The Quick Bite:
The Restaurant: BIN 612
The Chef de Cuisine: Paul Brasfield
Late Night —
Chicken Fried Rice
Nathan’s Hot Dog
Any other time —
BBQ Chicken Pizza
Grilled Salmon Taco
Fried Shrimp Taco
I had a mission. For a very long time I have been hearing about the late night menu at BIN 612. But I am approaching “old codger” status when it comes to my ability to stay up that late, and I am certainly there in my ability to take in copious amounts of food after 9 pm. But Chef de Cuisine Paul Brasfield took pity on me and my team, allowing us early access to the late night grub as well as a few signature dishes that are available all day long.
I wasn’t alone on this mission. This late night menu is designed for the crowd that enjoys the twinkling lights of Starkville’s Cotton District until the wee hours of the morning. Many in that crowd are college students. So I gathered a crack team of freshmen who hadn’t had dinner yet, and asked them to come along: there was Son, the Roommate, and the Friend-Girl. Son has obviously eaten with me many times; he knows the drill: 1) coordinate your order so that we don’t all get the same thing, 2) don’t touch the food till Dad takes a picture, and 3) if I’m buying, I’m trying. Everyone agreed, and we were off.
Perhaps you have heard of the BIN 612 cheese fries. They have become somewhat legendary in the past few years. They even have their own Twitter account. What are they? Hot, seasoned, crinkle cut fries generously topped with house made queso. Not fancy, just the kind of carb-protein combo to help a diligent student get through an all-nighter. But there are variations, too: Shrimp Avocado (topped with sautéed shrimp, sliced avocado and Sriracha), Truffle Parm (truffle salt and parmesan), Buffalo Tender (fried chicken tender with hot, buttery buffalo sauce), and especially for the late night crowd: The Bacon Train (just lots and lots of bacon.).
Some of the cheese fries topping ideas emerged from last year’s extended promotion known as “50 Shades of Cheese Fries.” Some of the creative ideas included Mardi Gras Style (with cajun shrimp), Chicago Style (imagine a Chicago style hot dog, but with cheese fries as the bun), and Juke Joint Fried Hot Tamales. It’s that kind of creativity (not to mention skill) that continues to put Chef Paul and his crew in the culinary winners circle at numerous local chef competitions.
But even with fifty plus versions of that one dish, there is much more to the BIN 612 menu that needs to be on everyone’s taste radar. Let’s start late and work our way back in time.
A recent addition to the late night menu is Chef Paul’s take on Chicken Fried Rice. I was particularly impressed that they make their own pink sauce (aka “Yum-Yum Sauce”). There’s just something about that sauce that draws you back to one more bite. Then one more bite. Then one more bite. Then it’s gone.
You can also get a Nathan’s hot dog, which looks (and tastes) good with a side of … you know. Or if you want to feed your inner child (who has stayed up way past his/her bedtime), there is a “Kids Meal”: two chicken tenders and fries for just five bucks.
The late night plate that got the most attention from the team at our table, however, was the Cramwich. Chef Paul called it a poboy of sorts, but there was nothing “po” about it. There was poboy bread on the bottom somewhere, then a layer of cheese fries, followed by a large fried chicken tender, topped with bacon and sliced jalapenos. Son declared this to be his favorite dish on the table (and they were legion), adding that it was “well thought through.” I asked him and The Roommate if they had been able to get their mouths around the whole thing; they did manage it somehow, but I think they both had to use tools from their newfound engineering skill set to get it done.
We also had a few selections on the table that are available pretty much any time of day prior to the time the late night menu kicks in (9:30 PM on Thursday, Friday and Saturday). Friend-Girl’s favorite was the BBQ Chicken Pizza (though she did give props to the conceptually cool elements of the Cramwich). This one is topped with drunken chicken (cooked on the Big Green Egg), caramelized onion, oven-dried tomato, and maple-cured bacon on house made pizza dough. This is something I’ve actually ordered before and certainly would order again.
The Roommate’s top choice was the tacos – one with grilled salmon and the other with fried shrimp. Both were in flour tortillas with avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion and Sriracha. My favorite taco bite had the buttery creaminess of the avocado doing the Mexican Hat Dance with the seasoning in the shrimp breading. Or maybe it was the Sriracha sauce. Either way: good tacos.
If I had to pick a favorite, I think it was the BIN 612 Burger. Lately I’ve become more enamored with burgers, especially ones with personality. This one exuded it. The traditional bun is replaced by house made focaccia bread, the condiment spread is garlic aioli, and the certified angus beef is “pattied” in house. On my first bite I could tell there was some kind of unique seasoning happening, and upon further examination (i.e., “Hey Paul, what is this unique flavor in the burger?) I learned that the patty was seasoned with ground fennel seed. More creativity, and more deliciousness.
When Chef Paul and Executive Chef-Owner Ty Thames first opened the restaurant back in 2005, it was just one dining room and a small kitchen. To say Paul and Ty worked closely together would be an understatement, but somehow they found a way, in a kitchen only six feet wide, to make fine food using locally-sourced ingredients. Since that time, BIN 612 has evolved into a more relaxed atmosphere reflective of its Cotton District community. It has also widened over the years, taking over the space next door, providing both a bigger kitchen and more table space. After that meal, I think I may have widened a bit, too.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Starkville native, Jay Reed, is pharmacist by day and inquisitive eater by
night any time. He writes regularly for Starkville Daily News and Eat. Drink. Mississippi., and publishes a blog entitled Eats One Ate.