Ox Kitchen’s chef and owner Bo Hamilton takes a break after the lunch crowd comes through Windmill Market. His experience from kitchens in Auburn, Atlanta and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, combine with his admiration for the food culture of Oxford, Mississippi, to make his “new South” menu. Photos by Elizabeth Gelineau
Last year, Chef Bo Hamilton and his family felt their Southern roots tugging at their heartstrings, so they decided to leave Jackson Hole, Wyoming, behind. Although Bo hails from Birmingham and his wife, Molly, is from Oxford, Mississippi, the looming question of where to settle was easily answered after their first visit to Fairhope. With amazing outdoor activities (something the couple had grown accustomed to during their time out West) and its proximity to both of their families, the Eastern Shore seemed like the perfect fit.
Though Hamilton had cooked in high-end kitchens across the country, he dreamed of opening a place where he could serve quality food without all the bull. The world has gone casual, he says, which fits his flip-flop kind of lifestyle. He began looking for a space where he could serve his unique interpretations of classic Deep South flavors. Southern cuisine is so “identifiable, evocative, with such soul, ” he says, and the years spent away from Alabama made him fall in love with those flavors all over again.
Hamilton opened Ox Kitchen this May in a tucked-away corner of Fairhope’s Windmill Market, a place with plenty of soul to match the food he prepares. His goal is to serve high quality food at approachable prices. The tiny outpost that he calls a “permanent food truck” helps keep the costs down, and those savings get passed on to the customer. Despite the diminutive size, the dining room is bright and airy with plenty of style. Shiny red metal chairs add a pop of color to the otherwise rustic space, and an oversized sketch of the restaurant’s namesake animal hangs over the wooden tables. (The name Ox is also a nod to his wife’s hometown and its reputation for excellent Southern cuisine.)
The menu, which could be termed “new South casual, ” features a number of creative sandwiches with bold flavors built around classic Southern ingredients. Homemade pickles that Hamilton admits to have worked on for months to get just right, herbs picked from the Windmill’s garden and everyone’s favorite Duke’s Mayonnaise complement high-quality pork, chicken, beef and Gulf oysters. Be sure to try the Smoked Pork and Greens Sammy, which is an unexpected winner that packs a little heat. Hand-cut fries are tossed in a smoked paprika seasoning blend. Collard greens are elevated with a touch of white wine in the braising. The burger, opposite, is topped with a splash of oxtail “gravy, ” a rich French demi-glace of shredded oxtail, red wine and brandy. Each menu item is layered and complex, but at the same time familiar, comfortable and ready for you to dig in with both hands. Keep a napkin handy, y’all.
On the Menu
Fried Gulf Oyster BLT
Perfectly fried bivalves are slathered in a spicy chipotle rémoulade and then layered on thick, buttery, toasted sourdough bread. Bo adds a pile of diced bacon, shredded lettuce and tomato for the perfect next-generation po’boy.
Pork and Greens Sammy
A Deep South take on the porchetta sandwich, this burger is piled high with juicy slices of roasted pork shoulder, Wickles cherry pepper relish, a few collard greens, Duke’s mayo and thick slices of the aforementioned bread. The flavor is phenomenal.
Berry & Feta Salad
Fresh herbs from the Windmill Market’s gardens are blended into a creamy vinaigrette that pairs nicely with the warm grilled chicken and crisp local veggies of this entree salad. Plump blueberries, salty feta and a little crunch from sunflower seeds finish it off.
The Ox Burger
This burger sums up the Ox menu, with old South ingredients married to upscale French cooking technique. Certified Angus beef is drizzled with homemade oxtail demi-glace gravy, American cheese, homemade pickles, Duke’s mayo, shredded lettuce and tomato, all piled high on a brioche bun.
Ox Kitchen • 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. M – S, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. F
Inside Windmill Market, 85 N. Bancroft St., Fairhope. 990-8533
Average entree price: $10