Charlie Dunn Upstairs, above B.B. King’s Blues Club at the Wind Creek Casino and Hotel in Montgomery, sits a restaurant nestled far, far away from the hustle and bustle below. Taking its name from B.B. King’s hometown of Itta Bena, Mississippi, a trip to this restaurant is like walking straight down Beale Street only to find yourself face to face with a hidden gem so unique, you’ll wonder why you’ve never ventured here before. At Itta Bena, everything is made in house, and the appetizers, entrees and desserts are delivered to you from a wait staff that aims to please with good, old-fashioned Southern hospitality. Simply put, dining here is an experience like none other, and it doesn’t boil down to just the amazing food.
Upon entering what might be the River Region’s best kept secret, you’re immediately greeted with a welcoming ambiance that is both romantic and alluring. The restaurant is quiet in a way that’s quaint, beautiful in a way that’s understated and sophisticated in a way that’s casual. Exposed brick pulled from King’s hometown decorate the walls and give it a charming and elegant feel, and the soft sounds of blues music lightly echo throughout the interior. Choose to sit surrounded by a seemingly infinite amount of candles, or relax in a comfy booth that works as a secret alcove, allowing guests to close the curtain for the utmost privacy. Next, be prepared to indulge in some of the finest delightful bites this side of the Mississippi from the hands of Executive Chef, Rocky Prince.
At Itta Bena, Chef Rocky doesn’t make you choose quality over quantity. You get both, and a good way to start your meal is by ordering one of their signature appetizers. For something that makes your taste buds truly ignite, try the scallops and grits. Sitting on a bed of Gruyere delta grind grits are two expertly cooked, pan-seared scallops that are so huge, you’ll feel as if your eyes are deceiving you. Next, take your time and pick a soup as you continue on with your journey into food heaven. Itta Bena’s signature she-crab soup does not disappoint –it’s the real deal. Lump crabmeat fills your bowl, its texture both chunky and divine, and when paired against other she-crab soups around town, this one by and large reigns supreme. As an alternative, the mushroom bisque combines the taste of three mushrooms for a soup that is savory, rich and scrumptious. When in doubt over the two, try the soup duo to sample each.
Scanning the menu in search of libations, Itta Bena doesn’t lack for options. From fine champagnes like Moët and Chandon, to hearty reds like the Buehler Cabernet Sauvignon, to crisp, clean white wines like Joel Gott’s Sauvignon Blanc, it’s a safe bet you can find something to please your palate. When you’re ready for your salad, fans of goat cheese will love the hand-gathered field greens salad where candied pecans, Granny Smith apples and red wine vinaigrette collide to make an appetizing segue before ordering your entrée.
For the main course, try Itta Bena’s shrimp and grits. This entrée is one for the record books – the shrimp are jumbo in size, and the grits, paired with all sorts of wonderful extras, up the ante on this Southern favorite. The restaurant is also known for its signature steaks, including a 16-ounce bone-in cowboy rib eye. Should you be in the mood for more lump crab, try the filet Oscar. Topped with béarnaise and served with asparagus and potatoes that come chock full of cheddar cheese, it’s a dish that literally melts in your mouth. As an alternative, the wild mushroom pasta is filled with rich Parmesan cheese that oozes its way from your fork as you take a bite.
When it’s time to finish off the evening’s decadence, end with the homemade crème brûlée –it’s an unbeatable desert that pairs nicely with a glass of Prosecco.
When the night is said and done, you’ll leave Itta Bena feeling as if you’ve been magically transported miles away from the action below you, perhaps to a speakeasy from another generation. The serene atmosphere combined with Chef Rocky’s impeccable ability to cook anything to perfection, makes a trip down Eddie L. Tullis Road worth the drive. Come as you are, whether it is in blue jeans or your finest attire, for a treat that will awaken and provoke all your senses, leaving you comfortably full and pleasingly satisfied.