Stella Creates New Fine Dining Experience on the Square

Kobe short ribs from Stella
Stella owner Johnny Kirk cooks his short ribs for 72 hours at 137 degrees to achieve medium rare/medium perfection.

Talk about credentials – Stella, a fine-dining restaurant located at 208 South Lamar, has it all, starting with its award-winning chef and owner Johnny Kirk. Previously operating a restaurant by the same name in Memphis, Kirk received multiple best-restaurant and best-chef awards there. He was also named a “Rising Star of American Cuisine” by the James Beard Foundation.

Stella is unique in that the restaurant’s proteins are raised at the owners’ family farm in Chickasaw County.

Perusing the restaurant’s wine list, the tag line, “Mood Food Wine,” seems accurate. Co-owner Cindy Kirk’s expertise in selecting high-quality wines led to Stella’s Memphis location winning the Wine Spectator Award every year while the restaurant was in business. As Cindy says, “You have to drink it to know it.”

Stella features several unusual dishes, including the signature Crawfish Cheesecake. Another tasty appetizer—one that Cindy describes as “just delicious”—is the Buttermilk Fried Oysters, featuring oysters from Portland, Maine.

Peekytoe crab cake Stella
The crab cake at Stella features peekytoe crab, whole-grain mustard emulsion, roasted sweet peppers and cilantro.

The photos in the restrooms sparked our curiosity. Cindy explained that the name of the restaurant is a family name on both sides. Her great-grandmother, Stella, is represented in the ladies room, while Johnny’s beloved black lab, also named Stella, is pictured in the men’s room.

Stella is a true family restaurant. Manager Megan Christian is Cindy’s niece and, while growing up, spent her summers playing hostess at the Memphis location.

The restaurant’s name honors co-owner Cindy Kirk’s grandmother, Stella, as well as Johnny’s beloved black lab.

Stella’s management plan for ensuring customer satisfaction starts with a one-table approach to service. Any server can resolve a table’s needs immediately rather than requiring the customers to wait if their table’s assigned waiter or waitress is momentarily busy at another table.

Stella is open 5-10 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, for dinner. Lunch is served 11 a.m.- 2 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, and Sunday brunch is from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. A small-plates happy hour menu is offered from 5-7 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday.

Stella also offers a special Christmas Eve Brunch on Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. And a free glass of champagne will be served at the New Year’s Eve Brunch.

Steve VassalloSteve Vassallo is a contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at or call him at 985-852-7745.