Favorite restaurants countdown– #2

The end of the countdown is near. Soon, I will have to write about something that isn’t food. But in the meanwhile, I have two blogs left. If you want to see #s three through ten, just go read the blogs. They’re all there. When I think about my favorite restaurants, there are two that are head and shoulders above the rest. Well, actually Picnic’s is closer than I thought before I went there the last time… but still, these two have been fighting it out for #1 in my head since this series started. But somebody has to be second, and in this case it is…

2. Taylor Grocery, Oxford, MS.

                  Start with location. Oxford, MS is one of my favorite places ever. It’s such a fun town that every time I go, those nagging thoughts about maybe taking the bar exam in Mississippi and scrounging up some work and finding a little house in town creep into my head. It’ll never happen, but Oxford makes me think about it.

                   Taylor Grocery is located in Taylor, MS actually. But Taylor is a town of 288 people and you can actually find Oxford on a map. Getting to Taylor means going down a back road from Oxford, and driving into the country a handful of miles. About the time you think you’re totally lost, you come down a hill, around a bend and there you are in downtown Taylor. The restaurant is a stone’s throw from the post office, and thus basically constitutes downtown Taylor.

                 Next comes Ambience (capitolization intentional). This is Taylor Grocery:

Taylor Grocery

Taylor Grocery

               Taylor Grocery was built “around” 1889, according to the website. You’ll have to forgive them the approximation, I suppose. It was an old country grocery store, and in recent years, became a restaurant. Fortunately, the inside is a bit snazzier than the outside. It isn’t exacly high-falutin’, but it’s comfortable and lived in. There is live music frequently, and guests are free to autograph the walls, as numerous diners before have done.

                Taylor Grocery absolutely oozes ambience. It’s down-home comfortable in a way that Cracker Barrell would sell its soul to be. The last time I was there, it was a warm evening and as families sat on the porch, waiting to be seated, some folks began passing bottles of wine around in the parking lot. The good stuff, not Boone’s Farm or anything. It’s not something you’ll see at Applebee’s. I also recall a local elementary school child, whose mother had brought her in because she just had to have a glass of sweet tea. The owner brought it out himself and made small talk with them both in the meanwhile.

                 Then there’s the food. Taylor Grocery’s catfish is a religious experience. There’s no other way to put it. It’s not the best catfish I ever had, or the best fish I ever had, it’s maybe the best food I ever had. Period. Crispy and light, and not even vaguely fishy tasting, the catfish literally melts in your mouth. The sides are fine as well– fries, hush puppies, slaw, salads. They do serve other things beside catfish (steak, shrimp, chicken), but they didn’t need to bother. If you survive until desert, there will be a handful of homemade pies and cobblers available, and the friendly middle-aged waitresses who call you “Honey” and ask how you’re doing will be more than glad to advise you on which is best.

                Perhaps the best way I can sum up Taylor Grocery is by noting that Oxford is about an hour south of Memphis, and thus is around 6 hours from home. My wife and I were talking about the place the other day and I said I could fathom making the trip just to eat at Taylor Grocery. I haven’t done so yet; mostly because Oxford has a ton of other delights of its own, but I could some day. And if you’re smart, you’ll already be there and have us a table saved in the back. I’ll buy desert.



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4 Responses to “Favorite restaurants countdown– #2”

  1. Julie Says:

    Excellent post…..we should have gone there this weekend! 🙂

  2. Laura Turner Says:

    Are any of these restaurants serving June Bugs? I just a love a good Mississippi June Bug fried in bacon grease. Seriously, though, It’s fun to read about these restaurants. My family lives in Memphis—I’m gonna try some of these eating establishments out thenext time I’m visiting.

  3. eljoe1235 Says:

    Laura, I never heard of such a thing! I’m hoping you’re kidding– if not, that one is going somewhere below frog legs on my list of, um, experiments.

    Oxford is a great place to eat, especially for a town of its size.

    While I have a reader with Memphis connections, any words of wisdom on the best barbecue in Memphis?

    Thanks for reading!

  4. Oxford, Mississippi « Work in Progress Says:

    […] and look slightly like what I remember from Granny’s old house.  We love the food–Taylor Grocery is a must at some point for anyone who loves southern food, and while I know it’s just a […]

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