2820 Historic Decatur Road, Liberty Station
When I first saw Liberty Station, I wasn’t impressed. I liked the open spaces but thought it was just another tourist trap that I didn’t need to visit unless out-of-towners forced my hand.
My opinion has modified in recent years, thanks to things such as the Stone Brewing Gardens (really a beautiful use of the space), Slater’s 50/50 burgers, and the recent addition of The Lot, one of those movie theaters that allow you to act like the pig you are at home, but in public. Now it’s become a destination of choice thanks to the Liberty Public Market, a facility that allows foodies a chance to eat all different types of food or purchase high-quality meats, cheeses, and veggies.
Most of the places are just casual take-aways, but Mess Hall is the “fancy” restaurant, serving an ever-changing menu of goodies using items obtained from the vendors at the market. That place alone makes me want to come back to Liberty Station soon and often.
I put the word “fancy” in quotes, because it’s only fancy by comparison to the other vendors in the market, most of which don’t have chairs, but it’s very casual, the type of place where you can relax for a while sipping on wine, beer, or cocktails.
The menu changes fairly often, based on what’s in season. The menu lists a beer or wine pairing for each item. That was great, especially since the waitress offered servings in 4, 8, or 16-ounce portions perfect for sampling a lot of beers.
I lucked out in that the beer I wanted to try, Societe the Heiress, a Czech pilsner, was paired with housemade pickles and veggies ($8) and the heirloom tomato salad ($14). The pickles were sublime, alternatively sweet and sour with a depth that I have never been able to match on my own pickling attempts.
As far as I’m concerned, you can’t go wrong with heirloom tomatoes if they’re in season. This was a good call with the Mess Hall version, served with shaved zucchini, green beans, grated boschetto cheese, and balsamic vinegar.
My wife enjoyed the corn soup ($12), which was a chowder topped with charred tomato and smoked oil that added spice but not heat. Like everything else, it was fresh and simply but elegantly prepared.
I chose the Rocky Sweet Melon Salad ($14), which was a little different than I expected. When I saw the prosciutto listed, I assumed it would be wrapped around cuts of melon. The melon was actually shaved off in large strips and served over goat ricotta. The prosciutto was fried to a crisp like bacon and topped the salad, as did blackberries. It was cool and refreshing. It’s hard to find melon that fresh in stores, so the muskiness was wonderful.
Instead of entrées, my wife and I decided to each get a pizza ($14 each). She chose one with cauliflower, romesco sauce, and manchego cheese. The red pepper romesco sauce was a nice deviation from tomato sauce, while the cauliflower was tender and the manchego added a slight tanginess. It wasn’t as memorable as either of the salads, but it was a nice accompaniment.
I preferred the pie made with merguez sausage, chermoula (a Middle Eastern spice mix like za’atar), and labneh. The sausage had a lot of cumin and sumac in it, and the labneh added a cooling effect that was pleasant.
I enjoyed Mess Hall, mainly because you can taste the ingredients in the food — it’s not covered up by sauce. I came out of there feeling relaxed, like I had enjoyed a home cooked meal prepared by someone who didn’t let their ego get in the way of the ingredients.