On the Spot 

Quirky 5 Spot comes through.

I am a major fan of Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion show on NPR Saturday nights. One of my favorite skits is "Guy Noir, Private Eye" -- "one man still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions." So, of course, I couldn't resist when I stumbled upon a little hole-in-the-wall with an attitude and definitely not the same old, white-table-cloth-and-fine-dining establishment. Did I mention the restaurant has the same name as Guy Noir's favorite watering hole?

The 5 Spot is what you might call a mini-restaurant tucked behind Earnestine and Hazel's, located on the corner of South Main and G.E. Patterson. I know many of you are thinking: behind Earnestine and Hazel's? Yes, indeed. The kitchen sits in the middle of the room with a couple of tables surrounding it. (During the summer months, there will be additional outdoor seating along the sidewalk on G.E. Patterson.) The lighting is dim, probably a good thing since the room is ancient all the way down to the concrete floors. To say this place is rustic is polite, but it is comfortable and does have character with its unusual display of memorabilia on the walls. And with Earnestine and Hazel's in the front of the building, the 5 Spot in the center, and a bar for private parties in the back, the restaurant certainly isn't lacking in its cast of characters.

After we sat down a man took our beverage order. He was friendly and quickly gave us the menu for the evening. He then retreated to the kitchen where he doubled as the chef.

To add to the unpretentious nature of the restaurant, the menu is hand-written on a piece of brown stock paper. The dishes are revolving. I like the idea of having a different experience each time you go. This evening, the menu included one salad and nine entrées -- or so we thought. While entrée choices included a beef tenderloin, grilled or blackened grouper, and blackened catfish, many of the dishes included shrimp as a main ingredient. Unfortunately, we were informed they were out of shrimp and pasta, so pickings were slim.

First, we each enjoyed a mixed mesclun green salad with a ginger lemon and sesame vinaigrette -- light and refreshing. For his entrée, one of my dining companions chose the beef tenderloin, which was prepared to order and arrived smothered in a bordelaise sauce. The velvety tenderloin and rich bordelaise were exquisite with the Southern-style sides of creamy cheese grits and a mix of black-eyed peas and turnip greens. (The menu said the sides for the evening were sautéed veggies, but these were also not available.) Another treat we had: the grilled grouper. It was a lean, firm, and moist piece of white fish that came in a lemon garlic butter sauce, which was delicious. It too came with a side -- black-eyed peas, turnip greens, and cheese grits -- though I think the unavailable sautéed vegetables would have made a more agreeable accompaniment.

I ordered the blackened catfish. A large fillet of perfectly seasoned catfish came with the same lemon garlic butter sauce as the grouper and the same side items. Not the best catfish I have ever had. The chef gets credit for trying to be creative, but the butter sauce was a bit acidic and too rich for the catfish.

No desserts were offered that evening, but the server/chef was apologetic. His delivery did not arrive that day.

Overall, the 5 Spot is a great little neighborhood restaurant. It is fun and relaxed -- a place to kick back and enjoy a good meal after a hard day's work. We will positively go back to try some of the dishes we were deprived of, though I'll probably make like my friend Guy Noir searching for answers and call ahead to check if all the deliveries have arrived.

The 5 Spot, 84 Bishop G.E. Patterson Boulevard (523-9754). Dinner is served Wednesday-Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. Entrées on our visit ranged from $12 to $20. There is no full bar, but you may bring your own wine. Reservations are not required.

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