The Mustard Seed claims to be “Reno’s Only Southern Restaurant.” I can name a few establishments that might take umbrage with the claim, but there’s no mistaking the Southern roots in the cuisine to be had at one of Midtown’s newest eateries.
On our server’s suggestion, we tried an off-menu, deep-fried veggie plate ($7.99) that included a couple of green tomato slices, a handful of onion rings, a decent portion of okra, and a huge pile of green beans. Though I really enjoyed the crunchy breaded beans, I would have traded half that amount for another slice or two of the tender tomato. Served with a side of ranch and a powerful housemade wasabi sauce, the plate fit the definition of guilty pleasure.
The ladies made a face when I ordered Mama Bessie’s Hog Head Cheese ($7.99), but how could I not with the menu’s challenge, “Don’t knock it till you try it!” Available in mild or spicy, my order featured several spicy triangles of what was essentially pressed and pickled meatloaf/sausage made from chopped bits of pig noggin, served with multigrain crackers and parsley. While superficially similar to processed meat products I’ve—unfortunately—previously tasted, this housemade recipe was something else entirely. The spice and seasoning did a lot to enhance the experience, and the snap of vinegar really pulled it all together. Perhaps not for everyone, but I enjoyed it.
A cup of Pattsy’s Dirty Gumbo ($5) featured a very authentic broth, thickened and flavored with filé powder to the point where it was more like gravy—exactly as it should be. Though the menu indicated a classic blend of sausage, chicken and shrimp, I mostly found sausage and a couple bits of chicken. Shrimp might have been in there, but I could neither see nor taste it, and there was a lot more rice than I’d expect. The flavor was pretty good, but—essentially—it was a cup of rice and gravy accompanied by the occasional appearance of meat.
Dinners come with a choice of two sides and either a roll or cornbread muffin. My wife and daughter both chose muffins and declared, “It’s cornbread.” My wife’s catfish dinner ($13.99) included a whole filet breaded and fried in seasoned cornmeal, with coleslaw and loaded mashed potato on the side. The slaw dressing was very light, not sweet, and had a little bit of spicy kick. The potato mash was a little dry, but loaded with bacon, cheese and fresh chive—again with a hint of spicy heat. The fish was flaky, moist, and crunchy with the same seasoned coating used on the okra and tomato.
My daughter’s rib tip dinner ($12.99)—with greens and macaroni and cheese on the side—was a lot more food than expected. Three tender tips with plenty of meat were slathered in a tangy, sweet sauce with just a hint of smoke. I prefer more spice and vinegar, but the hungry college student enjoyed it perfectly well. The mac and cheese was akin to a pasta cake bound with cheese, but the collard greens were among the best I’ve tasted. Instead of being cut into strips and cooked near to death, squares of greens that still resembled leaves were sauteed with a perfect blend of bacon and spice. Spectacular.
More than one dessert beckoned, but we narrowed it down to just two: classic bread pudding with vanilla caramel sauce ($4.99), and an Apple Landslide ($6.99). The former definitely had the classic texture and plenty of raisins, two things not on my list of favorites. “Bomb,” was all my daughter murmured as she polished it off. The Apple Landslide was essentially an apple chimichanga with a cinnamon sauce drizzle and salted caramel ice cream. The housemade pie filling was tart and tasty, and the ice cream pairing put it over the top.
The lunch menu includes a lot of things I’d like to try on a future visit. While not the only soul food option in town, The Mustard Seed definitely has its own take on Southern cuisine, as well as a few items you won’t find elsewhere.