Thursday, August 18, 2022

How to Eat Good in the Mississippi Delta

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With all eyes on the Mississippi Delta as the 12th annual Juke Joint Festival prepares to get underway, many people travel to the Delta a few days earlier to explore the rich cultural history of the area, to experience the friendliness of its citizens and to eat some of the best food around anywhere. There is no place on earth like the Mississippi Delta when it comes to friendly people, great music and fantastic food. No place. Succulent and tender BBQ that melts in your mouth, tamales so good you have to wear your stretchy pants just thinking about them — the choices are endless and the dishes irresistible. There is also no shortage of great restaurants to get that tempting fare at either.

From Leland to Cleveland to Clarksdale and all points in between, the food is amazing, the service impeccable and the prices extremely reasonable.

Here’s a few of those magical places that promise to make your taste buds bloom…

Abe’s BBQ has been a part of the Mississippi Delta since 1924. Located at 616 N. State St. in Clarksdale, Abe’s famous BBQ sauce is known throughout the country, with people coming from all over to sample its tangy goodness.

Samuel Davis has been co-owner of Abe’s BBQ for 10 years and it was his great-grandfather, Abraham Davis, who opened it back in 1924. Davis said the same great tasty recipes that his great-grandfather used all those years ago is still bringing people into the restaurant in the 21st century.

“Nothing’s changed,” Davis said. “Our BBQ sandwiches are by far our bestseller. People love them. Our Cole slaw and sauce is remarkable and folks are always commenting on how delicious the sandwiches are. And of course, we still do our famous hot tamales that my great-grandfather did back in 1924. We use the exact same family recipe.”

Davis said Abe’s is opened Mon-Sat: 10 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. and Sunday: 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Davis said Abe’s has many loyal regulars who frequent the restaurant and new business is flourishing every day.

“I have a lot of people whose parents and grandparents ate here and now their children are doing the same, and we get a lot of out of town traffic and out of the country traffic too, especially during the festivals.”

Call Abe’s at (662) 624-9947.

Bellazars Steaks and Seafood in Boyle has been serving up delicious food to the Mississippi Delta since 2002. Owner John Nassar said when he was coming up with a name for his restaurant, he just wanted something original and that didn’t really mean or reflect anything else but his vision.

bellazars

“I came up with the name Bellazars, no apostrophe, by the way, all on my own,” he said. “We’re a dinner-only restaurant, Monday through Saturday from 5:15 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. and our bar hours vary, usually until around 1 a.m.”

Nassar said Bellazars’ claim to fame would have to be their steaks.

“About 70 percent of our business is grilled items, our steaks being number one,” he said. “We serve rib eyes and filets, with the rib eye being our bestseller. We also have our stuffed chicken and stuffed Mahi-mahi entrees that are very popular. Our stuffed Mahi is served with a crabmeat stuffing and a bourbon crawfish sauce over it. Our stuffed chicken is made with four different cheeses and spices and then baked to just a delightful texture. It’s really delicious.”

Bellazars is located at 114 S. Gaines Hwy. in Boyle. Call: (662) 846-8949.

The Blue and White Restaurant in Tunica is another eatery that has a long Delta history, originally established in 1924 on Route 61 along the railroad in downtown Tunica. In 1937, then owners, Pure Oil Company, moved The Blue and White Cafe and Service Station to its present location on what is now Highway 61 shortly after the construction of the new Route 61.

The Blue & White Restaurant in Tunica
The Blue & White Restaurant in Tunica

Charlotte Ming is the manager of the Blue and White. Ming said with the Blue and White’s all-day hours, they have a breakfast, lunch and dinner crowd each and every day.

“We’re opened from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day,” she said. “We have a lunch buffet every day of the week from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. And we have a full dinner menu and breakfast is served all day long.”

Ming said their menu is a wide variety of delicious items, depending upon the time of day a person might come in.

“We do everything from breakfast to hand-cut steaks,” she said. “We do our own pasta dishes and everything is made from scratch. Our bestseller would have to be our fried chicken, fresh turnip greens and fried green tomatoes, made from a recipe that’s been around just about as long as the restaurant. It’s absolutely delicious.”

The Blue and White is located at 1355 Highway 61 N., Tunica. Call: (662) 363-1371.

Catfish Cabin, located at 575 Highway 61 S. in Boyle is a locally owned and operated restaurant that has been opened for 10 years and serves the best catfish this side of the Mississippi. Open for their lunch buffet Sunday through Friday at 11 a.m. and for dinner Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m., Catfish Cabin’s signature dish is definitely their catfish, fried or grilled.

Tara Herrin, Catfish Cabin Photo courtesy Courtney Dean
Tara Herrin, Catfish Cabin
Photo courtesy Courtney Dean

Riley Edington is owners’ Tara and David Herrin’s daughter and has worked at the restaurant for about eight years. Edington said the batter recipe they use for the catfish is an old family recipe from her grandfather, Jimmy Utz and his best friend, O.J. Hays.

“The batter is amazing,” she said. “It just tastes great. People love our catfish.”

You can call Catfish Cabin at (662) 846-0004.

The Crown Restaurant at 112 Front St. in Indianola is not just a fantastic restaurant that serves great food, but also an art gallery filled with original artwork from some of the Delta’s most amazing artists, which they do sell. The restaurant also features beautiful antiques and a gift shop.

The Crown's Cream of Broccoli & Chicken Salad
The Crown’s Cream of Broccoli & Chicken Salad

Opened in 1976, The Crown is owned by Evelyn and Tony Roughton. Their daughter Jennifer Roughton-Schaumburg works at the restaurant and said the name came from the family living in England for four years.

“My dad was in the air force and when we lived in England ‘The Crown’ was one of their favorite places to eat,” she said.

The Crown Restaurant in Indianola serves lunch and afternoon dessert and coffee. Roughton-Schaumburg said the restaurant serves lunch from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, but the gift shop is opened 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

“We have great art, pottery and gourmet foods that we manufacture ourselves,” she said. “We have soaps, lotions and classic toys and all kinds of goodies. We have wonderful gifts with absolutely fabulous prices, many under $20.”

The restaurant has a full menu for lunch, serving everything from sandwiches to their signature catfish dishes.

“We have our Catfish Allison,” Roughton-Schaumburg said, “and Creole catfish cakes that are out of this world. And all the entrees’ are served with our black-butter green beans. We do a wonderful homemade Creole File Gumbo and all kinds of sandwiches. We also have a dessert buffet.”

Call The Crown at (662) 887-4522.

Lillo’s Family Restaurant in Leland is owned by Wesley and Debbie Keen. Keen said his wife’s grandparents opened the restaurant in 1948.

Lillo's homemade pizza
Lillo’s homemade pizza

“My wife’s maiden name is Lillo,” Keen said. “And we’ve kept the restaurant in the family. We’re opened for dinner Wednesday through Sunday from 4:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. Our handmade pizzas are unique and are actually the first pizzas that were ever introduced to the Delta back in the 1940s. The crust is amazing, it’s a thin, crispy crust that’s akin to the pizzas made in the north and the way we load them with a combination of cheeses is very different. We sell a lot of pizzas and 90 percent of our Italian dishes are entirely homemade. Almost our entire Italian food line is her grandparent’s recipes. We also serve a delicious rib eye, catfish and several seafood dishes.”

Lillo’s is located on Hwy. 82 East in Leland. Call: (662) 686-4401.

Vince’s Restaurant located at 207 N. Main St. in Leland has been opened five years and is owned by Will Gault. Vince’s serves dinner Wednesday through Sunday from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. On their off days, Monday and Tuesday, Vince’s also does private parties for customers. Vince’s is a steakhouse, but also a whole lot more, serving amazing seafood and Italian food that

Vince's Restaurant - Leland
Vince’s Restaurant, Leland

Gault said their signature dish would have to be their redfish.

“Our blackened redfish is very popular,” Gault said. “And our Crème brûlée and white chocolate bread pudding is deliciously decadent. We have steaks, but we’re heavy on seafood, with flounder, salmon, and pompano. We have weekly specials that feature different items and we usually have about five specials every week.”

The original owner Vince Giardina, who owned it in the 1920s, sold it to his son, Tony, who turned it into a liquor store and it had been shut down since the 1970s when Gault reopened it five years ago..

“I kept the name Vince’s because my business partner then was part of the Giardina family,” Gault said. “So, we just kept the name.”

Gault said they have a full service bar and live entertainment most nights of the week.

“We have a variety of musicians who play here,” he said. “We have a very special atmosphere here at Vince’s. It’s upscale, yet relaxed. And great food.”

Call Vince’s at: (662) 686-2112.

Angela Rogalski is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at angela.rogalski@hottytoddy.com. This story first appeared in the Delta Business Journal, a publication owned by HottyToddy.com contributor, Scott Coopwood.

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