Published on January 12th, 2017 | by Galen Holley0
Devilishly Delicious: The Thirsty Devil Brings Alternative Culture and Innovative Eats to Downtown Tupelo, Mississippi
TUPELO – A taste of classic Americana is on the menu at one of Tupelo’s newest venues. The food selection and beverage list at The Thirsty Devil, brimming over with craft and micro brews, as well as an impressive array of whiskeys and innovative entrees, is a far cry from the sludgy coffee and roadhouse chili served at the quintessential Route 66 café, but the ambiance is straight out of an old-fashioned road movie.
“We weren’t going for trendy or edgy,” said Seth Renick, co-owner of the restaurant and, along with business partner Matt Peay, a connoisseur of the cultural flotsam and jetsam of the United States. “Our concept was a place, like a garage or a home shop, where anyone would feel welcome. Something that pivoted off old Americana,” Renick said.
Renick is an imposing figure, well over six feet tall and more than 250 pounds, with tattoos sprawling down both his thick arms and a wooly, vaguely Nordic beard. Renick previously worked in metal fabrication and as a bodyguard. Peay comes from an equally odd background for a restaurateur. He has a degree in wildlife sciences and likes to say his hulking partner’s appearance is indicative of the eclectic, politically incorrect yet thoroughly polite and welcoming vibe of their establishment. “We believe in a subculture,” said Peay. “One based on freedom, on being who you are and being nonconventional.”
The Thirsty Devil is comfortably situated in Tupelo’s historic downtown, flanked by diverse shopping venues and modish businesses spaces. Inside the restaurant, Renick and Peay’s variegated, irreverent styles are expressed in the ambiance. A rangy, custom-built, guacamole-green motorcycle is bolted to the east wall along with artwork fashioned in the scrawling, slashing style of Ralph Steadman, illustrator for the often-outrageous writer and dogged pursuer of the American dream, Hunter S. Thompson. Over the bar hangs a stained-glass painting of the devil tilting back a draught of brown liquor. If The Thirsty Devil’s impiety is somewhat incongruent with the refined downtown landscape, it’s incongruent in a healthy, neighborly way, Peay said. “We certainly are happy to be a part of the downtown community and pride ourselves on local sourcing of products and serving a diverse crowd,” he said. Local sourcing is evident in several of The Thirsty Devil’s menu items. Native Son Farm supplies produce like arugula and romaine lettuce as well as Napa cabbage and radishes from just across town. The custom meat grind that goes into the burgers, which includes short rib and ribeye loin, comes from the nearby Neon Pig.
In addition to the unique atmosphere, the pairing of cocktails and signature menu items has kept patrons coming back to The Thirsty Devil since it opened in late October, Renick and Peay said. Among the enticing offerings are fried catfish tacos, lightly breaded and garnished with Napa slaw and a remoulade drizzle. Fried bell pepper rings offer an alternative to the predictable appetizers served at many bars. Thirsty Devil specials periodically include dizzyingly delicious confections like salt-cured country ham served on aged, cheddar cheese, stone-cut grits with red eye gravy and topped with a fried egg. Those with a hearty appetite may also enjoy the one-pound pork chop, rubbed in bourbon and brown sugar, perhaps paired with a pint of cold, malty, craft beer from 1817 Brewery in nearby Okolona or Southern Prohibition Brewery in Memphis. Peay and Renick also pride themselves on carrying premium bourbons, like Blanton’s single-barrel as well as top-shelf Scotches like Macallan 12-year-old, single-malt. An average of two live musical acts a week, usually on weekends, adds to the atmosphere, ranging from outlaw country to blues and rock ‘n’ roll. The Thirsty Devil is located at 202 Main Street and is open Monday-Thursday from 11 am to 10 pm or later, and Friday-Saturday from 11 am to 1 am.