The Southern hospitality at Tupelo in Inman Square is second to none; hipster servers are genuine and efficient, especially with an irritable brunch crowd filling the room, and gravy-soaked-everything comes out of the kitchen at a rapid pace. The red walls are peeling, which gives the effect of an older style home and all the charm and ruggedness that goes along with it.
And dishes like the pork belly corn dog ($9) are exactly as artery-clogging as you might expect. After getting spiced and cured, the belly is slow-cooked in duck fat, coated in batter, and deep-fried. How’s that for a first meal of the day? The batter is crunchy, and the golden corndog exterior is impressive. The interior gives way to a soft and fatty pork belly, which is full of porky goodness but has more exterior fat than necessary. The accompanying garlicky aioli, pickled habaneros, onions add more assertive flavor to the dish.
Sometimes, though, the dishes are simple to a fault. Deep-fried grits ($6) are cute little nuggets of well-fried but under-seasoned grits. They are uneven in the middle, creamy and chunky at the same time. Biscuits ($4) are lukewarm and just fine, but again without much fanfare. They have the requisite flakiness, but are, again, pretty bland. For both of these plates, though, a big dunk in a pool of Louisiana hot sauce adds the heat and complexity that’s needed. Pimento cheese ($9) arrives with a neat pile of saltines and a scant bowl of rough-around-the-edges spread. It’s a coarse spread that’s flecked with spices and what appears to be red peppers, but it’s impossible to detect any flavors other than a not-so sharp cheddar.
While the service, persona, and affordable prices are big checkmarks in the positive scope of things, the food at Tupelo doesn’t quite live up to the ambiance.
Tupelo, 1193 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-868-0004, tupelo02139.com
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