Where are the best places to eat in Oxford, MS? I've heard that City Grocery is great and read some old mixed posts on L&M. I'm looking for nice restaurants with great food (price is irrelevant) and also good lunch places.
Also, what's the deal with liquor? Can restaurants serve drinks on Sunday?
Oxford is blessed with some fine restaurants for such a small town. Here are a few places that I really like and some that I don't care for. There are many more in town that I haven't explored. Have fun, Oxford is a great little town.
Places I like-
City Grocery is hands down the best place in town. It is open for lunch as well as dinner. Every meal that I've had there has been outstanding. John Currence (the chef/owner) deserves his James Beard nomination. City Grocery has a good wine list that is priced reasonably. The chef also has another place, Bouré, just off the square on North Lamar that is excellent. The fare is less expensive than City Grocery and more like great bar food. I also recommend it highly.
RE: L&M I have seen some of the threads where folks didn't care for the food but I think it is excellent. I travel regularly in Italy and, to my taste, it is as close to authentic Italian food as you will find in the US. It's definitely not a typical red sauce Italian-American place. The chef worked with Mario Batali in NYC and is curing his own meats as he did with Batali. If you like things like guanciale, sopressata ,...etc., L&M is the real deal and all the more amazing that it is in a small southern town. The only thing that I haven't cared for at L&M is their bolognesi, which is made in a darker style than I prefer. It's well made, it's just not my style. Note that they have a nice but small list of somewhat offbeat Italian wines at good prices. It is on North Lamar just off the square. Look for the cast iron pig hanging over the door.
208 South Lamar is also an excellent place next door to Square books. The cooking is strong there and they have a decent list of reasonably priced wines.
Ajax Diner- Your basic "meat and three" place on the square. I love this place for lunch. Their meatloaf is great and the vegetables are old school southern-style, meaning they are stewed up with righteous quantities of pig fat and sugar. The bar is good too.
Two Stick- A very nice sushi bar on the backside of the old Lyric Theater on Van Buren.
Bottletree Bakery and Cafe- Excellent place for bread, pastries, breakfast, and lunch. Good soup and sandwich combinations at lunch. It's on Van Buren across from the Presbyterian church.
Yocona River Inn- It about 8 miles southeast out of town in Yocona. The cooking is always strong but not at the level of City Grocery. It is BYO as Lafayette County is dry. It is in an old filling station and started life as a catfish place before turning into a "fine" dining establishment. The atmosphere is great. They don't take reservations but you can sit in the swing outside and drink while you wait.
Taylor Grocery- Famous now as a catfish place about 6 miles south of Oxford in Taylor. The catfish is excellent, everything else is forgettable. That said, it is a load of fun and they always have good local music. It is BYO and with arcane rules that seem to change regularly about whether you can bring in beer or whether you have to keep your wine in a paper bag. No reservations and the wait can be long. It is a place to see and be seen. I've heard that they've started a meat and 3 lunch for 5 bucks but haven't been.
Emileigh's Bakery- Another bakery with terrific pies and cakes. They also have plate lunches. It's on Jackson Avenue East.
There's also a bunch of bars in Oxford that serve excellent bar food. I like Proud Larry's and Jubilee but there are many more.
The Beacon- An Oxford institution. The food is not great but not bad either. When you've been eating in a place for 40+ years, it's hard to stop.
Betty Davis' BBQ- Just across the Tallahatchie bridge in Marshall County. Get the pork sandwich. You can eat there or take it with you. They will put your beer in a bag so that you can drink it in the car. Lookout for the police on the way back into town. They also do silk screening there...go figure.
Handy Andy- Decent enough pulled pork 'Q but my favorite things there are their fried pies. Peach or apple, they are both great. Their ham biscuits are good too.
Places I don't care for-
Note that most of these places are pretty popular but I just don't think they are as good as those I've listed above. To each, his (or her) own.
Old Venice Pizza- Ersatz Italian food with a southern twist. It was much better when it first opened but it is now a chain and I think the quality of ingredients has gone down with the cooking. It is always full, so what do I know.
Downtown Grill- Great location and a pleasant place but the food has been unremarkable the few times I've been there. The wine list is not strong either.
Doe's- Save your money for gas and go to the original in Greenville.
Rib Cage- Branch of the Tupelo place. I don't care for their style of 'Q.
P.S.- You asked about booze. Here's the deal. Wine, beer, and booze are not served on Sundays in restaurants except on special occasions like a football weekend or when New Year's Eve falls on Sunday. For this reason, a lot of the better restaurants are closed on Sunday. Also note that you cannot buy cold beer in a grocery store or mini-mart (quirk in local ordinance) though you can buy warm beer there. You can only buy wine and liquor in liquor stores but they don't sell beer. Strange laws, but it is Mississippi after all.
Wow - great summary of Oxford restaurants.
My question for Piranha is are you going on a game weekend? If so, you will wait at the Grocery for HOURS, even with reservation. You can always go upstairs for drinks while you wait, however. Shrimp and Grits is my favorite...
LOVED L&M. Everything was superb.
Didn't care for Yocona. Was there 2 weeks ago and my food was very mediocre. If you go, you should probably stick to the steaks.
Food is good at Proud Larry's, but the service can be lacking.
I also recommend Bottletree bakery.
Enjoy! Let us know where you eat and what you think...
I have to give a 100%endorsement of ken7734. I lived and cooked in Oxford for 6 years.
City Grocery is a powerhouse of southern cuisine and one of the most perfect dining experiences ever, especially right now when they open up the front doors on the square.
Piranha, be warned if you are going to Oxford for the Georgia game this weekend that getting a table as a walk-in aint gonna happen for dinner, they are booked by spring for football season...
L & M, 208, & Boure are great alternatives.
Definitely stay away from Old Venice Pizza and Downtown Grill.
You would be happier getting a "chicken-on-a-stick" at the Chevron gas station @ four corners in Oxford,ask about it.
If you are going to Oxford during the week or a non football weekend, check out the thursday happy hour on the CityGrocery porch, lotsa foodies.
ken7734 just posted the definitive Oxford Chowhound post for my taste. Excellent...
To add something valuable...I've been to the Taylor Grocery lunch and it's worth the trip if you can't get out there for fish.
L&M is my favorite restaurant outside of New Orleans, New York and Montreal. It blows my mind that it's in Oxford. I love City Grocery too but never chose CG over L&M so we always end up at L&M.
Just a 2010 update for those interested in Oxford dining. L & M closed. John Currence opened Big Bad Breakfast and The Snack Bar. He also runs Boure and City Grocery. Walt on the Square is a nice new fine dining restaurant. Andy's Steakhouse opened on Jefferson northwest of the Square. Lenora's is a new fine dining place north of the Square. Prime took over Doe's place in the Downtown Inn. The Downtown Grill is OK for lunch but go somewhere else for dinner. They do have a nice bar. Yocona River Inn burned but it's about to reopen in a new location. The bar scene is about the same. The Library is where the action is now.
I am going to Oxford next weekend. we are eating at CG Fri. which I love but was looking for one more place. I used to like Land M but they are closed. i was wondering if there was anything new that is really good. i have been to waltz and ravine bur not lenora....wondered if it is worth it or if you have any other recs.