The American South is known for its grandiose hospitality, perhaps nowhere more so than in Mississippi. The place is so friendly that it calls itself the Hospitality State — Mississippians know how to welcome guests into their homes. They also know how to welcome guests at the state’s many excellent restaurants, bars, and barbecue joints, the best of which we’ve rounded up as part of our first annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
While Mississippians have their pleasantries on lock, they also know that the best way to welcome any guest is with delicious food. As with Southern cuisine in general, Mississippi owes much of its culinary tradition to the trans-Atlantic fusion of African, European, and Native American foodways. The fertile delta that stretches along the state’s namesake river made brutal plantation agriculture very profitable, and Mississippi still has a higher percentage of citizens of African descent than any other state. In fact, the Magnolia State had a black majority until many people moved north in the twentieth century to escape the state’s cruel Jim Crow laws.
The state’s history means it is still home to some great traditional Southern and soul food joints; Jackson’s oldest restaurant, the Mayflower Cafe, serves a mean gumbo, and Arthur Davis of Lorman’s Old Country Store has been hailed as no less than the “King of Fried Chicken.” Mississippi cuisine is more than just black-eye peas and boiled peanuts, however; John Currence runs an updated Southern food empire out of posh Oxford, and curious eaters can find everything from authentic Chinese food at Mr. Chen’s in Jackson to a fantastic no-nonsense steak and tamales at Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville.
How did we go about choosing the best eats in the Magnolia State? Over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best tacos and farmers markets to its best dive bar and craft beer in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs. We’ve compiled these into individual slideshows celebrating the best food and drink in every state, and you can find our Mississippi slideshow here.