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.
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Maranto's Corner is a gas station eatery in a desolate but welcoming Delta village. Fried chicken lunch is not to be missed.
A roadside stand that boasts hot, fresh raised glazed and other creative expressions of the donut art. But the biggest draw may be Big Pappa’s hot tamales.
Soulful, southern, bistro fare at the Delta Supper Club showcases local products and tradition with New American savoir faire.
The oldest (and most haunted) free-standing building in Mississippi is an atmospheric tavern with a chef-driven menu.
Steven's is a BBQ dive in genteel downtown Greenwood, Mississippi, featuring Memphis style ribs, Delta hot tamales, and fabulous chocolate cake.
Snuggled into the corner of a gas station near the intersection of highways 61 and 82, Fratesi offers Italian deli meats and Southern plate lunch.
Vine-ripened tomatoes and other local produce fuel creative southern cooking at this funky roadside shack. There’s an entire menu of B.L.T. variations.
Solly's is an 80-year old Mississippi Delta snack shop selling tamales topped with chili or stuffed inside burritos.
In the home of the blues many restaurants have a Lebanese heritage. Rest Haven still actually serves Lebanese dishes -- with a heavy Southern accent.