Sean Thongsiri learned to cook alongside his mother and grandmother in Vientiane, Laos, but it was a lot of trial and error. Getting the best food for his dishes was easy, though. He frequented the town's market, where he culled relationships with local farmers and fisherman to ensure the best possible product. This is a practice he still clings to as head chef of Ele Fine Fusion restaurant, where his modern fusion style is alive in the food, as well as the decor. There, in the glow of handsome blond sconces and colorful landscape prints, guests sit on banquettes and enjoy sushi rolls, crispy duck, and steaming curry dishes, many fashioned with fresh organic vegetables.
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The chefs at El Potrillo prepare authentic Mexican dishes using quality ingredients such as USDA-certified Angus beef, crisp vegetables, and housemade sauces. House specialties brimming with sweet scallops and pork carnitas arrive on sizzling molcajetes—traditional Mexican cooking tools made of volcanic rock. Healthy dishes include spinach enchiladas topped with green tomatillo sauce and chicken fajitas, all part of the massive nine-page menu that also features classic margaritas, wine, and imported and domestic beers.
With its bright yellow walls festooned with photographs of old movie stars and its griddles crammed with a bevy of eats, Jo's Diner sates hungry stomachs and nostalgia needs in equal measure. Hits from the '50s and '60s stream from a retro jukebox as diners housed in red padded booths slurp malts and shakes ($3.50) or catapult juicy bacon cheeseburgers ($7.50) through onion rings ($3.50) held by their companions during riveting games of fried-food soccer.
Equipped with three patio tables for outdoor diners, The Spill Grill serves most of its burgers, shakes, sandwiches, and sides to carloads of hungry travelers. Burgers prepared in 10 different variations ($4.97 each) highlight The Spill Grill’s menu, with beefy options including the jalapeño pepper-jack burger or the Cancun pineapple burger. Add natural-cut fries and a drink to any burger for $2.50, or create your own platter from appetizers such as fried green tomatoes ($4.67) and onion rings ($2.97), a salty snack that easily doubles as a personalized promise ring. Combine the 10-piece chicken tenders ($7.97) with a side of Texas cheese fries ($4.97) to ensure a full stomach. Diners can finish off hunger or celebrate inexplicably being elected Croatian prime minister with hand-spun milk shakes, available in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ($1.97 small, $2.97 large).
Mazzio's Italian Eatery's staff rolls out a buffet for lunch and dinner populated with tasty Italian cuisine that they also serve à la carte. The restaurant's staff has been perfecting its culinary modus operandi for more than 50 years, long enough to evolve the pizza selection to include three levels of thickness. Chefs bake standard, deep-dish, and thin crusts—available in gluten-free form—and load each with toppings such as caramelized onions and giant pepperoni. The kitchen makes pasta plates to order, some baked in the oven, such as lasagna, and some tossed in sauce, such as the mainstay spaghetti and meatballs. The signature calzone radiates the ambrosial scent of pizza dough stuffed with meat and cheese, and it's meant to be shared, unlike a pogo stick.
Fred Cerami’s first venture into the food industry was selling hot dogs on the streets of Hattiesburg. He loved feeding people, but wanted to incorporate his Sicilian heritage and generations of family recipes into his work. So in 1977, he left the streets, came inside, and laid down his roots within the kitchen of Cerami’s Italian Restaurant. Today, Fred’s daughter Alissa runs the restaurant, but not much else has changed. The kitchen still churns out homemade ravioli, lasagna, and spaghetti with meatballs, Italian flags still adorn the walls of the dining room, and Fred’s old Hattiesburg hot-dog wagon is still there, enjoying its healthier second act as an all-you-can-eat salad bar.