09.21.20

Local Favorites

Sonia Thompson

The Lafayette County Courthouse is the heart of the historic and picturesque Oxford Square (photo by Stephen Kirkpatrick).

Whether you're coming to Splinter Creek to hike and fish or to attend a University of Mississippi football game, there's so much to do and see in the North Mississippi area. We often get asked for recommendations, so we've put together this list of our local favorites, from restaurants to shopping to historic sites. Happy exploring! *(Please check individual business website for Covid-related closures or abbreviated hours).

Grit restaurant in Taylor, Mississippi, is a short drive from Splinter Creek and offers “sophisticated southern cuisine.”

Taylor, Mississippi, Area

1. Grit Restaurant
Husband-and-wife owners Nick Reppond and Angie Sicurezza have perfected rustic fine dining in a cozy and casual space. They offer seasonal and locally sourced dishes they describe as “sophisticated southern cuisine.”

Lost Dog Coffee shop is next door to Grit in Taylor's Plein Air neighborhood.

2. Lost Dog Coffee
Get a hot cup of Joe at this idyllic coffee shop filled with wood detail, mugs made by a local potter, and funky furniture. Located in Taylor’s Plein Air neighborhood, next door to Grit, guests can take advantage of the gracious front porch or the community’s large green space while enjoying sipping an al fresco espresso.

The Taylor Grocery is a downtown Taylor institution. They offer steaks, catfish, and a cool vibe that is unlike any other (photo by Erin Austen Abbott).

3. Taylor Grocery
If you're dining at Taylor Grocery, just down the road from Splinter Creek, plan to take your time. The wait can be long, but that’s part of the fun. The steak and catfish joint is a casual, brown bag restaurant, so pack your own beer or wine, bring your own cups, and sit a spell on the front porch; it’s like restaurant tailgating.

Wonderbird Spirits gin is is the state's first grain-to-glass distillery.

4. Wonderbird Spirits
North Mississippi’s first gin distillery, Wonderbird Spirits, located in Taylor and just five miles from Splinter Creek, opened in spring of 2019. The brainchild of friends and co-owners Chand Harlow, Rob Forster, and Thomas Alexander, Wonderbird is the state's first grain-to-glass distillery. Keeping as many aspects of the business local is a key part of the Wonderbird philosophy. Rice from Two Brooks farm in the Mississippi Delta town of Sumner is used as the principal fermentation substrate. The makers also experiment with ingredients native to the area, and even foraged from the Wonderbird property, including wood sorrel, elderflower, kudzu and goldenrod to flavor the gin.

City Grocery restaurant is an Oxford institution and owned by James Beard Award-winning chef John Currence (photo by Erin Austen Abbott).

Oxford, Mississippi, Area

1. City Grocery
The City Grocery is an Oxford institution, and the flagship of Oxford’s four restaurants (others include Big Bad Breakfast, Snackbar, and Boure) by James Beard Award-winning chef John Currence. The downstairs is cozy with its wooden floors, dim lighting, and long banquettes. Upstairs is the bar, with the most perfect balcony, great for watching the liveliness of the Square. It’s the spot to drink bourbon and do some literati spotting, for which Oxford is known.

Square Books is one of the best independent bookstores in the country and is owned and operated by former Oxford mayor Richard Howorth and his wife Lisa (photo by Erin Austen Abbott).

2. Square Books
No tour of Oxford would be complete without a mention of Square Books. It's rated one of the best independent bookstores in the country and is a place you can peruse for hours. With three additional locations around the Square (Off Square, Rare Square, and Square Books Jr.), it’s packed with works by Southern writers as well as knowledgeable staff members who are happy to share their “must read” lists.

The End of All Music is one of the best independent record stores in the country and is owned by David Swider, pictured (photo by Erin Austen Abbbott).

3. The End of All Music
No proper college town is complete without a record store, and lucky for Oxford, it has The End of All Music. Lauded by Garden & Gun, Southern Living and USA Today, among others, as one of the best independent record stores in the country, the shop carries mostly new and used vinyl, with a wide selection of the Mississippi Blues. Owner David Swider opened the store in 2012, and he says the name is a nod to the late north Mississippi blues artist Junior Kimbrough, who was once called “the beginning and end of all music.” Swider believes that record stores go hand and hand with a town’s art and music scene, and the shop is his small part to help keep Oxford's creative spirit thriving.

Rowan Oak was home to Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner from 1930-1962 and is now a museum (photo by Erin Austen Abbott).

4. Rowan Oak
Built in 1840s, the classic Greek Revival house Rowan Oak became home to Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner in 1930. Faulkner named the house after the legend of the Rowan tree, believed by Celtic people to harbor magic powers of safety and protection. While residing there with his family, he wrote As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom!, Light in August, and A Fable. Rowan Oak remained home to Faulkner until his death in 1962. The house is now owned by the University of Mississippi.

The Mississippi Blues trail marker on the Oxford Square. There are 180 commemorative markers at sites significant to the blues throughout Mississippi.

5. Mississippi Blues Trail Marker
The Mississippi Blues Trail is a program by the State of Mississippi to promote Mississippi’s musical heritage, and has established a series of over 180 commemorative markers at sites throughout Mississippi to honor significant musicians, places, businesses, organizations and events in the history of Mississippi blues. Lafayette County’s blues history has encompassed a wide range of activity by scholars, promoters, record companies, and musicians. The most famous musician born in the county, R. L. Burnside, achieved international acclaim while recording for Oxford-based Fat Possum Records. The Oxford-Lafayette County marker is located on the Oxford Square.

The Lyceum on the University of Mississippi campus (photo by Stephen Kirkpatrick).

6. The University of Mississippi Campus
Oxford is home to the University of Mississippi. The relationship to the University runs deep and the presence of the school gives Oxford the energy and vibrancy that is often found in a college town. Founded in 1848, Ole Miss is the flagship University for the State of Mississippi. Ole Miss has been named a Best College Buy by Forbes Magazine and the campus has been touted as "The Most Beautiful Campus" by the Princeton Review. Download tours of Ole Miss landmarks, including the picturesque Grove, here.

Magnolia Grove Monastery and Meditation Practice Center, a meditation center founded by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

7. Magnolia Grove Monastery and Meditation Practice Center
Just outside of Batesville, Mississippi, might sound like an unexpected place to find a Buddhist monastery. But there lies Magnolia Grove Monastery and Meditation Practice Center, a meditation center in the tradition of Plum Village, founded by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who was nominated for a Noble Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Only Deer Park Monastery in California and Blue Cliff Monastery in New York also uphold Hanh's tradition. Now, his teaching and methods of practice are taking root in Mississippi.

Chicory Market is Oxford's locally owned and operated place for produce, health foods, and baked goods (photo by Erin Austen Abbott).

Stock the Fridge

1. Chicory Market (Oxford)
A small, locally owned market that offers local produce, Brown Family Dairy milk and Sweet Magnolia gelato, freshly ground natural peanut butter, homemade pimento cheese and chicken salad. They also offer a growing selection of seasonal grab-and-go prepared meals, like tomato pie or seafood gumbo. It’s like a mini Whole Foods.

The locally owned B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery in downtown Water Valley has a large selection of fresh produce, health foods, baked goods, and a lunch restaurant inside.

2. B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery (Water Valley)
The little market on Water Valley’s Main Street offers a great variety of fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables from local farms, and prepared baked goods like cookies, brownies, and granola. Don’t feel like cooking? Stop in for lunch at the Dixie Belle Café, which is located inside the grocery store.

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