Never in my professional or personal life have I felt compelled to utter the word amazeballs—until now.
Blame the fried mac-and-cheese bites made with pimento cheese at Mason Jar Tavern in Holly Springs. The appetizer arrives with five round balls, each the size of a generous hush puppy, nestled in marinara sauce on the plate. My first thought was "Did they get my order wrong? Where's the mac and cheese?" But, bite into one of those delicately crispy orbs to discover everything you seek. Cheese, macaroni, possibly the meaning of life, it's all there. They are ... well ... amazeballs.
Nothing else in my visits to the Mason Jar matched those ecstatic heights, but there is enjoyment to be found. Located in Holly Springs Towne Center surrounded by the likes of Target, Marshall's and Pier 1, the Mason Jar is a small (70ish people, max) and welcoming spot.
During my visits I saw a wide range of diners. There were families out for dinner, solo shoppers grabbing a quick bite, and friends meeting up after work to have a few beers and talk about their upcoming fantasy football draft. And, even at its busiest, the staff cheerfully interacted with customers in a way that suggested they wanted the Mason Jar to become the neighborhood spot. On one visit, my table's server was Nicole, who was attentive without being intrusive. No plate lingered, no refill went unfilled. On a separate visit, I was well taken care of by Lisa, who smoothly provided both for people seated at the bar and for servers needing drinks for their tables.
Pleasing bites on the menu include the chicken and waffles entrée. Four triangles of fluffy waffle in formation with three boneless pieces of crispy chicken make for a satisfying lunch. Bourbon-infused maple syrup and honey butter top off the waffles nicely, while the chicken is plump and juicy and avoids the perils of being overly greasy.
The kitchen apparently has a knack for frying. The corn fritters appetizer also avoids the curse of too much grease. The fritters are large and round, with just enough batter for crunch holding together a light, fluffy interior speckled with bits of corn. Served with a honey sauce on the side, they'll make you feel Southern even if you're not.
You can also order a plate of three sliders in one of three varieties—pulled pork, brisket or pimento cheese burger—or ask for it with one slider of each. The pimento cheese burger is the most flavorful, with the brisket a close second. The pulled pork was OK, but a bit monochromatic.
The menu also has a bevy of burgers, sandwiches and salads, as well as full-scale entrees such as North Carolina trout, seared sea scallops, and veggie kabobs. Plus, you can't help but smile at a kids menu that includes the option of an "Elvis Presley" consisting of a hot dog bun with bananas, honey and peanut butter.
Dishes generally fall in the $8–$12 range, with a couple of the entrees clocking in at around $17.
Most beverages are served in Mason jars. There are about a dozen craft beers on tap, priced from $4.50 to $5.50, plus each month a featured brewery is on special. So in March I was able to enjoy a Scottish ale from White Street Brewing for only $3.50. (Sadly, the Firefly Martini—a delightful blend of vodka, coconut rum, Melone liqueur, pineapple juice and a splash of Sprite—comes in a martini glass and not a Mason jar. Actually, a pitcher would've suited me even better.)
The Mason Jar has clearly found a receptive audience. At 6 on a recent midweek evening, almost all of the tables indoors and on the patio were full, and only a few seats remained at the bar. There was a steady buzz of conversation, occasional bits of laughter, the clink of glasses, the soundtrack of people enjoying themselves. I expect you'll enjoy your visit too ... especially if you try the amazeballs.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Comfort jar."