The Best Food and Drink in Mississippi for 2019
December 20, 2018
The Hospitality State certainly knows how to entertain… and how to cook
The Best Food and Drink in Mississippi
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 second annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
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. This 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 hot dogs and brunch spot to its best 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 ahead.
Best Airport Restaurant: Lazy Magnolia (Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport)
Mississippi’s oldest packaging brewery has a brew house and restaurant outpost at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport that serves not only local beer but some surprisingly good airport fare to fill your stomach. Enjoy their signature pecan beer along with a bacon cheeseburger or salmon flatbread pizza.
Best All-You-Can-Eat Deal: Palace Buffet (Biloxi)
Located inside the Palace Casino in Biloxi, the Palace Buffet offers everything you’d want in a casino buffet and more. Prime rib, steaks, pizza, fried chicken, catfish, meatloaf, fresh boiled shrimp, stuffed crabs, fried clam strips, hush puppies, the coast’s first Mongolian barbecue (where you choose your meat, vegetables, and sauces and watch them cooked in front of you), and a huge variety of salads and desserts. It starts at $14 for weekday lunch, and tops out at $21 on Friday and Saturday nights, when crab legs join the party.
Best Bar: The Upstairs Bar at City Grocery (Oxford)
Since 1992, James Beard Award-winning chef John Currence has been crafting a conglomerate of eateries and bars in Oxford, Mississippi. The French-inspired Southern fare at City Grocery draws diners to its fine dining room, and the more casual upstairs bar, aptly titled The Upstairs Bar at City Grocery, has become a destination as well for its extensive wine list, short list of classic cocktails, and snacks. Try the Jesús María (Patrón tequila, Cointreau, orange juice, lime juice, and simple syrup) and the Oxfordian (Maker’s Mark bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup topped with prosecco) and pair them with bar snacks like crispy fried hot chicken with honey; the fried bologna sandwich with America Cheese Whiz yellow mustard, and toasted white bread; and the shrimp and grits made from spicy Original GritGirl grits, sautéed shrimp, garlic, mushrooms, scallions, white wine, lemon juice, and Big Bad Bacon.
Best Beer: Devil's Harvest Breakfast IPA, Southern Prohibition Brewing (Hattiesburg)
Beer? It’s what’s for breakfast, at least if the Devil's Harvest Breakfast IPA from Southern Prohibition Brewing is to be believed. Why breakfast? Well, this relatively low-ABV beer has a cloudy appearance thanks to a dash of oats in the brewing process. Those oats also help to cut through the bitterness IPAs tend to have, making this beer easy drinking at any time of day.
Best Brunch: City Grocery (Oxford)
New Orleans-born chef John Currence opened up City Grocery in the tight-knit town of Oxford in 1992, and not only does it serve the state’s best brunch, it’s among the state’s best restaurants, period. Wait for a table at brunch at you’ll be handsomely rewarded, but good luck trying to figure out what to order: toasted English muffins with house-made cheesy sausage, eggs Sardou, biscuits and gravy, red eye gravy and shaved country ham, fried chicken sandwich, a stellar burger, or an open-faced roast beef po’boy? Or you can go upscale and opt for sunburst trout amandine, pan-fried quail, or spot-on shrimp and grits; the choice is yours, and everyone’s a winner.
Best Burger: Fine & Dandy (Jackson)
This Jackson newcomer only opened last December, but it’s already established itself as the local destination for burgers. Executive chef (and James Beard Award semi-finalist) Jesse Houston grinds a blend of short rib, chuck, and brisket in-house, seasons them with salt and pepper, sears them on a hot griddle, and serves them on a house-baked potato bun-brioche hybrid created by pastry chef Amy Henderson. These are spectacular with no ornamentation at all, but you can’t go wrong if you order The Nobleman, topped with smoked Cheddar, house-cured bacon, smoked tomato, grilled romaine, and chipotle- and beer-spiked Dijonaise.
Best Chinese Restaurant: Mr. Chen’s (Jackson)
Rachel L. via Yelp
Real-deal Chinese food is tough to come by in Mississippi, but not at Mr. Chen’s. The sprawling menu may look like any usual Chinese spot’s at first glance, but look closer and you’ll find Chinese specialties including spicy beef tendon, steamed buns, seafood clay pot, salted crispy frog legs, six varieties of pork intestines, braised beef belly hot pot, and ma po tofu. The restaurant also has a market with traditional Chinese ingredients, as well as whole Peking ducks to take home.
Best Chocolate Shop: Nandy’s Candy (Jackson)
Best Coffee Shop: Sneaky Beans (Jackson)
Among the creative spaces and coffee shops that line the hipster neighborhood of Fondren in Jackson, Mississippi, is a true gem called Sneaky Beans. Couches and books give this coffee spot a cozy and relaxed vibe, and they have an impressive tea selection along with their high-quality coffee sourced from Mississippi-based Bean Fruit Coffee Company. Other drinks are available if you're not up for caffeine, including beer, and Saturday mornings mean breakfast with handmade biscuits, grits, quiches, and more.
Best Dive Bar: Gil’s Fish Camp (Ocean Springs)
Best Doughnuts: The TatoNut Shop (Ocean Springs)
The TatoNut Shop knows it’s good; it declares itself as “the only real donut.” Go during Mardi Gras for their world-famous king cake doughnut. Don’t forget to grab some Katrina pieces. After Hurricane Katrina, this shop fried their loose ends to make up for a low supply of ingredients, but people loved them so much, they stuck around. Lines are oftentimes out the door, but it’s worth the wait for these airy pieces of heaven.
Best Farmers Market: Mississippi Farmers Market (Jackson)
Best Food Truck: One Guy Steak and Chicken (Brandon)
The name is vague, but One Guy Steak and Chicken is famous in Brandon, Mississippi. Behind the wheel of this food truck is Kendrick Gordon, a trained chef with over 25 years of experience working in the restaurant industry. The menu reflects Chef Kendrick’s dedication to elevating food truck fare with a classic French spin. For under $15, customers can purchase a grilled filet mignon platter with leek mashed potatoes and a tarragon cream sauce, a rib-eye sandwich with applewood bacon, smoked Gouda cheese, fries, and “One Guy” sauce, or a char-grilled chicken pita. It’s also difficult not to be intrigued by the bourbon fries or the battered-and-fried steak fingers.
Best Fried Chicken: Old Country Store (Lorman)
According to Alton Brown, when he wants fried chicken, he will eat only his own or the fried chicken at the Old Country Store. Located in a century-old general store, this comfort food buffet includes fried chicken that is well-seasoned and crispy, but doesn’t have that hard, manufactured shell of breading you’ll find in many chains. Arthur Davis, the owner, is known to break out of the kitchen and sing a song or two to diners while they feast.
Best Grocery Store: Rainbow Co-op (Jackson)
Michelle N. via Yelp
Best Hot Dog: Swan Dogs (Biloxi)
Phil Swan was a general manager with several major airlines before deciding to start a new life running a hot dog cart in 2007; today, he has several carts, and his son David is lending a hand as well. The Swan Dog (a 100 percent beef dog) is the one that started it all, but Swan’s signature offering is a custom-made Cajun sausage topped with sautéed onions and peppers.
Best Ice Cream Stand: Area 51 Ice Cream (Hernando)
Left: Shane S./Yelp; Right: Yim L./Yelp
Area 51 Ice Cream is just as mysterious as its name. Their small-batch flavors are made with fresh ingredients from Hernando’s farmers market, so menu items change often.
Best Italian Restaurant: Stalla (Biloxi)
Located inside Biloxi’s Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, Stalla is an unpretentious Italian spot specializing in traditional Italian fare prepared with quality ingredients, served in a beautiful dining room. Florence-born chef Paola Bugli has been with the restaurant since it opened three years ago, and is bringing some serious skill to the kitchen. Carpaccio with Grana Padano, horseradish, lemon aïoli, and arugula; Tuscan shrimp and grits with pancetta and smoked gouda; pizza topped with béchamel, mozzarella, pancetta, cippolinis, roasted peppers, and oysters; handmade seasonal ravioli; Gulf shrimp fra diavolo; and veal cheeks piccata with capers, parsley, and spaghetti are just a handful of the standouts on Bugli’s menu.
Best Mexican Restaurant: Green Ghost Tacos (Jackson)
This Jackson newcomer has already emerged as the winner of Mississippi’s taco game, with two locations opening in the past two years. It’s run by San Luis, Mexico, native “Mama Yolanda,” and her recipes have been passed down for generations and cooked in small batches. Burritos, tortas, empanadas, enchiladas, quesadillas, chile rellenos, and nachos are all spectacular, and tacos are served in corn tortillas, hard-shell tortillas, and flour tortillas. We suggest you stick with the classic corn tortillas, and use them as a vessel for Mama Yolanda’s spectacular homemade chorizo.
Most Expensive Restaurant: Char (Jackson)
This popular steakhouse with a New Orleans spin is a great spot in both Jackson and Memphis to drop some serious coin. A 16-ounce rib-eye for $36 is a relative bargain; the New York strip costs $49, the filet is $51, and the cowboy rib-eye costs $54. If you’re not planning on ordering steak, you should still expect to spend around $30 per entrée.
Most Outrageous Restaurant Dish: Whammy Burger, Burgers & Blues (Ridgeland)
Burgers & Blues/Yelp
Another burger made famous by “Man vs. Food,” Burgers & Blues' Whammy Burger is an intimidating tower of three patties, each weighing a full pound, held together by four bun halves and a metal skewer. Toppings include lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, onions, ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise, and the burger is served with over a pound of fries and a vanilla milkshake. Finish the five-and-a-half-pound burger within 30 minutes, and win a free meal and a T-shirt, as well as a place on the Wall of Fame. Break the standing record and win $1,000 cash.
Most Romantic Restaurant: Mary Mahoney’s (Biloxi)
Going strong for more than 50 years, Mary Mahoney’s is a classic New Orleans-inspired restaurant housed in a house dating back to 1737. Sit in the romantic courtyard surrounded by old brick and below the hanging vines of a live oak, or take a seat in one of the several cozy dining rooms, and treat yourself (and your date) to classic Southern fare like shrimp remoulade, fried soft-shell crabs, seafood gumbo, stuffed flounder, prime rib au jus, or the signature half lobster Giorgio (lobster and shrimp in a brandy cream sauce).
Best Pancakes: Jo’s Diner (Flowood)
A no-frills diner with bright blue walls and a swivel-stool counter, the family-owned Jo’s has been bringing in the locals since 2006. Burgers and classic Southern dishes like crawfish etouffee and homemade red beans and rice are dinner standbys, and during breakfast hours regulars flock to the shrimp and grits, cinnamon roll waffles, and fluffy buttermilk pancakes. Piled high, filled with your choice of chocolate chips, blueberries, or pecans if you so desire, and topped with syrup and powdered sugar, they’re served with two eggs; grits or hash browns; and your choice of bacon, ham, sausage, or Andouille. Quite a deal for $8.29!
Best Pasta Dish: Tri-Color Cheese Tortellini, Bravo! (Jackson)
Yelp/ Ryder T.
This Jackson hotspot is a must-visit for traditional Italian classics as well as creative Creole-inspired fare. There are 11 pastas on the menu, but if you love tortellini you need to order the tri-color cheese tortellini, which is served in a creamy tomato sauce kicked up with shiitake mushrooms, baby spinach, red onions, roasted red bell peppers, and artichoke hearts.
Best Pizza: TriBecca Allie Café (Sardis)
Yelp/ Kim T.
This no-reservations, family-owned neighborhood gem is the little pizzeria that could; it actually won second place in 2010’s American Pizza Championship in Orlando. You should definitely order the pizza that won them the prize (the Magnolia Rosa, with red onion, mozzarella, and Mississippi pecans), but you really can’t go wrong, especially if you also order the Patate, with olive oil, thin-sliced potato, mozzarella, cheddar, bacon, chives and sour cream. Yes, they went there.
Best Restaurant for Breakfast: The Bayview Gourmet (Ocean Springs)
A Gulf Coast favorite for more than 20 years, The Bayview Gourmet opens at 7:30 a.m. daily and serves hearty and creative spins on classic breakfast fare. Standouts include the Holcomb Scramble (a croissant topped with scrambled eggs, spinach, ham, melted cheese, hollandaise, and tomatoes); the South of the Border Skillet (poached eggs, chorizo, potatoes, peppers, onions, diced chicken, chipotles, melted cheese, and a biscuit); Eggs Benedict Filet (Holland Rusk toast topped with poached eggs, filet mignon, crabmeat, shrimp, and hollandaise); Fried Oyster Rockefeller Benedict (Holland Rusk topped with fried fresh oysters, poached eggs, sautéed spinach and artichokes, and hollandaise); and the Horn Island Sunrise (sautéed grouper or grilled tuna topped with crab and hollandaise, served with hash browns or grits, grilled tomatoes, a biscuit, and two eggs). The biscuits and gravy, daily homemade quiche, and grits are also on point.
Best Restaurant: City Grocery (Oxford)
The tight-knit city of Oxford, Mississippi, opened its arms to New Orleans-born chef John Currence when he launched City Grocery in 1992 and never let go. Snag a table on the second-floor balcony if it isn’t too warm outside and dine on Southern comfort favorites like shrimp and grits or a muffaletta (offered only at lunch, when you’ll struggle to decide between that, the burger, and the roast beef po’boy), or indulge in delicious dishes like Mississippi pork osso bucco, smoked and grilled sumac duck breast, and Mississippi rabbit ragù. Don’t forget that Currence has created the best of both worlds for himself, something that you’ll probably want to take advantage of when it comes time for a nightcap: a chef’s restaurant downstairs, and the kind of bar where a chef would want to hang out after work upstairs.
Best Barbecue: The Shed (Ocean Springs)
The Shed’s founders are a young sibling duo who turned their love of good “bayou” barbecue into full-time careers for themselves and their family. The Shed is family-owned and -run, and, moreover, has a loyal following of customers who call themselves “shedheds.” Described as having a “junkadelic atmosphere,” this quirky barbecue joint features old-school, sweet Southern barbecue. Using pecan wood-burning smokers, The Shed’s pitmasters slowly smoke the meats daily and slather on the signature homemade sweet sauce to finish it off. It’s even won the World Grand Championship in Memphis.
Best Sandwich: Southern Belly, Big Bad Breakfast (Oxford)
When it comes to dining in Oxford, John Currence knows what’s best. The renowned chef and restaurateur started his career with the casually elegant City Grocery, located in the heart of town. Since then, he’s opened a catering company along with six other restaurants, one of them being a popular brunch spot with the intimidatingly cool name of Big Bad Breakfast.
Though breakfast here is certainly amazing (as the name might imply), the true star of the menu is the Southern Belly sandwich, loaded with house-made pimento, house-made bacon, bread and butter pickles, local tomatoes, and fresh slaw, piled onto buttery white or wheat bread, and then seared on the griddle. The final result? A crispy, gooey, zesty, and cheesy sandwich that defines what the South is all about.
Best Soup: Mike’s Seafood Gumbo, Mayflower Café (Jackson)
Yelp/ Heide R.
The oldest-operating restaurant in Mississippi’s capital, Mayflower Café has been feeding hungry locals since 1935. Owned by generations of the Kountouris family, the restaurant is perhaps best known for its comeback sauce (similar to rémoulade), but its seafood gumbo is absolutely outstanding; it’s rich, thick, and loaded with shrimp and okra, and with some rice mixed in every cup, it can count as a full meal.
Best Steakhouse: Doe’s Eat Place (Greenville)
Yelp/ Dan P.
Founded by Dominick “Doe” Signa and his wife, Marnie, in 1941, this Mississippi legend got its start as a honky tonk that sold great tamales. Over time, the honky tonk gave way to a full-service restaurant, but the tamales are still legendary. Even more legendary are the steaks. Doe’s might be the most downscale and shabby steakhouse in America (guests enter through the kitchen), but that’s all a part of the charm; the restaurant is even listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s not a gimmick, however: These enormous steaks are rubbed with proprietary seasoning, cooked under a ripping-hot broiler, and served with a ladle of rich jus. Doe’s isn’t just a restaurant — it’s an experience.
Absolute Best Thing to Eat: Hot Tamales, Doe’s Eat Place (Greenville)
Doe’s Eat Place is best known as a charmingly ramshackle steakhouse, but the dish that originally put it on the map when it opened in 1941 was the hot tamales. Founder Doe Signa’s tamales bear only a passing resemblance to authentic Mexican tamales, and are instead cigar-shaped tubes of corn and beef, tied up in wax paper and served dripping in the beef juices they’re boiled in. It doesn’t get much more old-school (or delicious) than this. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2019.