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John Currence Adds Personal Touch to Decor in City Grocery Restaurants

Photo by Mitchell Dowden
Photo by Mitchell Dowden

At first glance, City Grocery, Lamar Lounge, Snackbar, Bouré and Big Bad Breakfast all seem to have different owners not because of the cuisine, but based on the interior design of each and every restaurant.

Chef John Currence Photo courtesy City Grocery Group
Chef John Currence
Photo courtesy City Grocery Group

John Currence, the executive chef and owner of all restaurants in the City Grocery Restaurant Group, decorated his restaurants as attentively as he would a dining menu. “They are all done sort of individually, a continuity that evolves constantly,” said Currence. “We don’t hire an interior designer to come in.” Each restaurant boasts individual design from Lamar Lounge’s alluring bar gifted by Elizabeth Taylor to Eddie Fisher to vintage pop in Big Bad Breakfast to warm elegance in City Grocery.

City Grocery
City Grocery
152 Courthouse Square
Photo by Mackenzie Ross

Currence said City Grocery underwent the most changes out of these restaurants. This restaurant, among the first to appear during the revival of the Oxford Square, has exposed brick walls with plush booths lining them. The narrow restaurant feels remarkably sizable with its tall ceilings and elegant lighting hanging in a neat row above.

Lamar Lounge
Lamar Lounge
1309 N. Lamar Blvd.
Photo by Mackenzie Ross

Lamar Lounge echoes a little of that elegance with its breathtaking ceiling-to-floor bar from the bygone Hollywood days. The eclectic barbecue restaurant, complete with whole hog smoking pit, feels like a smoky country bar, a perfect escape from hustle and bustle as one plays songs on the vintage jukebox to enjoy pit-smoked meat to. Currence said his designs come from places he had been in his life. He wanted to recreate the feel of these places, perhaps to remember how far he had come from relentless work. “In one shape or form, they are individual pieces that I pick up here and there,” Currence said. “The design at BBB reflects half of the different places I used to love to eat at as a kid — most of them in New Orleans.”

Big Bad Breakfast
Big Bad Breakfast
719 N. Lamar Blvd.
Photo by Mackenzie Ross

Big Bad Breakfast has delightful imagery of all sizes that takes one back to cafés with personality in New Orleans: a framed portrait of Kramer from Seinfeld, vintage ads from 1950s to 1960s and a huge Elvis Presley poster, because why not? These posters add pop to the diner feel of BBB alongside its breakfast counter. The unique decor adds a heightened experience to what is one of the most commonly touted breakfast spots in Mississippi and the South with a new counterpart in Birmingham, Alabama.

721 N. Lamar Blvd.
Photo by Mackenzie Ross

It’s a contrast to neighboring Snackbar, which has more of a country lodge getaway in the dining and bar area, though the restaurants share the same kitchen. Snackbar is the night to the sunny atmosphere at BBB with its star-shaped light fixtures, arched doorways and well-stocked high bar. The dark wood of the walls, tables, chairs and bar adds a sense of sophistication to the classy eaterie, making it a popular date spot in Oxford.

Bouré 110 Courthouse Square
110 Courthouse Square
Photo by Mackenzie Ross

Named for the card game from the Acadiana area of Louisiana, Bouré also shares the New Orleans feel with BBB, but in sophisticated, French Quarter style. Many come to Bouré to enjoy its sprawling corner balcony, an Oxonian parallel to the balcony gazing in New Orleans, or just to retreat inside for cozy dining or casual drinks in the warm, dark wood rooms. “Now some days, there is no place I’d rather be than Bouré, another day I want to be in Lamar Lounge,” said Currence. “So it really is a day-to-day thing. I love a lot of things about all of them.”

Callie Daniels is a staff reporter and writer for HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at callie.daniels@hottytoddy.com.

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