If you’re missing Grandma’s cooking or the fresh produce that came out of her garden, it might be time to head over to Tupelo’s new restaurant Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen (also referred to as KOK), where the concept is to keep it fresh, keep it local and keep it homemade.
Started by Mitch McCamey and Seth Copeland of The Neon Pig and operated by their mothers, Donna McCamey and Melanie Philpot, KOK opened its doors Aug. 12, inviting people to enjoy their take on what our farmers have to offer.
The family “keeps it local” all the way down to the name of the restaurant. The name Kermit’s honors the building’s old friend and inhabitant, Kermit’s Bakery, which was there from the 1930s to the 1970s. According to Seth and Mitch, everything in Kermit’s Bakery was homemade and it was the place in town to get your special event cakes and more.
“They did everybody in town’s wedding cakes and you could go there on the weekend for donuts,” Seth reminisced.
As with the bakery, step inside KOK for homemade food but prepare to step into a different era. The throwback restaurant is as Seth said, “A lot of brick. A lot of wood.” It’s a rustic, two-story establishment featuring a wood-fire grill and two open kitchens, highlighting their upstairs oyster bar where customers can watch the kitchen staff shucking their soon-to-be-devoured oysters and featuring a raised bartender stand for guests’ viewing pleasure. The atmosphere is meant to take guests back 100 years, to the prohibition era.
“Even our drinks there at night [are] kind of these prohibition-style cocktails where you’re making the ice and you’re using fresh fruit, using all these really cool Southern liquors and liqueurs,” Mitch said.
Where night life at KOK is all about aged steaks, fresh Gulf Coast fish, local pork, fresh shucked oysters, classic Southern cocktails and more, the daytime menu features burgers, salads and more, but all food will stand by the duo’s most important concept: It must be fresh, it must be local and it must be homemade. Salads will feature vegetable and fruit medleys taken straight from the local Farmer’s Market. Even condiments are either bought homemade from strictly local sources or made in-house.
“What we’re trying to do is get back to the basics, back to real restaurants where real people made it and everything is homemade and everything was local,” Mitch said. “With that, you had a lot of character, and out of that character came a lot of integrity. You know, this isn’t some place where you would just come push the clock.”
The owners of the establishment, the mothers, are enjoying their new family adventure.
“One of the reasons is, we’re [offering] something different,” Donna McCamey said. “You’re not going to walk out of one door and into the next and see the same menu.”
With the heart to get back to the farmers, KOK’s menu features mostly proteins, which are ground in The Neon Pig’s butcher shop. You won’t find a standard fruit or vegetable on the menu, because they change daily. Inspiration for the meals comes from the market. Today’s blackened trout sandwiches will be replaced tomorrow by a shrimp salad.
“You forget it’s not the standard baked potato, salad and steak,” Donna said. “It’s a meal that needs to be experienced.”
After having The Neon Pig for only a little more than a year, Seth and Mitch have expanded their roots to reach out to 25 farms, most of them around the Tupelo area. They started by contacting farms, but it didn’t take long for farms to start reaching out to them.
“Eventually people just started showing up at our door,” Mitchell said. “We never turn anyone away. We age it, cure it, pickle it. We just didn’t want to turn anyone away.”
Donna said she enjoys working with farmers because, “You are helping a local person. You are helping a person that’s been out in the sun, that’s been out in the rain and that’s said a few prayers for some sunshine.”
By Kristen Stephens // Photo by Adam Robison