The drinks problem may be well-enough addressed by the ice water in mason jars, often refilled. A watermelon sangria ($6) taken off the menu last week was surprisingly good, with watermelon juice taking the part of the usual fruits in a white sangria style. There is a wine list, but few wines can stand up to this cuisine. Luckily, both of Louisiana's celebrated breweries are well represented. Dixie, a historic brewery destroyed in Katrina, has kept it's century-old name alive with contract-brewed runs. Abita Brewing Company, in Covington, was up and running again in a few months, and I tried their Jockamo IPA ($4). This is a strong ale and might be too bitter on its own, but is ideal with the food at Tupelo.
Coffee ($2) is served in French press! This may not excite you, but it has two very important advantages: you always get a fresh cup of decaf (decaf does not hold), and the variety of Rao's coffees lets you pick and choose. Tea ($2) is likewise served correctly.
And, at last, desserts. Tupelo employs a pastry chef, but pies are still king. Banana cream ($7) is topped with meringue like a chiffon pie, and is so wonderfully Southern and delicious. Pecan pie ($7) is a more perfect match of crust, filling, and crunch, with added ice cream (vanilla or bourbon on my night). I took the bourbon, which was lightly flavored but a fine foil for pie. A double-chocolate cake ($7) was terrific, despite lack of pie crust. We got ice cream with that one, too.
Service on an early weekend night (no reservations except weekdays) was fine, even as the place jammed up. The dining room has copper-topped tables, bordello-red wainscoting, and bright yellow paint above, with a lot of New Orleans paintings and murals concentrated over the small bar. They could use the best background music in the world — our party was on the way to House of Blues to see Dr. John and the Neville Brothers — but don't. Modest-priced Cajun comfort and dynamite pies will have to be the attraction.
Robert Nadeau can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.