by Kara Kimbrough
Food-related misnomers abound, ranging from Brussels sprouts to gravy train. Others include the term white chocolate, which isn’t true chocolate due to a lack of cocoa butter found in dark and milk versions. Another misconception is the term Danish. It's a name for pastries thought to originate in Denmark, but that were actually created by Austrian bakers. And don’t get me started on French toast. This dish goes back to Medieval times, so it should probably be called Spanish toast. A modern-day misnomer is Keg and Barrel, with two Hattiesburg locations and a new one in Ocean Springs. Surprisingly, delicious food is the standout along with, but not superseded by, spirits as the name suggests.
Like any college town, Hattiesburg has its fair share of watering holes that serve decent food. I’d heard about Keg and Barrel’s lively music and bar scene, but was unaware of the interesting food menu filled with creative dishes. That changed when I met Gulf Coast animal rescuers there a few years ago to adopt a dog – yes, the restaurant is pet friendly. I found out Keg and Barrel serves delicious food ranging from creative appetizers to burgers and pizzas to seafood and chicken dishes.
After meeting at the original Hardy Street location (Keg and Barrel West opened in 2018), we ordered appetizers outside on the wraparound porch at the bustling Victorian style restaurant. Never one to overlook fries, I sampled crispy homemade ones topped with an assortment of melted cheeses and fried bacon ($9.50). My new rescue friends tried the debris fries ($12) smothered in slow cooked roast beef, cheeses and onions and served with horseradish sauce. To say we weren’t disappointed is an understatement.
Other appetizers include the house nachos ($13.50) topped with almost everything imaginable and choice of chicken and beef, wings served in a variety of sauces ($10) and chips and queso ($7.50).
One of Keg and Barrel’s most popular appetizers, Greek dip duo, was temporarily removed from the menu during the pandemic. Homemade hummus and feta dip served with warm pita, fresh vegetables and homemade chips was a favorite of the masses. I’m happy to report the dip duo will soon be back due to popular demand.
Burgers made of beef locally sourced from a Perkinston cattle farm are plentiful on the menu. Favorites in the $14 range include the Keg stand topped with bacon, steak sauce and vegetables and served on a jalapeno cheddar bun; dirty Diana, a cheese and bacon-centric version on a brioche bun and black and bleu topped with bleu cheese and caramelized onions. For the vegans in the house, Woodstock is a homemade vegan patty topped with cheeses and garlic mayonnaise.
The Hattiesburg locations serve a number of pizzas topped with delicacies like hickory-smoked bacon, Cajun sausage, grilled chicken and ground beef, accompanied by a plethora of grilled vegetables, specialty cheeses and tangy dressings.
Thick and hearty sandwiches like the K&B Reuben, Creole or chicken club, sweet and smoky turkey and chicken tenders with dipping sauce ($11 to $14 range) are called “pub grub,” but are unlike regular bar food offerings. Salads topped with buffalo chicken, tuna, turkey and ham ($12 to $15) are also offered up as healthy options.
Each one is an excellent choice, but overlooking the entrees section would mean missing out on creatively prepared dishes resembling those served on white tablecloths.
Keg and Barrel is perhaps best known for its Hattiesburg hot chicken ($12.50, pictured). Fried chicken is tossed in the restaurant’s signature hot sauce and served over sourdough bread with pickles and bacon ranch potato salad.
Another crowd favorite is chicken and waffles, which can be tricky to execute due to the propensity of the latter ingredient to become soggy from the weight of moist chicken and syrup. Keg and Barrel’s chefs avoid this error, presenting crispy fried chicken on an equally crispy waffle drizzled with maple syrup ($12.50).
Other offerings include Thai lettuce wraps ($10.50), pan-grilled redfish ($14), fish tacos ($13.50-$16.50) and another specialty dish, shrimp and grits ($16). The classic dish ($16) is given a Bayou twist, courtesy of large shrimp and Cajun sausage in a garlic cream sauce. Served over delicious Grit Girl stone-ground grits, it’s a feast for the gods.
One last notable fact about Keg and Barrel. After the success of the west Hattiesburg location, plans were made to introduce Keg and Barrel to the Gulf Coast. Despite the pandemic and hardships that caused many restaurants to close their doors, owner John Neal soldiered on and opened the new location a few months ago. With a few menu variances, it’s now offering Coast residents and tourists with the same amazing fare that has delighted Hattiesburg residents, college students and others for many years.
Visit kegandbarrel.com for more information.
Hattiesburg (2 locations): 1315 Hardy Street and 6 Marketplace Drive West
Ocean Springs: 2501 Bienville Boulevard
When: Hattiesburg: Monday through Thursday, 3 p.m. to 12 a.m.; Friday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and until 12 a.m. on Sunday.
Ocean Springs: Closed on Monday, open Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Contact: Hattiesburg (Hardy Street) 601-582-7147; (West) 601-402-7320
Ocean Springs: 228-215-3242.