Tupelo and Hungry Mother are two of the most celebrated additions to the Cambridge eating scene over the past year. That they are both southern inspired suggests a niche in the Boston area that was screaming to be filled at least since the closing of Bob the Chef’s over on Tremont. By most accounts, Tupelo and Hungry Mother are doing a fine job, and our experiences at both restaurants largely confirm this. So a traditional like/dislike review seems less appropriate in this case than a comparison of these largely similar establishments. If you’re in the mood for some catfish, fried oysters, roasted chicken or grits where should you go? Here’s recommending Tupelo.

With appetizers at $5-8 and entrees for $12-15 Tupelo beats Hungry Mother’s prices ($8-11 apps and $18-25 entrees) by a sizable margin, without sacrificing anything when it comes to the food or atmosphere (though Hungry Mother does trump Tupelo in terms of drink selection and quality). Tupelo’s fried oysters with green tomatoes ($8) stacked up against Hungry Mother’s fried oysters ($11) and I preferred their catfish ($14.50) to Mother’s ($18).

Most of Hungry Mother’s offerings stray a bit too far from the comfort food and too close to the French for my taste. The dishes tend to be a bit more “refined” than at Tupelo, but in a totally vanilla way. There is nothing comforting or interesting about the rainbow trout dish below. Other entrees on the menu are similarly uninspired e.g.  french style gnocchi (I’m not sure what makes these gnocchi French, but anything that would make them less Italian can’t be good) and veal strip loin. These items do not jump off the menu. Tupelo’s entrees, on the other hand, sound unhealthy and delicious: beer battter crepes, daube of beef with hominy mashed potatoes, bourbon maple bbq chicken, new orleans gumbo. The one disappointing part of Tupelo was the biscuit. There are few breads I like more than a good biscuit, but this version was dry and bland. Other than that, Tupelo satisfied on all counts.

Hungry Mother's fried Chesapeake Bay Oysters

Hungry Mother's fried Chesapeake Bay Oysters

Crispy Catfish with fresh green tomatoes, parsley potatoes, and pickled jalapeno aioli

Tupelo's Crispy Catfish with fresh green tomatoes, parsley potatoes, and pickled jalapeno aioli

Hungry Mother's cornmeal catfish

Hungry Mother's cornmeal catfish w/low country red rice middlins, andouille sausage, green tomato relish

Fish was good, but the middlins were quite bland, which was an issue the last time I had this dish.

Hungry Mother's grilled rainbow trout, fingerlings, red vidalias, bacon, almond-brown butter

Hungry Mother’s grilled rainbow trout, fingerlings, red vidalias, bacon, almond-brown butter

Half Roasted Chicken, Bourbon-Maple BBQ chicken with cheddar grits, sweet onions and quick dressed greens

Tupelo's Half Roasted Chicken, Bourbon-Maple BBQ chicken with cheddar grits, sweet onions and quick dressed greens

The half-chicken was moist and sticky and salty and sweet and went great with the dense cornbread and the cheesy grits. This is what I want if I’m in the mood for southern flavors.

Tupelo's Brown Butter Pecan Pie with Toscanini's Tupelo honey ice cream and blackberry sauce

Tupelo's Brown Butter Pecan Pie with Toscanini's Tupelo honey ice cream and blackberry sauce

The pecan pie was delicious though i read somewhere that it might be off the menu now. The rest of the desserts looked equally good, so there should be no shortage of delicious ways to finish your meal.

Tupelo on Urbanspoon

Hungry Mother on Urbanspoon