What To Eat in Mississippi
Barbecue, catfish, fried chicken, and meat-and-three meals all are Dixie-standard highlights of a Mississippi road trip, but the Magnolia State has banner dishes you might not expect. Throughout the Delta, well-spiced tamales are a vital part of local culinary culture – sold as appetizers in sit-down restaurants and as snacks from street-corner vendors. Here, too, you will find four-star steak dinners served in funky back-room eateries that have lured generations.
In the Mississippi Delta, from Memphis down to Vicksburg, tamales are sold by men and women, black and white, from street carts, off back porches, and in eateries of every kind. There is no clear genealogy that explains the ubiquity of a Mexican dish in cotton country, other than the surmise that workers from Mexico who came to pick cotton inspired African-Americans to give the pork and corn dish their own unique twist. Even tamale cooks who have no idea why they are the area's signature dish agree that hot tamales are a tradition that stretches back in time as far as the blues.
When the climate is hot and a meal is spicy, no dessert is more refreshing than lemon icebox pie with its cool, sweet-tart equilibrium. It is popular throughout the South, but especially so in Memphis and down into cotton country.
Mississippi is not famous as a steak state, but it ought to be. At least three restaurants in the Delta have earned sterling reputations for serving some of the juiciest, most flavorful steaks in the country. The porterhouses, T-bones, and ribeyes are all the more fun to eat because the restaurants that serve them brim with unique and idiosyncratic character that is light-years away from national chain steak houses.
Chef John Currence's Big Bad Breakfast celebrates the most important meal of the day with a menu of hearty, creative meals that are diner fare deluxe.
At the back of an ordinary-looking Marathon gas station in Biloxi, Fayard's serves some of the best po boy sandwiches along Mississippi's Gulf Coast.
Far off the beaten path in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Ramon's is a colorful restaurant serving fine fried shrimp and sensationally luxurious chicken livers.
Cream pies are some of Mississippi's best at the Crystal Grill, where pre-pie lunch includes classic Dixie vegetables and hot tamales.
A small-town cafe with fried chicken and a plethora of Dixie vegetables, plus corn bread and sweet tea: all for under $10 at Martha's of Corinth, Mississippi.
A Mississippi gem featuring okra gumbo, fried shrimp and oysters, Mayflower is known for comeback dressing, for dipping fries as well as adorning salad.
Giardina's is a colorful Mississippi Delta restaurant specializing in great steaks, broiled pompano and meals that reflect Greenwood's Italian heritage.
As good as the BBQ is at Leatha's in Hattiesburg, sides are better: crisp coleslaw and spectacular potato salad made with large hunks of skin-on potato.
Hicks' tamales pack a hard pepper kick. The Clarksdale landmark also has a full menu of ribs, rib tips, and chopped pork shoulder cooked over hickory.