January 14, 2011 10:22:00 AM
Is the way to the area''s economic recovery through our stomachs?
Maybe so. Several interesting new restaurants have opened across the Golden Triangle in recent weeks.
Among them are Bann Thai, Columbus'' first Thai restaurant, on Military Road. Next door is Possum Town Tavern, which despite its name serves food with an international flair -- Spanish tapas, Hungarian meatballs and other fare.
The Thai place, perhaps the most exotic new addition, has been wildly popular with the local lunch crowd. In a land where fried chicken and the "meat-and-three" lunch plate reign supreme, locals haven''t been afraid of a little dietary diversity.
Joining these restaurants are La Fogata, a new East Columbus Mexican restaurant, opened by the owners of the popular Mi Hacienda restaurant on Highway 45. And, next to Mi Hacienda, workers are doing construction on Smackers, a new frozen yogurt shop. American Deli, located in Leigh Mall, is opening a location in East Columbus, near the Little Dooey.
Columbus isn''t alone. In Starkville, the new Central Station Grill opened last week, which had relocated to the renovated Borden milk plant from the Cotton District. Also new to Starkville are Local Culture, a frozen yogurt place, and bakery, the Cake Box.
People are also following their noses to the new Bob-Robert''s Barbecue, down Highway 45 South in Lowndes County.
All this is pleasant news to local palates. But does it signal a larger economic recovery? Can the recession''s grip can be loosened with a little barbecue sauce or spring rolls?
We hope so. Statewide, Mississippi has a tough slog. Ever behind the rest of the nation, we''re also behind in terms of the timing and speed of our recovery from the Great Recession -- this from state economist Darrin Webb.
Webb, who briefed state lawmakers this week as they prepare to draft a budget for the coming year, predicted it''ll be 2015 before Mississippi reaches the employment levels it saw in 2008, before the recession began.
Housing starts are at 1991 levels, Webb said. His briefing was timed with some other bad economic news. Foreclosures in the state jumped more than twofold from two years ago, according to research firm RealtyTrac. Still, Mississippi''s housing market remains much more stable than most other states.
That''s glum news to digest. Let''s go out to eat instead. The recession may not be over, but at least we have a Thai place.