Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Old Capitol Inn - Jackson

I've been holding on to this one for a while, but it's time to take a look at The Old Capitol Inn. It begins on a midwinter day last February and the scene is set on the small but comfortable dining room in the lobby of this boutique Jackson hotel. As with every meal at The Old Capitol Inn, a generous serving of artichoke dip is the first thing to arrive.

Cheesy, rich and brimming with artichokes, this dip is best served slathered on the accompanying wedges of pita.

Moving past the thistles, a bowl of French onion soup was next on the list.

A well browned layer of bread and cheese gave way to a beefy liquid with just a touch of sweetness.

While full of the requisite onions, cheese, and bread, there was an unwelcome bitterness to this soup, likely from the overly browned crust.

Rounding out the February meal was a heaping portion of bacon wrapped meatloaf.
Coated in a deep & rich wine sauce, this was heartwarming simplicity.

With little more than meat, bell peppers, and onions under the sauce, it was fine example of a classic dish done well. I wish I could say the same for the gummy, undercooked mass of rice pilaf on the side, but any shortcomings were drowned out by the meatloaf’s sauce.

Although a downtown lunch is best enjoyed in a restaurant setting, every restaurant should be fully able to accommodate a take-out order. In the case of The Old Capitol Inn, that test came in the form of a turkey reuben.

Right off the bat, this sandwich seemed destined to set to fail. There’s something unwholesome about pastrami being replaced by turkey in a reuben, but in this case, it worked.
Working inwards, there multigrain bread was well toasted, there was a fair but not overwhelming amount of caramelized sauerkraut and a creamy, dressing filled in the spaces. The jury is still out if this celery filled sauce was Thousand Island or Russian dressing but, regardless, it performed admirably.

At the heart of this sandwich was the turkey. True to its reuben roots, this turkey brought a salty, brined taste to the party but that extra layer of pepper was missing. Turkey may not make the first string, but it’s a fine backup to real pastrami. The Old Capitol Inn should have been doomed from the start with this sandwich, but this takeout lunch was a winner.

For reasons I’m still not quite sure of, the next Old Capitol Inn venture again featured a take-out scenario. This time, a cup of chicken tortilla soup started things off.
Black beans and corn were the main feature of this tomato based soup.
These tortilla strips may have been crisp in the kitchen, but steam is the enemy to all things crispy.
Once mixed, this tortilla soup lived up to its name with a lightly spiced flavor, creamy texture, and the occasional taste of cilantro. The only real downside was the dry chicken, but what else can you expect with white meat?

When I saw roast beef po-boy on the menu at The Old Capitol Inn, I was curious how this restaurant would approach the New Orleans classic. Surely, the traditional, gravy laden heart attack on a plate would be far too uncivilized for a business lunch.

There seemed to be a bit of a communication issue. I read roast beef po-boy but I received a lovely slice of roast beef on bread. The ingredients may be the same, but there’s a vast difference in the presentation.

To be fair, this was a perfectly fine piece of roast beef. Tender, herby, and accompanied by a few ladles of flavorful gravy and lumpy mashed potatoes, this roast beef was closer to well done than I prefer but still a perfectly suitable lunch. However, it was not a roast beef po-boy.

Although this has already spanned three separate occasions, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include at least one of The Old Capitol Inn’s trademark dishes. While I don’t have anything against their “crispy down in Dixie” crab cakes, the pull of Shrimp & Grits O’Brien was too much to handle.

It seems best to ignore the suspiciously out of season vegetables and focus on the shrimp.

Like many other dishes at The Old Capitol Inn, shrimp & Grits O’Brien was rich. With a layer of buttery grits on the bottom and a creamy sauce on top, it’s amazing that the shrimp had a chance to shine through.

But shine through they did. Each shrimp was plump, well-cooked, and dusted with a smoky touch of pepper.

Much like the restaurant, this plate of shrimp & grits was cautious and well-planned. This dish wasn’t pushing the boundaries of what shrimp & grits could be, instead it was a satisfying and even-keeled indulgence.

Odd as it sounds, the shrimp & grits O’Brien really do epitomize the dining room at The Old Capitol Inn. The food, with a few minor exceptions, is a cadre of familiar favorites that are executed with well-rehearsed finesse. You’ll hardly be pushing your gastronomic limits with a meal at The Old Capitol Inn, but chances are you will enjoy a fine meal at an underrated restaurant.

The Old Capitol Inn Address & Information

226 North State Street, Jackson, MS 39201 // 601.359.9000 // The Old Capitol Inn Website // The Old Capitol Inn Menu

Old Capitol Inn on Urbanspoon

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