“Being Southern isn’t talking with an accent…or rocking on a porch while drinking sweet tea, or knowing how to tell a good story. It’s how you’re brought up — with Southerners, family (blood kin or not) is sacred; you respect others and are polite nearly to a fault; you always know your place but are fierce about your beliefs. And food along with college football — is darn near a religion.” ― Jan Norris
This week the Rebels return home to Oxford to host the claimed rough, tough Texas A&M Aggies.
For me this game might as well be my homecoming because Texas is my home state, and it’s coming to my current home of Mississippi. This game brings the best of all that I love about being a native Texan and now becoming a Mississippian. There may be a great deal of difference come Saturday evening under the lights during the game, friend or foe, for four quarters of ball. However, both fan bases can agree that good Southern cuisine and college football go hand in hand.
For this edition of the Taste of the Game I decided to split between two of my regular spots in Oxford and Taylor. These joints are good Southern cooking that reminds me of all the things I loved about my life in the South where you can get good Southern cooking and wash it down with a Shiner Bock or “Texas Tea” (glass of bourbon).
The first stop of this week will be at the Oxford staple Ajax Diner, located at 18 Courthouse Square.
For me Ajax is the perfect place lunch or dinner to find some good home cooking. This place is worth breaking my diet for. What I love about it is the quaint, intimate size of this spot. The place is packed daily but it’s worth the wait especially during a game weekend. The crowd here is eclectic and you never know who you might run into. The chatter during the day or evening means there is never a dull moment. It’s a place where everyone is independent from one another but all gathered under one roof.
Let’s get down to what I know you are all drooling over: the menu options!
If you’re stopping in for lunch take a seat at the bar for an early happy hour. Enjoy a good craft beer with their savory Southern po-boy selections. If that’s not enough try out their veggie plate to go with it. That alone is filling and of course in the South anything fried is just better, guilty or not.
If you want to make it before the game or during the game then the dinner options may be a tough choice. I guarantee there is something delicious and delectable for everybody. My go-to is always the turkey and dressing with its signature jalapeno cornbread with fried eggplant and broccoli-and-rice casserole. That plate has great portions and never disappoints. I like to enjoy a good dinner’s libations of bourbon from their great bar which shouldn’t surprise you. If you like a mixer I recommend sweet tea and light rocks and you’ll be in Southern libations heaven, folks.
Now if you don’t want to wait or you just want to get out of town and enjoy the scenic attractions of North Mississippi then head to Taylor. This has been one of my favorite spots to live in Mississippi because its cultured, quaint and you can walk to the post office and then walk to Taylor’s Grocery with your bottle of something smooth to enjoy a good ole Southern time.
Whether it’s a new place for you or you are like me and have been a long time patron of Taylor Grocery it’s a must visit during any trip to Oxford especially on game weekend. Let me warn you though: you need to get there early because there will be a crowd. Before you hop back in your car, I suggest you bring a nice libation, good company and enjoy a drink while you wait. The time will pass.
It’s always jumping in here whether you have crowd of 20 or 50 so there never will be dull moment whether you’re waiting outside or dining inside. Aside from the great cuisine and social setting you can enjoy the eclectic memorabilia and local music while you dine.
You can also BYOB there so get the tailgate started early and head over to Taylor to enjoy all that Taylor Grocery has to offer. Don’t judge a book by its cover. The space is nothing fancy but you are sure to find some rich Southern cuisine that taste like a million bucks.
I you’re looking for a good home-cooked meal Southern style then there is something for everyone of every age. You can’t come to Mississippi and not enjoy fried catfish at some point. At Taylor’s I recommend ordering Nicky’s Plate that is a sampling of Uncle Nicky’s favorites: two pieces of fish, four boneless buffalo chicken wings and three shrimp served with two sides and hush puppies.
If you’re really hungry then order their All You Can Eat Platter of fillets or whole catfish. If you’re going for the all-you-can eat choice, you better be sure that you have a heck of appetite because they will keep it coming to you.
Then if you want to indulge in dessert then go for Rahs Pecan Pie with a scoop of ice cream. No matter what you choose it will be tasty and make you feel like home. If you can’t decide then there are a lot of of A La Carte items like oysters and shrimp that you can add on to your selection.
Taylor’s Grocery hours are Thursday to Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Sometimes it’s good just to taste and feel a bit of home no matter where you are. Enjoy.
Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo is a HottyToddy.com contributor, veteran SEC sports journalist and Brown University graduate. She loves good cigars, good games and a smooth glass of bourbon — not necessarily in that order. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.