My Little Black Book of Oxford Eats and Drinks
John T Edge, winner of the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award from the James Beard Foundation, directs the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi. We have asked John T to share his favorites Oxford eats. Here’s what he had to say:
Oxford folk are accustomed to directing Faulkner obsessives to his white clapboard home, framed by an allée of cedars. We’ve long served blues travelers too, who come to campus to commune with BB King’s record collection. More recently, food obsessives have begun traveling our way, drawn by our city’s vibrant restaurant scene.
When friends and friend-of-friends plan their trips, I often get requests for my little black book of Oxford eats and drinks. Instead of continuing to cut-and-paste my slate of recs into emails, I’ve shared that list here. (Owing to space constraints, it leaves many of my favorites out.) This list is peculiar. It’s personal. And now it’s yours. I hope you enjoy eating and drinking hereabouts as much as my family does.
Provisions & Souvenirs
The Farmers Market, run by Liz Coppola and open year round, is the place to score farmstead milk in glass bottles, locally raised pork, and, come summer, rattlesnake melons.
During summer and fall, two civic markets serve Oxford: Midtown Farmers Market, where vendors sell everything from fig leaf tea to yard eggs, and Oxford City Market, where Gulf watermen vend head-on shrimp and Lafayette County row croppers peddle okra.
Breakfast & Brunch
Bottletree Bakery is the place to get a glimpse of Cynthia Gerlach’s folk art collection and a cream cheese pastry, smeared with local honey.
Big Bad Breakfast takes its name from the late Larry Brown’s book of short stories, Big Bad Love. Go for biscuits, eggs, grits, and tomato gravy.
Honeybee Bakery, is Shannon Adams’s strip mall weekend brunch boîte, serving platonic quiches and cotton candy-crumbed blueberry muffins.
Proud Larry’s, Scott Carradine’s rock and roll pizza bar, serves a Sunday brunch dish of countrified eggs benedict, layered with patty sausage, draped with hollandaise.
Mama Jo’s is a steam table soul food standard bearer, where Jo Braselton fries a mean pork chop, skillet cooks creamed corn, and serves turnip greens with tiles of cornbread.
Phillips Grocery serves a griddle-fried variation on the slug burger, a north Mississippi specialty. I like mine smothered in chili and capped with cheese.
Taqueria el Mundo dishes cheese dip with fresh-fried tortilla chips. My son swears by the family’s tacos al pastor, too. To drink, snag a Mexican Coke, made with cane sugar.
Taylor Grocery, eight miles south of Oxford in Taylor, is deservedly the most famous catfish joint in the South. Bring your own bottle of wine or whiskey to Lynn Hewlett’s tin-roofed restaurant.
Ravine a few miles south of the Square, serves as Joel Miller’s showcase for regional farmers. Get the duck breast. Or the homemade pasta.
Snack Bar is a Mississippi-fied brasserie where Vish Bhatt, a native of India, serves cumin-scented boiled peanut salads, among other delights.
City Grocery, the shot-and-a-beer perch of your dreams, overlooks the square. Before nine it’s a local bar, after that college students throng the joint.
Snack Bar like Big Bad Breakfast and City Grocery is owned by John Currence, the city’s chef ambassador. Ask for the Lurleen, a rye cocktail named after our family dog.