A winding country road and the welcoming creak of a wooden door take Oxford residents and visitors alike into a place that is, in its own way, as iconic as the Square or the Grove. Taylor Grocery restaurant has had a colorful history since the building’s construction as a dry goods store around 1898. The Grocery is currently a restaurant hailed for its catfish and homey feel.
The restaurant is located just 20 miles south of Oxford Square in the historic town of Taylor, MS. Today, the warmth of the food, fellowship and fun at Taylor Grocery lures in newcomers and keeps residents coming back. A trip to the site is like a journey back in time. The walls are shopworn and marked by the faded signatures of decades of customers.
New York native Jim Thompson is one of those customers who experienced Taylor Grocery for the first time with an Oxford friend on Oct. 11. “I came here with Nick, so I figured I should get the ‘Nick’s Plate’ [from the menu],” Thompson said, adding that the deep-fried catfish was his favorite item on the dish. The picturesque restaurant, run by the Hewlett family, easily passed Thompson’s taste test as an experienced big-city diner. “Oh yeah look at it,” he said gesturing to the artifacts on the wall. “The music and the ambiance and the neighborhood and just hanging out with family all make this place special. It was just nice to hang out and have a drink before we ate.” Ole Miss senior Rachel Strait trusts Taylor Grocery as the perfect, relaxed place to bring her friends who have never experienced Oxford. “It’s the easiest spot for us to bring a lot of people without worrying about the Square being ridiculously crowded,” said Strait. She has been coming to Taylor Grocery with friends and family since her middle school years. “It’s just a fun place to bring Oxford newcomers,” she said, while a group of Texas friends partied besides her awaiting their heaping plates of steaming catfish and hushpuppies.
For Texas A&M fans Linda and L.G. Aaun and Ann Broussard, Taylor has the same feel as Luckenbach, Texas, the tiny town that inspired country songs by artists like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Nostalgia embraces the place. The Texas folks said the restaurant’s colorful history made their experience richer even before they were seated. And music is a big part of that experience, featured live and country infused every night that the restaurant is open (Thursday through Sunday).
While there’s little question why an out-of-towner would enjoy Taylor’s Grocery, one might wonder how New Yorkers, Texans and other far-away visitors learned about the tiny, out-of-the-way eatery. “We have friends who have Ole Miss friends and that’s how we ended up here,” Mrs. Aaun said, again illustrating the eagerness of Oxford dwellers to share their small-town treasures with friends and visitors.
Broussard noted she enjoys Oxford’s food and culture, but also the hospitality and warmth of its friendly residents. “Everybody has been very nice,” the Aggie fan said as she soaked up the southern charm of Taylor Grocery’s front porch. Considering Ole Miss’s full home football schedule, Taylor Grocery will likely continue to be a busy game-day weekend destination in the weeks to come. It’s a piece of Mississippi history that melts in the mouth and warms the heart.
Photos and story by Grace Sullivan. Sullivan is a journalism student at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media and a special contributor to HottyToddy.com