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New Vidalia restaurant adds Mexican flare to barbecue classics

Thomas Graning/The Natchez Democrat — Randy Ellis prepares ribs at the Butt Hut restaurant in Vidalia Thursday. Ellis started working with the Butt Hut owner John Parks at the Under-the-Hill restaurant Magnolia Grill, another restaurant Parks owns and operates.
Thomas Graning/The Natchez Democrat — Randy Ellis prepares ribs at the Butt Hut restaurant in Vidalia Thursday. Ellis started working with the Butt Hut owner John Parks at the Under-the-Hill restaurant Magnolia Grill, another restaurant Parks owns and operates.

VIDALIA — Vidalia residents Alaina Lee and Kevin Nations don’t normally try new restaurants on a whim.

When the two locals went to try out the Butt Hut in Vidalia, they took their time and asked questions about what was on the menu.

“We kind of did our homework before we got food,” Nations said.

Nations settled on the restaurant’s signature hamburger, which is topped with brisket, bacon, cheese, onion straws, cole slaw and barbeque stacked several inches high.

“I was skeptical at first,” Nations said before taking another bite.

The two locals had given a stamp of approval to Vidalia’s newest restaurant, which opened June 24 on Carter Street.

The eatery is the creation of local restaurateur John Parks, who also operates Magnolia Grill in Natchez Under-the-Hill.

Parks sought to create a barbecue restaurant that combined traditional barbeque staples along with Mexican inspired dishes.

“Everyone loves barbeque and Mexican food,” said John Parks, owner of Butt Hut. “Why not put them together?”

Parks got his start in the restaurant business as a waiter at Magnolia Grill and was able to purchase the restaurant in 2010.

Magnolia Grill was the first restaurant Parks had owned, but the Natchez resident had worked in different capacities on kitchen staffs and in management positions at a variety of restaurants locally.

Parks started the process to open the Butt Hut months ago and was finally able to open its doors late last month.

Word of mouth spread quickly to Lee and her group of friends and coworkers about Vidalia’s newest restaurant attempting to put a spin on the classic barbecue meals.

Lee said she was not sure about the restaurant when she heard about their barbeque quesadillas, but wanted to try the restaurant anyway.

Lee tried the ribs Friday and said she enjoyed them, but she was more pleased to simply have a barbeque restaurant in Vidalia.

“Vidalia needs this,” Lee said.

Parks said he was planning on opening a barbeque restaurant since he opened up the Magnolia Grill.

The process for cooking the meat is overseen by Randy Ellis, who was known for his barbeque at the Natchez Landing, Parks said.

Afterward the Natchez Landing closed, Ellis started working at Magnolia Grill before taking an active part in getting the Butt Hutt running.

“He’s my right hand man,” Parks said.

Parks said he focused on variety when planning the menu for the Butt Hut, but he wanted it to be different enough from Magnolia Grill so the two restaurants were not competing.

“We wanted to do all the classic barbeque dishes,” Parks said. “But we wanted to have something for everyone.”

While the menu may deviate from the standard barbeque expectation, the restaurant tries to keep a classic barbeque style, Parks said, with a tin ceiling and a mounted deer head looking out over the dining area.

Now that the store has been open for a week, Parks said he is pleasantly surprised with the amount of attention the Butt Hut is getting.

“Customers are absolutely loving the food,” Parks said.

While there is a dining area, Parks said the staff stays busy preparing carryout orders for local offices.

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said the arrival of the new restaurant was a positive thing for the community.

“We are really excited for any new business that comes to Vidalia,” Copeland said. “It’s a tremendous asset to us.”

The Butt Hutt is located at 1100 Carter St., in Vidalia and is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.