Adventurous eaters will find plenty to love in Mississippi. While our state is perhaps best known for Southern soul food staples, you’ll find endless variety in their preparation and presentation. Cajun and creole influences are common at Mississippi restaurants, as are fresh seafood dishes in our coastal cities. Mississippi is embracing the movement toward healthy eating and farm-to-table cuisine as well. Whatever flavor you’re craving, you’re sure to find it in Mississippi.
Chef Nick Wallace discovered his love of farm-to-table cuisine while growing up on a family farm and seeing, firsthand, the importance of fresh, local ingredients. His love of cooking, nurtured by his grandmothers at a young age, grew into a career that has positioned him among Mississippi’s most celebrated chefs. Nick was voted Best Chef for Jackson, MS, the last four years. He was named Best Chef of Mississippi 2020 and has remained on the list of Best Chefs America. Chef Wallace was one of the top-five finalists in the 19th season of Top Chef on Bravo.
For many in Mississippi, it’s just not the holidays without tamales. In Jackson, the Big Apple Inn, traces its roots back to Mexican immigrant Juan Mora, who first sold tamales out of a cart in 1939. This tradition continues today with Juan’s great-grandson Geno Lee. During the Civil Rights era, the Big Apple’s Farish Street location was frequented by historic figures including Medgar Evers, who had an office above the restaurant, and Fannie Lou Hamer.
Vestige is, without question, one of Mississippi’s most unique culinary finds. The cozy Ocean Springs restaurant offers guests a blend of contemporary American flavors fused with Japanese food traditions. Vestige is owned by Ocean Springs native Alex Perry, a James Beard “Best Chef South” semifinalist, and his wife Kumi Omori, who together refresh their multi-course tasting menu constantly to emphasize seasonality, sustainability, and locally-sourced ingredients.
As the name suggests, Two Brothers Smoked Meats specializes in serving a variety of meats cooked low and slow over the restaurant’s pecan-fueled outdoor smoker. Barton Dinkins, the restaurant’s managing partner and chef, serves up street tacos, sandwiches, and burgers guaranteed to satisfy the most ravenous carnivore. It’s not hard to find them in Starkville’s Cotton District. Just look for the building with the two-story bright blue and purple mural.
Lou’s Full-Serv Neighborhood Kitchen is located in the heart of the historic Belhaven neighborhood. The restaurant, which is owned by Chef Louis LaRose features a southern-inspired menu and a casual, vintage atmosphere. All food is prepared in-house daily, utilizing items from local purveyors and seasonal ingredients.
The Midtowner, located in midtown Hattiesburg, is the newest offering from celebrated Mississippi restauranteur Robert St. John. The restaurant evokes the feeling of a midcentury American diner, with classic breakfast options and hearty lunch plates including fried chicken and other traditional diner fare served up with a variety of vegetable sides. The Midtowner serves breakfast and lunch only, so be sure to arrive before it closes at 2 p.m. daily.
Cathead Distillery, located in downtown Jackson, has the distinction of being the first legal distillery to open in Mississippi, following the state’s repeal of prohibition in 1966. The distillery launched in 2010 with its namesake Cathead Vodka, which was followed by Old Soul Bourbon, Bristow Gin, and their newest concoction, Hoodoo Chickory Liquor. The distillery’s Bottle Shop is open weekdays for those looking for a unique gift or the perfect complement to a holiday meal.
Since opening in 2000, The Chimneys has become one of Coastal Mississippi’s favorite fine-dining restaurants. This distinction is due to its reputation for excellent entrees and specialty cocktails – and its location, surrounded by live oak trees, with front porch seating facing the waterfront. Seafood is the star of The Chimneys menu, reflecting the coast’s French and creole traditions and abundant access to fresh seafood.
Located in a historic building on Tupelo’s vibrant Main Street, Kermit’s Soul Kitchen (formerly Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen) emphasizes ingredients supplied by local farms. Even the meats are locally sourced via Kermit’s sister restaurant, the Neon Pig, a traditional butcher shop in Oxford.
Under the leadership of owner and chef, Mitch McCamey, the restaurant has built a reputation that has visitors lining up daily to sample their eclectic and ever-changing menu.
Elvie’s offers a cozy, upscale dining experience in the heart of Jackson’s historic Belhaven neighborhood. The restaurant, which was named after chef and owner Hunter Evans’ grandmother, features a New Orleans-inspired menu with emphasis on fresh ingredients sourced, whenever possible, from local farms. Elvie’s is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Tuesday through Saturday. Reservations are recommended.