TUPELO • Zeke Banks’ interest in food began early, when he started working for Sweet Peppers Deli at age 16.
And now five years later, with a catering business already in operation, he’s opened his first restaurant, The Dining Room, in the food court of Midtown Pointe.
“It’s two years, going on three” with the catering business, Banks said. “This opportunity opened up for me, and now I’m here. At 21, I can say I’m truly blessed with the catering company and now The Dining Room.”
As for the restaurant, it has an eclectic menu that includes burgers, salads, pasta, shrimp and grits and wings. The menu also borrows from tried-and-trued items he’s catered.
His idea to cater developed when he was at Sweet Peppers.
“I just started picking up a few things, putting together some fruit trays,” Banks said. “I was doing jus small events, nothing too big, just small parties and things.”
Then people started asking if he’d like to cater weddings. Hesitant at first, Banks decided to give it a try.
He’s appreciative of chefs and cooks who offered him advice, taking him under their wing. He also studied a lot about various cooking techniques.
“Everything I have on my menu is an original item, something I’ve prepared multiple times and perfected,” he said. “It’s gone really well.”
Monday was the first day of business for The Dining Room, which is open Monday and Tuesday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Wednesday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“It was busy – we sold out of burgers,” Banks said of his first day. “But every burger is hand-patted, and it’s a recipe I came up with a couple months back. I love a good burger, and I believe this one is going to stick.”
The Dining Room’ menu is cooked to order, but starting Tuesday, it also will begin offering a plate lunch what will have a rotating menu.
Banks said customers can expect entrees like fried chicken, baked chicken, ribs from C.H.O.P., loaded potato casserole, spaghetti, fish and hamburger steaks.
“That’s where our southern roots will really come out on the hot bar,” he said.