After just over a year in business and numerous attempts to woo customers (a complete menu overhaul, an expanded patio, lunch specials, wing/taco/crawfish nights, an attempted location in Tupelo, etc.) Varsity Grille is closing at the end of November.
Soulshine Pizza Factory, with locations in Jackson and Ridgeland, Mississippi, will be opening up an outpost in place of Varsity Grille and will bring some healthy competition to nearby Old Venice Pizza Company.
Opinions on the closing of Varsity Grille or the addition of another pizzeria? Post your comments here.
The Courthouse Square Preservation Commission recently approved a 40-foot extension of Varsity Grille’s outdoor patio plus an additional door for access into the building at 308 South Lamar. The approval means removal of four parking spots reserved for Varsity Grille diners, and while this may translate into parking a little further away, a bigger patio will be a welcome respite during the approaching summertime months.
If you haven’t tried out the patio yet, this Thursday during Varsity Girls Nite Out may be your chance. From 4 p.m. til close, girls enjoy 1/2 price appetizers, 2 for 1 drink specials, live music and giveaways.
I passed by Varsity Grille today and noticed a sign announcing that it had reopened under new management with a new menu. Of course, I had to check it out.
One of the managers told me that after a few months on the Square (the restaurant has been open since early October), it became obvious that Oxford didn’t need another high-end steak and seafood restaurant. The current menu (which he said is likely to be tweaked again in the coming weeks) includes more affordable burgers and sandwiches. (At the time of this posting, the restaurant’s website had not been updated with the changes yet.)
The original interior has been toned down to reveal a more casual, friendly ambiance.
Time will tell if the changes–effective at the Tupelo location as well–will help or hinder the future success of Varsity Grille.
UPDATE 2/2/10: The new menu is scheduled to be online by the end of the week, but in the meantime, Varsity Grille has posted a newsletter, which talks about a $1 kid’s menu every Monday; the new decor that invites patrons to write on the walls (a la Taylor Grocery and Red House?); happy hour specials 2-7 everyday; and a coupon for a free appetizer (with purchase). Click here for the details.
UPDATE 2/5/10: The new menu is up. Click here to check it out.
After receiving an email from a concerned Oxford consumer about the unexpected addition of bacon in her salad while dining in a new restaurant in Oxford, I thought I’d address the diverse eating habits here in town. As someone with several friends who have lessened–or stopped altogether–their consumption of meat, I have observed restaurants that accommodate these special diets as well as those who blatantly disregard them.
As a University-based town, people move to Oxford, Mississippi, from all parts of the country as well as overseas. While they are aware that they are coming to the South (famous for its pork-based menu items), those who are vegetarians are also arriving with an expectation that there will be at least one meat-free option on a restaurant’s menu (not including fries). In addition, with so many more people concerned about where their meat is coming from nowadays, we’re seeing even more people transitioning over to a meat-free lifestyle.
Thankfully, there are several restaurants in Oxford that have included vegetarian options/entrees on their menus. Most vegetarians have learned, from experience, to ask about every ingredient (right down to the bacon fat used to make some biscuits and fries), and many restaurant owners have addressed consumer concerns and taken steps to make their establishments more vegetarian friendly.
Below is a list of Oxford restaurants with vegetarian options (at least one); if I’ve left anyone out, please let me know by commenting here or emailing me at email@example.com. If you’re a vegetarian who likes to cook at home as well, check out the 101 Cookbooks blog. Thank you to all of the restaurant owners/operators who are sympathetic to the dietary needs of Oxford residents. To others, please consider adding an option to your menu or a note that invites vegetarians to ask their server for meat-free versions of existing menu items.
- Red House Burgers & Blues
- Tallulah’s/Catfish One
- Deli News
- Marie’s Lebanese Cuisine
- Turkuaz Cafe
- Yocona in Exile
- The Bungalow
- Ajax Diner
- Big Bad Breakfast (if you eat eggs)
- Boure (lunch menu)
- Taqueria El Milagro
- Maharaja Indian Cuisine
- Parrish-Baker Pub
- McAlister’s Deli
- Bottletree Bakery
- Honeybee Bakery
- Two Stick
- Bangkok Thai
- Frank & Marlee’s
- Nagoya Japanese
- O.E.C. Japanese Express
- Proud Larry’s
- Volta Taverna
- Phillips Grocery
- Old Venice Pizza Co.
- Downtown Grill
- Varsity Grille
- Castle Hill Resort & Restaurant
I made a return trip to Varsity Grille the other day and was pleased to see that they’ve already begun making adjustments to their menu. Any savvy restaurateur knows that the first several weeks after opening are crucial to the success of your business. Eliminating items from the menu that are out of place (the Chicago deep dish pizza we spoke of earlier is now gone), and tweaking recipes (the before meal bread and butter is now spot-on) can spell success for a restaurant that would have otherwise failed.
During this last visit, my dining companion was not pleased with their meal. Instead of simply removing the food, the manager came over and asked specifically what the problem was, promptly replacing the meal with another menu item. Kudos to a great display of customer service!
The Varsity Grille (in the spot that Pearl Street Pasta formerly occupied) website is now up in preparation for the restaurants opening Click Here
And, signage went up out front a couple of days ago as owners Michael Blankenship, Michael Greer, and Clyde Whitaker prepare for guests in this Oxford outpost of the restaurant, which has another location in Tupelo that’s holding its grand opening on 9/25.
The menu selection is diverse, offering something for just about everyone. I have to admit that I paused on the Chicago-style deep dish pizza though, as it doesn’t seem to fit the restaurant’s concept (maybe a nod to the owners’ other venture, Old Venice Pizza Co.?)