As a former residence of Mississippi- it'll always be my home- I've sadly noted the lack of good discussion of Mississippi food places on this website. Plenty of really good places haven't been mentioned at all. So, I hope with this (rather long) post to start generating a solid discussion about places to eat there. I'm from the Jackson area, so my posts will naturally be biased towards locations around there. I challenge all Mississippi readers to add comments to my musings, and more importantly add new places as suggestions. Let's give Mississippi some respect on this board. It has a great food heritage.
First off, we should talk catfish. As every true Mississippian knows, barbecue does not drive heated arguments across the state like it does in the rest of the south. Fried catfish does. We all have an opinion and where our favorite places are. But, no matter the place, Mississippi catfish is always better than anywhere else. I've spent the past 4 years in Texas (Houston and Austin), and I refuse to eat their fried catfish. It just doesn?t taste the same, the batter is too heavy and the fish doesn?t taste fresh enough. It's a similar attitude that my Louisiana friends have about gumbo away from their state, or my Texas friends have about barbecue not from the Lone Star State.
And these catfish places have some of the most character of any kind of food establishment Mississippi. I've heard of places where they have catfish ponds out in the back, and you go out and catch a fish and they cook it for your right there. Most catfish places will serve fillets or catfish halves with the bones left in. The meal will generally come with hushpuppies, French fries, and cole slaw. All you-can-eat deals can generally be had as well. I've been to a place that is more of a heavy-duty tent than restaurant. When people get together in Mississippi, it's generally for a fish fry. Eating catfish is a communal action found all over the state.
All of this being said, I?m not going to start naming many places. One reason is I haven?t been to that many and most I don't remember the names. I will merely say that if you visit Mississippi and want the true Mississippi food experience, you should ask some locals where the best catfish place is and go and enjoy the experience. For the record, I grew up close to Brandon, and I enjoy Cindy's close the Hwy 25 and 471 intersection.
Compared, to the rest of the South, Mississippi has a severe lack of barbecue. However, there is one place that deserves ample praise. Leatha?s now in Hattisburg. This is no doubt my favorite place to eat in the whole state. I am a barbecue hound (my love of it, helped me find this website), and I've had and enjoyed some of the best. Parker's, Lexington, Dreamland, Interstate, Country Tavern (an unheralded rib place near Kilgore, TX) , Cooper's, Kreuz's. All of these are great places serving amazing meat. But, Miss Leatha Jackson tops them all. She serves melt-in-your-mouth ribs, tender beef short ribs, all covered with a very unique sauce, it's sweet, but not overly so. Amazing stuff. On my barbecue scale, she rates a 99 out of 100. No place has ever gotten a 100, because I'm afraid that food that good would cause a heart attack, and I would go to that great barbecue pit in the sky.
Sadly, like Kreuz's in Lockhart, TX, she has been transitioning in the past year. She used to be based in Foxworth, but because of tax problems or something, has moved to Hattisburg with new ownership. I've been down twice since she re-opened. The first time in October was disappointing. Merely ordinary ribs. But my second visit in late December, had her back on top. Some of the charm of the old place is gone (there is just something right about having to drive way out in the country to get good ribs), but there are still towels for curtains on the windows, the superb cole slaw is still mustard based (try it, you'll like it). She's also has a website now and a lunchtime location (go to the real place). The website will help you with directions (hard to find, the place is off Highway 98 behind a set of green buildings). www.leathas.com This place should definitely be included in every barbecue junkie?s must-eat list.
Jackson, for a town of its size (~400K) has some really good food finds. Here's a quick summary of my favorite places in the Jackson area:
Times Change. Many consider this Jackson?s finest restaurant. A small place with only 4-5 workers including the chef, Tom. His lamb is outstanding, and I've had some elk there that was amazing. I understand that Times Change has moved to Madison, but I haven't been to the new location.
Bravo! Another jewel of a restaurant serving consistently good food. Their free-range chicken with asiago cheese butter is to die for. Many good pasta dishes as well. In Highland Village.
Mayflower Café. A downtown, 50s diner that has retained its character. Like many places in Jackson, there is a Greek influence on the food. The seafood salad is especially memorable. Make sure you try the Comeback sauce. Comeback is, apparently, a Jackson food quirk. I guess you would call it a spicy Thousand Island but much, much better. I like it best on crackers.
Marcels. In the northern part of town. Another Greek influenced place. Try their broiled red fish. It's great, and I don?t even like most fish. The same family owns Creshel's (I may be spelling that wrong) in the southern part of town.
Farmer's Market. Close to downtown off Woodrow Wilson Blvd. Next to the Farmer's Market, this place always has amazing vegetables at really good prices. Their breakfast is also and amazing bargain.
Hal and Mal's. Another downtown restaurant that also offers live music. The menu is pure Southern (mmhhh, fried pickles) and the music is good too.
Thats my take on Jackson. Who wants to make additions?
I'm not as familiar with the rest of Mississippi. In fact, I don't know of any places along the coast or in the Northwest part of the state (come on Mississippi State people, where do you like to eat?) However, there are some real gems to be found:
Doe's Eat Place in Greenville (Make sure you go the original and not their spur by the highway). A very famous place for their 40oz. Porterhouse steaks, French fries, and tamales (can someone explain to me why African Americans, at least those in Mississippi, make tamales?). The steaks have immense flavor and have a wonderful flavor.
Revolving Tables in Mendenhall. Known for their fried chicken and generally Southern food served on lazy Susans.
Phillips Grocery in Holly Springs. I read somewhere it had the best burgers in the nation. I can't say I agree with that, but they are really good, and if you are in the area.
K.C.'s in Cleveland. I haven't been there, but I've heard some many good reports that I thought I should include it. It's the place I want to try when I'm in the area. The menu sounds complex and expensive, but it also sounds great.
That's it. You can see that I need some more top-notch places. I've read about Lusco's somewhere in the Delta (maybe Greenwood?) that serves good Southern food. Taylor Grocery and Oxford Grocery (in Taylor and Oxford, obviously) have also gotten some good mentions. But, I know I'm missing some other really great places (there is a post below about some places in Oxford). The little dinners that serve meat and 3. The catfish shacks on the side of the road. The small tamale stands in the Delta. What am I missing?
This went longer than I expected, but I only because I wanted to get as much info in here so as to try and represent the great food of Mississippi and to generate the discussion. I hope that this helps?