu for any occasion, her most popular item being the Donut Burger. The Pulled Pork Sandwich we shared was a two-hander, and has cheese below and above the pulled pork. We’ll just say, Nina knows how to make a sandwich, you guys.
TO THE FUTURE
I moved to Hattiesburg in 2006 to attend The University of Southern Mississippi and it took me a few years to fall in love with the city. It was around the start of Live at Five that I really started spending weekends here and I remember attending some of their first events and loving being able to walk around with friends and take in the atmosphere of people coming together to spend time in the downtown they love so much. Through the years, I have watched downtown grow and change and every day I find something new and beautiful to make me appreciate it more.