What: Starkville Cafe
Where: 211 E. Main St, Starkville
Who: Eric and Cappe Hallberg, owners
When: Monday-Friday and Sunday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Saturday 5 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Info: (662) 323-1665
Must try: Western omelet, loaded hash browns, grits, fried chicken, sweet potato casserole, fried okra, banana pudding
Editor’s Note: Tasty Travels is a three-month series from the Daily Journal that highlights local food and restaurants. Today’s Tasty Travels spotlights a restaurant known for its big breakfasts, as suggested by readers. Next up: Desserts on Aug. 9 in Business amp& Money and Aug. 12 in Food amp& Dining.
Downtown cafe has been serving big breakfasts to customers since 1945
STARKVILLE – Every morning between 6 and 8:30, a group of men pile into the Starkville Cafe and take a seat at a long wooden table in the back of the restaurant.
The space is reserved for liars only, and it has plenty of longtime members who gather daily to drink coffee, eat breakfast and talk about current events, politics, sports and each other.
“Everytime somebody goes out of town, we’ll talk about him until he gets back,” said Carl Duckworth, who has been a member for about 20 years.
“If we run out of things to talk about, we’ll start a rumor about a new business in town,” said Larry Bell, a member since the mid-1970s.
“We’ve been coming here since time immemorial,” said Bill Collier, smiling at his friends.
John Ray Miles pointed to a Josampé Cuervo tequila bottle filled with a thick, dark liquid.
“We bring things in here for the table like honey, molasses, homemade preserves,” he said.
In fact, one club member – Buck Swain – even supplied the table.
“He built the table himself for us,” Duckworth said. “He’s 91 years old and just remarried. He bounces in here in the mornings like a rabbit.”
Members of the Liars Club, or Liars Table as some call it, are part of what make the Starkville Cafe an institution in the downtown area. The restaurant opened in 1945 and it hasn’t changed much over the years.
“It’s just the place to be,” said owner Eric Hallberg, who bought the eatery in 2007. “It doesn’t have the best food. It doesn’t have the best location. It’s hard to park here. But when people who went to school here come back to Starkville to visit, they come here. If they come to town 20 times a year, they’re going to come here to eat 20 times.”
Hash browns, grits a must
Hallberg may underestimate the food just a bit. After all, a restaurant doesn’t stay in business for 64 years if the grub isn’t good.
“We’ve been told our loaded hash browns with cheese, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and a breakfast meat are real good,” said manager Joyce Talley. “A lot of the college students love that. We’re also famous for our grits. I always say it’s because of all the butter we put in them. And from our lunch menu, they love our fried chicken. We can’t open on Sunday without fried chicken, sweet potato casserole and fried okra. Those are their favorites.”
The sweet potato casserole recipe is one of Hallberg’s own. It’s so sweet, he said, that a lot of people order it for dessert.
“We have college students who have never eaten a sweet potato before who’ll eat our sweet potato casserole,” he said. “We’ve been told it’s better than Mama’s and Grandmama’s. Students will buy a pan of it to take home at Thanksgiving.”
The restaurant is open only for breakfast and lunch, with lunch being the busier meal, although breakfast is served all day. About 75 percent of customers are regulars, including, of course, the Liars Club members.
“We’ve lost a good many from this table,” Talley said as she wiped up some spilled coffee and pocketed a tip. “It’s like family when one of them dies. Actually, I got married here and the head of the Liars Table (Tom Dawkins) gave me away. That was five years ago in September.”
Hallberg and his wife, Cappe, also have Cappe’s Steakhouse in Starkville. But Hallberg doesn’t do any of the cooking.
“They do not let me in the kitchen,” he said. “I just make sure the customers are satisfied.”
And most of the time, they are.
“We don’t have a lot of complaints here,” said Talley. “It’s kind of hard to mess up breakfast.”
Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal