The Best of Mississippi

While driving to Philadelphia last Saturday morning to do some prep work on our family’s Neshoba County Fair cabin, my wife Lisa, as she often does, was reading a magazine article to me.

Mississippi Magazine had just released their “2014 Best of Mississippi” as picked by the magazine’s readers. We didn’t get too far into the article before I began having disagreements. So with that in mind, I offer my own list.

Joel McNeece

Best New Restaurant

It’s not all that new, but because it seems to fly under the radar for many my choice would be Honey Bee Bakery in Oxford. The bakery by day turns into a fine dining restaurant at night with a honey and goat cheese-covered bruschetta, cheese plate, and filet that are as good as it gets.

Best Dessert
Limiting it to Mississippi knocks out the famous bread pudding soufflé of Commander’s in New Orleans, so I’ll go with the Donut Tower at the Blue and White Restaurant in Tunica. If I really wanted to get technical, I’d say a slice of pecan pie with a dollop of ice cream at Lana McNeece’s (mom) house in Raymond, but we’ll stick to restaurants.

Best Coffee Shop
I love them all, but my personal favorite is the Starbucks in the Maywood Mart shopping center at the corner of I-55 and Northside Drive in Jackson.

Best Sushi
I love Jinsei in Oxford.

Best Catfish
Has to be Old Taylor Grocery.

Best Tamales
Most would say Fat Mama’s in Natchez, which run a very close second for me. The top choice is Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville. Their tamales have a unique taste that mirrors their steaks, which are unbeatable. Speaking of which…

Best Steak
Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville wins this hands down. There’s no dessert at Doe’s, because the tamales and steak is dessert. If you haven’t had a Doe’s steak with the steak’s own drippings from the cooking process poured back over it on the serving plate, you haven’t truly had a Mississippi steak.

Best Place for Seafood
I love the Purple Parrot in Hattiesburg, Trapani’s in Bay St. Louis, and Chimney’s in Gulfport, but for sentimental reasons, if no other, I have to choose Mary Mahoney’s in Biloxi. Summer just isn’t summer if I don’t at least once get to enjoy Mary’s crab claws and Sisters of the Sea Au Gratin.

Best Breakfast
Big Bad Breakfast in Oxford.

Best Barbecue
Leatha’s in Hattiesburg

Best Fried Chicken
For the real deal, I’ll have to say the future Gus’ that is reportedly coming to Oxford. Gus’s Fried Chicken in Memphis is the best anywhere. If you’re open to creativity, try the Chicken and Waffle at Mint in Ridgeland.

Best Fine Dining
There are many I love – Thirty-Two on the top floor of the IP Casino in Biloxi, Ely’s in Ridgeland, and the Purple Parrot in Hattiesburg to name a few. But like Mary Mahoney’s, City Grocery in Oxford is traditional for Lisa and me. We’ve eaten there every year to celebrate our anniversary and are never disappointed.

Email Joel McNeece at joelmcneece@gmail.com & follow him on Twitter @joelmcneece