*Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on Oxford Stories
By Margaret Culver
To some, the small town of New Albany may just be a sign you pass on the highway. But if you pull off the road and visit the town, you may be pleasantly surprised by its charming historic downtown.
The Rainey, one of New Albany’s best fine dining restaurants, is located there. The town may be small with a population just shy of 9,000, but it is filled with fun people who enjoy a night out for yummy food and drinks.
A few years go New Albany resident Adam Martin realized his town lacked fine dining. This was a common complaint among residents, and Martin wanted to change that.
Martin, a chiropractor, spent a few years in the restaurant industry as an undergraduate. He teamed with partners Tom Stands, Bill Rutledge and Chuck Cooper to create the restaurant. They hired Steven Flagg, a James Beard-award-winning chef.
The restaurant is located in the heart of New Albany. They said they picked an older, rustic building to give the restaurant an upscale city feel.
“When you walk in, you don’t realize you’re in Mississippi”, Martin said.
The Rainey prides themselves in being “A New Generation of Southern Cuisine” bringing forth a “new generation of southern cuisine with local ingredients, fresh produce, and creole influences,” according to its website.
It’s a typical scratch kitchen. Everything, even down to the sauces and dressings is made from scratch. Some popular menu items include Delta-bronzed catfish, citrus quail, mango chop, and a local favorite; ribbed filet steak. They are also known for their handcrafted cocktails like the Mississippi Whiskey Revival and the Honeysuckle Mojito.
Martin and his partners mainly oversee what goes on at the restaurants. A typical day for them means stopping by and making sure everything is running smoothly.
Something unique about The Rainey is their efficiency. All orders are taken on an iPad carried by the waiter and then printed in the kitchen to be prepared. This system makes taking orders more efficient and ensures that no mistakes will be made in the kitchen. This is something not commonly seen in the restaurant business.
When it comes to Martin’s business philosophy, he believes that consistency is key.
“If something works, why try and change it?” he said.
That being said, he claims that this is one of the hardest parts of his job. Today, people are constantly trying to change things up and keep up with the trends. He says that it can sometimes be hard to make sure that his staff sticks to the plan and remains consistent.
The Rainey offers many activities at night that draw a lively crowd. They’ve had everything from book signings to trivia nights and often have live music events. These events unite the town with food.
“We plan on keeping things local,” Martin said. “We went into this wanting to enhance our community experience.”
Lucy Martin, daughter of Adam Martin, worked for her father at The Rainey as a hostess. Her favorite part of working there was getting to try all of the specials. This was her first job, and she said it taught her a lot about working in the restaurant industry.
“The atmosphere is great, and you’re always busy,” she said.