Food is big in Oxford. Eating it, making it and serving it are big business. In fact, approximately 3 percent of those living in the Oxford area are employed as cooks or food prep workers, according to City-Data.com. Retired restaurant manager and owner, Angelo Mistilis, says things have changed since he closed Mistilis Restaurant on College Hill Road in 1989, after having been opened for about 30 years.
“There’s a lot of competition, and the industry is more than what it was when I was growing up. I mean, I still remember 5-cent hamburgers,” said Mistilis.
Oxford does have more than its fair share of dining options now. City-Data.com reports 47 full service restaurants in the city—that’s 11 for every 1,000 people compared to the state average of five. The Square is the town’s dining hot spot where about a third of those full service eateries are located.
“On the Square is where all of the nightlife is, and being the restaurant we are, we do more of dinner business than lunch, “ said Bo Petro, owner of Tres Amici, an Italian restaurant. “I like the location that we are. Rent is pretty high, but we are trying to build out the upstairs so we will be able to utilize the entire building.”
As new restaurants open up and others expand, Mistilis says the challenges for all will grow.
“I think that summer kills most restaurants. People come here during the ball game seasons and Double Decker, and they see all these thousands of people that see all of the restaurants packed,” said Mistilis, “When school is out for the summer, things really go down in Oxford, so if you’re not really prepared to withstand the three or four months of really bad business, that’s what hurts the majority of restaurants that come here.”
While about six restaurants closed in 2014, nearly two dozen opened their doors around Oxford last year, according to EatingOxford.com.
Ole Miss student Sadie Wilkinson says she thinks students like to go to restaurants that are part of the Oxford tradition, but that it’s good to shake things up a bit too.
“I think the change of locations of some places such as Lenora’s drive students in. Locals is also a new restaurant, although I have not been yet, but Jinsei has definitely improved food options in Oxford with its Asian cuisine, and I definitely enjoy going there,” she said.
This year looks to be another promising one for growth with about six more eateries planning to open before the end of 2015. Those new dining spots include Boneheads, Mugshots, Second Line, The Mesquite Chop House, Krystal and Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina.
This story was contributed by Ole Miss student Stephanie Weiss. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.