Photography by Richard Lawrence
Pass through Como, Mississippi, and it may not look like much, but stay awhile and this little hill-country town will surprise you with its abundance.
It’s a straightforward 45-mile drive south on I-55, but it’s worth the extra minutes to go a little slower on Highway 51 and then cut over to scenic Highway 4. (Keep an eye out for old juke joints like Harris Place in Old Tunica and rib shacks like Pig Pit BBQ next to Hudspeth’s Grocery in Sarah, Mississippi.) When you arrive in Como, you’ll discover a fifth-generation family farm, a top-notch steakhouse, possibly the best burger in Mississippi, and charming places to lay your sleepy head.
Want to check out a really rad farm? Enter the amazing Mr. Marshall Bartlett.
Home Place Pastures should be your first stop in Como. The Bartlett family has farmed this land since 1871. Brothers Marshall and Jemison started transforming the farm—now in its fifth generation—into a sustainable, pastured-animal operation in 2014. They raise ethically treated pork, lamb, beef and goat on pasture and operate the only USDA-inspected meat-processing plant in the area.
Marshall, a handsome fella in his 20s with an easy smile, earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental studies at Dartmouth College, then completed an internship at the Virgin Island Sustainable Farm Institute in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, served with Americorps leading volunteers to rebuild Hurricane Katrina victims’ homes, and later worked as the chief of operations for a small business that specialized in custom butchering and marketing pasture-raised meats to chefs across the Crescent City before moving back home to Como. Did I mention he’s in his 20s?
All of his education and experiences clearly paid off.
Home Place provides meat to over 75 fancy-pants restaurants from Memphis to Nashville, Oxford to New Orleans, and everywhere in between.
Memphis restaurants include Sweet Grass, Tsunami, Las Tortugas, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Catherine and Mary’s, Hog & Hominy, Erling Jensen: The Restaurant and The Beauty Shop.
Marshall lives in the family home on the farm and hosts some amazing events right outside his door, often inviting people to camp out on the property for maximum enjoyment. The Boucherie Dinner in August hosts some of the big-name chefs from various restaurants that the farm serves. There’s a lottery for unusual animal parts (i.e., pig heart, face bacon, lamb’s tongue, etc.), which serve as the basis of the meal. It’s a great place for Memphians to really get a taste of what is happening in other cities and meet top chefs face to face. I attended in August and got to tell Mason Hereford of New Orleans’s award-winning Turkey and the Wolf that he was my culinary (and Instagram) hero and get my photo taken with him.
The Oyster Roast in November is a more laid-back affair with all-you-can-eat oysters and an epic bonfire. The most recent one was held as a fundraiser for RB Southern Cuisine, a Como soul-food restaurant which recently closed due to a fire. This event is great for meeting locals and getting to know the farm staff. Marshall was there happily shucking oysters and soaking wood palettes with lighter fluid.
Whether or not there’s an event, visitors are always welcome at the farm. Email or call ahead to set up a tour, and at the very least, stop by the retail store (Thursdays and Fridays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) for packaged pork, lamb and beef products, as well as Home Place merchandise. Bring a cooler and load up on goodies in the $3 Bargain Box freezer.
If you like what you see, sign up for the CSA and have a box of quality meats delivered right to your door (in Memphis). Options include: 5-pound Millennial for $45, 8-pound Individual for $75, 12-pound Family for $99, and 15-pound Boss Hog for $199. (From time to time, Marshall delivers the boxes himself!)
Hungry yet? Como is for meat lovers.
The town square, which is really more of a strip, is where you’ll find most of the dining options—steak, burgers, Chicago-style pizza, catfish, Mexican and even Thai. Time it right (Memorial Day and Thanksgiving), and the local firemen start a giant fire of their own to smoke 85 Boston butts to raise money for the station.
By far, the best known “eatin’ spot” is The Como Steakhouse, and as someone who was raised on steak dinners, I can attest to the fact that it truly lives up to the hype.
Open every evening except Sunday for dinner, it’s the place to be in Como. Here you will find locals and folks from all over (Oxford, Tunica, Memphis, etc.) dining and drinking together. (Yes, there’s a full bar!)
Count on a wait, but ask for a seat in the smoking section (aka the bar) and that wait will be half as long. Don’t worry—no one actually smokes in the smoking section. Ok, maybe there’s that one guy, but the bartender keeps the ashtrays hidden and doesn’t advertise that smoking is allowed. For really long waits, or just because you can, head upstairs to the oyster bar and have a dozen and a beer or two. When the weather is nice, sit and relax on the balcony that overlooks Main Street.
Back downstairs, you’ll pass open grills where perfectly aged, hand-cut steaks sizzle as you walk to your table. Prices for steaks range from $17.95 (16-ounce chop steak) to $38.95 (25-ounce bone-in ribeye), and all entrees include a salad with your choice of homemade dressing; a baked potato loaded with your choice of cheese, sour cream and bacon; and Texas toast. It feels like a deal, and the steak literally melts in your mouth. No one goes home hungry from The Como Steakhouse.
In fact, it’s likely you’ll leave in a full-on meat coma.
For lighter fare and maybe some pool playin’, check out the Como Billiards Restaurant at the end of Main Street, adjacent to the Bullfrog Corner convenience store and gas station. Upon first glance, it seems that the one pool table in the main dining room hardly constitutes a pool hall, but go around the counter, down the hall past the bathrooms, and you’ll find a much larger room with multiple tables—and, uh, some random workout equipment.
Photograph by Stacey Greenberg
But let’s go back to the counter. Have a seat, order a beer and let owner June Lewers make you the best damn burger you’ve ever tasted. Ask him to make it the way he makes it for himself—cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and mayo on a grilled bun. He’s got plenty of other things on his menu, but he stands by the burger, and rightly so. He’s open for lunch, and he serves food and beer until 1 a.m. on weekends, so you can let your steak digest.
A few other options for a third meal in Como: El Rio Mexican Restaurant is great for a quick margarita (or two) and a chip-and-dip fix; Thai Hut has excellent egg rolls, and a friendly owner who will tell you all about how he met his wife in Thailand; Windy City Grille’s pizza is delicious, but I’d debate the “Chicago-style” claim (however, the beers are cold, and there’s often live music on weekends).
Feeling sleepy? Hole up in the Craig Street Cabin.
Como has a number of pretty sweet lodging options. I absolutely love staying at the Craig Street Cabin ($125 per night). In fact, I probably shouldn’t even tell you about it! It’s less than a mile from town, and is tucked away in a pasture so you get the best of both worlds. There’s a comfy queen-size bed, fancy robes, lots of snacks and an amazing porch for sitting, reading and/or sipping a beer.
Depending on the time of year, you can watch the cows feeding, get a visit from deer or say hello to the resident fox.
Next door to the cabin is the Craig Street Cottage ($350 per night), which was built in 1894 and has been beautifully renovated. It features three bedrooms and two baths, heart-pine floors and a claw-foot tub. It’s the perfect spot for a family or a small group of friends.
Finally, the Como Inn ($125 per night), just a few doors down from the steakhouse, offers six guest rooms with king-size beds, private baths, a large gathering hall, a library and a fully stocked kitchen. There’s even a balcony overlooking the courtyard. One of these days, I’m going to take my besties and rent the place out.
All of these properties are owned by Frances May, who is a delight to talk to. The best way to reach her is by phone.
Convinced? Plan your visit.
Como is close enough that you can zip over for a steak dinner one week and go back for a burger and a game of pool the next. Follow Home Place Pastures on social and make plans to hit an event and spend the night. Whatever you decide, Como won’t disappoint.
Home Place Pastures
1789 Home Place Road
The Como Steakhouse
203 Main Street
Como Billiards Restaurant
103 Oak Street
Como Inn, Craig Street Cottage & Cabin
662.560.7454 (Frances May)
You can find Home Place Pastures at the 2019 Craft Food and Wine Festival on June 23rd. Buy your tickets here.
Stacey Greenberg is the editor of Edible Memphis.
Richard Lawrence takes pictures in and around the city of Memphis and the Mid-South. You can find him on Instagram @sundayinmemphis.