Downtown Hattiesburg

New District at Midtown Offers Places to Eat, Stay and Play

Four years ago, seven acres in the heart of Hattiesburg held the University of Southern Mississippi’s Elam Arms dormitory and parking lot. Then a tornado hit.

Today that site holds The District at Midtown, a humming complex of restaurants, stores, condominiums and a hotel that offers visitors and residents alike an array of “eat-play-stay” options from early morning to late at night two miles west of the city’s downtown. It is right across Hardy Street from the USM campus and within easy walking distance of the 545-bed Forrest General Hospital and the Hattiesburg Clinic.

Locally-owned Terra Equities opened the $35 million mixed-use development in summer 2018.

Anchoring the project is Hotel Indigo, a 100-room boutique hotel that draws its design theme from Hattiesburg’s past as a railroading and timber center. Part of the big International Hotel Group, the Indigo is franchised by Hattiesburg Hospitality.

“The Tatum family, our principal owners, started in the Hattiesburg area in the railroad and timber industries,” said then Hotel Indigo General Manager Rhonda Cunningham. “Even the hotel’s restaurant, The Brass Hat, is reminiscent of a railroad dining car of the 1930s.”

The railroad-themed Brass Hat inside the hotel features chef-driven small plates, hand-crafted cocktails and a well-curated wine list. “One of our most popular items is the beef short rib sandwich,” Cunningham said. “Then we have a smoked French cut pork chop and a petite beef tenderloin filet, amazing Crab Cake BLT, Fried Duck Wings and many other shareable items and entrees, as well as weekly Chef’s Features.”

Cunningham said the Indigo draws many of its guests from people attending games, participating in conferences or visiting students at the university; medical professionals and patient relatives drawn to Hattiesburg by Forrest General; and people attending weddings and family reunions.    

Robert St. John has long been one of Hattiesburg’s top restaurateurs. His New South Restaurant Group started with The Purple Parrot in 1987. The group had grown to four eateries and two taverns even before The District was built. But when St. John opened two of The District’s 10 restaurants in 2018 – Midtown Donuts and The Midtowner – it felt like a return to his roots.

“I grew up in a house just a few blocks from here and live eight or nine blocks away,” St. John said. “But The District is certainly a game-changer for this part of Hattiesburg.”

“We get a big amount of our business from the university,” St. John said. That especially peaks on Saturdays in the fall, as energetic crowds of USM football fans converge on USM’s stadium a few blocks away for “Game Day at the Rock.”

The Midtowner specializes in breakfasts and traditional Southern “Meat and 3” lunches. Midtown Donuts offers donuts and coffee for people out at the same time of day who are looking for a bit lighter fare.

Hungry folk bound for The District also can choose from:

Asian Cafe – Choose from a variety of poke bowls (Poke of Fire, Salmon, Tuna, etc.) plus pho, ramen and burrito dishes.

Chicken Salad Chick – A dozen flavors of chicken salad plus deli sandwiches.

Fuzzy’s Taco Shop – A modern counter-service chain serving Baja-style tacos and other Mexican eats, plus beer and margaritas.

PYRO’s Fire Fresh Pizza – Customized gourmet pizza with toppings such as steak, Cajun chicken, artichoke hearts, zucchini and roasted broccoli.

Rock N Roll Sushi – The 23rd location of a chain that started in Mobile, Ala., its music-inspired headliners include a a Pearl Jam Roll, a Johnny Cash Roll and a Rolling Stones Roll, plus appetizers, beer, liquor and wine.

Southern Kernels – A gourmet popcorn shop with flavors such as Sea Salt & Black Pepper, Birthday Cake, Cinnamon Roll, Dill Pickle, Caramel & Peanuts and Caramel & Sea Salt.

Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe – Serving Mediterranean fare like gyros, grilled chicken roll-ups and turkey club ciabatta.

Besides eating, staying and playing, The District includes 8 Class A apartments and a retail section that includes an AT&T store, a nail salon, an upscale workout studio and a clothing boutique.