It's time to talk about Mississippi Food
- Carter Jan 2, 2001 04:34 PM
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?
What are using to generate your text!?!? As this is not slashdot or crackmonkey, I won't flame you for being a MS user, but those ? in place of ' are REALLY annoying.
But then halfway through your message, you seem to have corrected the problem. Is this a typing problem or a did you start to write your post in some word-processing application and then finish it in the form???
If you want to compose in an different program, rather than in the form provided, and you are using MS, find and use your notepad. If you run a sane OS like Linux or BSD, use vi or gedit. If you are a double jointed masochist, use emacs. I don't care, just use a text editor.
I'm usually only this cranky about food, but this is a real peeve of mine. So, please keep writing about food, just PLEASE in a readable form.
re: Christine DiBona
Guilty as charged. I used Word because my spelling isn't very good, and notepad doesn't spell check. Maybe I should have saved it to text and then opened to Notepad. Anyway, I tried to correct all the ? to '. Looking back at the post, it appears I missed one or two. But not that many. I'm looking at the post in Netscape 6 on NT.
re: pat hammond
Hey, Carter. What a fun post about good eatin' in the Magnolia State. I agree with you about Cindy's Catfish; it's goood. What do you think about Cock on the Walk, on the Reservoir? (It's near Jackson, y'all.) I've had some decent, if a bit overly salty, catfish and fried pickles there.
The caramel cake at Primos Northgate (in North Jackson) and its next-door deli is GREAT. I love that stuff. Mmm, that caramel icing... (Primos Northgate Deli, 4330 N. State St., 601/982-3398)
Now, you know we need to talk about boiled peanuts, right? The Farmers Market (Woodrow Wilson Avenue, Jackson, 601/354-6573, a mile or two west of I-55), has several stands that offer these. And, if any of you are in Jackson especially during the summer, don't miss the Farmers Market. Seek out the watermelons from Smith County, which has a reputation as producing the best in the state.
re: Susan Thomsen
Thanks for some more ideas, Susan. I forgot about Primo's, but then I've never had their carmel cake. As for Cock on the Walk, I haven't been their in years, and I don't remember their catfish. I'll have to try and get out there again sometime.
As for boiled peanuts, I thought about discussing them, but forgot to put them in. Thanks for bringing them up. I'm especially glad you mention a place to get them because I've only ever see them sold on the roadside by the kind of guys who sell fresh tomotoes. For those who didn't grow up with them, boiled peanuts are usually shunned. After all, they are slightly salty and have such an unexpected texture. But those are exactly the reasons I love them. I adore the soft, but slightly crisp (dare I call it al dente?) texture that are addictive like good, plain pototo chips.
Living here in Texas, I was surprised that I never see peanuts sold by the side of the road. I know they are common all over the south. Most roadside stops here instead seem to have beef jerky-- something that I would never want to stop and buy. But then, I imagine Texans living in the Deep South, probably laugh at the boiled peanuts guys and yearn for their jerky. To each, his own.
Can anybody confirm the rumor that some people in the south put peanuts in their RC Cola? If so, are they boiled or roasted? Furthermore, WHY?
I don't know if putting peanuts in your drink is still popular, but 40 years ago in elementary school, it was the thing to do! We would pour a small bag of salted roasted peanuts in a bottle of Pepsi. It would foam up out of the bottle if you weren't quick to drink the foam. Then you drank the Pepsi and ate the peanuts once the drink was gone. The foaming action was probably what appealed to us as children. Thanks for reminding me of that fond recess memory!
Wow, Carter, what a great post.
I wish we could have more posts about the less populous states (there MUST be good food somewhere in North Dakota, doesn't there?).
I've only spent about 3 days in Mississippi in my life, and none of them eating fried catfish or Leatha's barbecue. I'm culturally deprived!
You're right -- Mississippi isn't very well represented on the boards. Food is pretty good down here, but the really good places sometimes tend to be holes in the wall whose names you quickly forget. Down here on the coast, restaurants are quickly moving to the chain style places, something that, as a New Orleans native, are simply not done.
Doe's Eat Place is one of the best meals I've ever had. A little puny salad, a delicious potato, and the most delicious steak you can eat (by the pound!). And you have to get the tamales. The entrance seems like a bit of anachronism if you're from anywhere but the South.
Cock on the Walk, as someone else suggested, has excellent catfish. There used to be one down here on the coast, but it was sold a loooong time ago.
Here on the coast, you get a lot of good seafood joints. Pirate's Cove in Pass Christian is quite good -- their bread is wonderful, but take care to visit the one in Pass Christian, not in Gulfport (atmosphere!). Get the oyster or roast beef poboy and have a cold beer or barq's.
Huck's in Gautier is very good -- delicious hamburgers (the Christmas Island burger with 2 kinds of cheeses and red and green peppers is DIVINE) and a fun atmosphere. Half the restaurant is on a dock, and the other half inside. Boats pull up and have meals served on board. Good bar, too, and they frequently have live music on the deck. Unfortunately, they keep kind of strange hours, so call ahead.
Also, Seaman's Cove in Moss Point has some of the best seafood/anything fried on the coast. The best hushpuppies you've ever had in your life, every sandwich tastes better on Texas Toast, and their stuffed flounder is a meal to be had.
Here on the coast, I'd say my favorite would have to be Trapani's in Bay St. Louis. Great seafood, great poboys, great food overall, and they serve poboys as well as delicious seafood dishes in a family atmosphere. Chappy's in Long Beach gets a lot of exposure, but I find it tends to be inconsistent and slightly overpriced. Chimney's in Long Beach was very good last time I went.
Truthfully, though, if I want ethnic, experimental, or a very fine meal, I drive the hour into New Orleans. Sad, but there's nothing that even comes close down here.
Woo hoo! Thanks for your Coast posting, Catherine! I was driving though on I-10 last spring and I was sad because I didn't know of one single restaurant at which to stop. I believe I stopped at Waffle House (if you are going to get greasy food, at least get it from a place with character). Now, though, I have some ideas at least. I didn't expect there to be any super restaurants in the area because of the New Orleans-proximity bit that you mention. The Sun always eclipses the moon, so to speak. But I knew there should be something. Now we have some ideas for others to try.
I got the impression from your post that you've been on the Coast for a while. If so, I'm curious to know what affect the casinos might have had on the food. One would hope that the influx of tourists would have cause some better non-chain restaurants to appear. Have they? What about in the casinos themselves? Anything better cheap buffets? Does the somewhat-fancy Beau Rivage have any good places to dine? Surely it must...
I grew up in New Orleans and spent lots of summers and weekends on the coast till I went off to college. I only moved out to the coast about a year and a half ago, though.
The character of the coast has changed a lot since the casinos moved in. I'd venture a guess that food has gotten a bit worse since the casinos came down, more touristy. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any places that have opened up since the casinos came in that aren't chain restaurants, actually -- lots of Applebees, TGIFridays, Outback, Olive Garden, and the like. At least it seems that way -- I really didn't do that much eating out when I was here growing up.
The casino food isn't terrible, but it isn't great, either. Beau Rivage advertises a great buffet, and people tend to like it, but it's made me (and several other people I know) sick every time I've eaten there. I've only been to one other restaurant in the Beau -- the steakhouse place, whose name I can't remember right now. It was good but overpriced (no surprise), and you really have to avoid peak hours -- sometimes it can take upwards of an hour to get seated. That's another thing New Orleans natives never do -- wait to get food. :) The brewery is supposed to be good, too, and priced a little more reasonably.
Don't get me wrong -- there's definitely good food to be had down here. I'm probably spoiled growing up in New Orleans, which may distort my idea of what a restaurant should be. I would say, though, that you're far better off at some dive than trying to dig up fine cuisine on the coast. While you're here, you'll eat some great seafood, some great poboys, and have a great time, but don't expect to stumble on fancy Ethiopian restaurant. :)
And there's nothing wrong with the Awful Waffle. :)
One other that I left off my list -- I still haven't tried it yet, but the newest restaurant in Pass Christian is Holt's, a seafood and pasta place off the beach. It opened up a few months ago, and was supposed to have good steak dishes, a pretty good wine list, and a nice ambience. I'll have to try it soon and report.
Oh, I'm SO disappointed to hear that Leatha's moved. That old location way, way out across the railroad tracks, was so cool, with the little shack and everything....wah.
Not that I was going back to Mississippi anytime soon, but I like to think of Leatha's just being there as it was!