Yes, we'll gather at the river, but here in the Mississippi Hills we'll gather at the table with equal fervor, and nothing elicits a hymn of praise like a well-cooked meal. Whether that means fried catfish or baked brie, soul food or steaks, whether it's served in an upscale piano bar or a down home Southern "grocery," the food around these parts is equaled only by the conversation-generally sweet, occasionally salty and always full of flavor. Oh, and the hospitality? There's so much you'll just have to take it home with you, wrapped in great memories of some truly unique establishments.
Like the Taylor Grocery, located in a former stage stop now an artist's colony. A watering hole for local and visiting writers, the Grocery serves up fried catfish and music against wide rough-hewn plank walls where the famous (and infamous) have scrawled signatures and messages. The mahogany walls are a bit more elegant in Oxford's Downtown Grille restaurant and piano bar, and the words are more formal-like the framed Fodor's Travel Guide article comparing the restaurant to a club in Oxford, England-but you can still get fried green tomatoes if you like.
Sit out on the balcony of Oxford's City Grocery and enjoy the shrimp and grits, and you'll know why the city has sometimes been referred to as "Little Easy." At the Yocona River Inn, where the walls are lined with crockery, children's toys and antique soda bottle, the menu changes weekly; the only constant is excellence.
Blue plate specials? Try Romie's in Tupelo or Helen's Kitchen in Columbus. Soul food? Don't miss Annie's Restaurant in Holly Springs. Fine dining? Visit the Front Door/Back Door or J. Broussard's in Columbus--or Park Heights, Harvey's, or the Fairpark Grille in Tupelo. Barbeque? Try the original Little Dooey Barbeque & Blues restaurant in Starkville. Great burgers? It's gotta be Phillip's Grocery in Holly Springs ("One of the world's greatest burgers." — USA Today). Old Fashioned Soda Fountain? Borroum's Drug Store in Corinth is the place for you.
Right now, in charming spots all over the Mississippi Hills, people are sitting down with one simply delicious wish: Now, let us eat. And to that we can only add Amen.
Please see the following links for local restaurant guides:
Aberdeen | Byhalia | Columbus | Corinth | Hernando | Holly Springs | Horn Lake | Kosciusko | Nesbit | New Albany | Olive Branch | Oxford | Ripley | Southaven | Starkville | Tupelo | West Point
And for a celebration of the diverse food cultures of the American South, visit the website of the Southern Foodways Alliance, located at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss.