Just down the block from the Oxford Performing Arts Center sits the downtown district’s only restaurant: Hubbard’s Off Main. While that could be lot of pressure for one recently opened Southern dining eatery to shoulder, Hubbard’s seems to have everything in order for a successful reign in the heart of downtown Oxford.
Charming setting — check. Diverse menu, enticing specials — check, check. Covered outdoor dining area laden with all kinds of live music/pet-friendly/downtown social hub potential — check plus.
But are any of these the main draw of Hubbard’s Off Main?
Nope. That distinction belongs to three little words unassumingly listed on the menu under appetizers: Dueling Chicken Salad.
You may recall last summer The Star asking its Facebook followers who they thought had the best chicken salad in the county. The post received more than 100 responses, so I’m guessing I’m not the only one for whom this comes as welcome news: When it comes to chicken salad, Hubbard’s Off Main nails it — twice.
The Dueling Chicken Salad comes to the table in two heaping scoops — one traditional, one spicy — which is where the “dueling” part comes in. As the two versions face off, you’ll be glad those scoops are stacked so tall because this is a decision that takes more than one bite.
If you’re from the classical school of chicken salad — sans fruit, generous on the mayo, not shy on the chopping block — it’s safe to say you’ll be back for more.
Although it’s not listed on the menu, the server assured me it’s no problem to order up the duel’s victor sandwich style, on a brioche bun or wheatberry.
Now while I myself find it hard to believe, head chef Brett Jenkins seems to understand there are diners out there who might prefer to follow their chicken salad appetizer with something other than a chicken salad sandwich. Enter the enticing specials mentioned earlier — daily offerings the likes of salmon BLTs and slow-roasted prime rib paninis with caramelized onion, to name just a couple.
Of course, as the restaurant’s intimate dark wood and brick interior and notably nontraditional wine list imply, this kitchen is up to more than just a great sandwich. Say, for instance, pan-seared Alaskan halibut in a citrus compound butter, or a T-bone steak topped with Madeira wine sauce; or how about New Zealand rack of lamb or scallops with a tarragon creme sauce?
And remaining true to its Main Street surroundings, Hubbard’s seasonal dishes regularly feature produce from Downtown After Sundown vendors and other local sources.
One example: the fresh strawberry Frios Pop, a frozen treat made with freshly picked strawberries from Heflin, Wright's Dairy milk and organic sugar. Jenkins is collaborating with the Gadsden-based Frios Gourmet Pops to offer an endless selection of farm-to-popsicle stick flavors. With flavors like avocado and lime, sea-salted caramel and ancho chili chocolate in the works, it’s a safe bet the Hubbard’s Off Main patio will be the place to be in downtown Oxford all summer long.