Mississippi’s Taylor Grocery

Emory University senior Caitlin Etherton writes to us from Oxford, Mississippi, where she has tasted what she calls “unregrettably unhealthy food.”

As a poor college student heading into the writing world after graduation, I’m always eager to explore beyond campus and find off-the-beaten-path places deeply rooted in local culture and community. And if that it happens to involve some fried catfish so good that people tailgate in the parking lot for hours just to get a table–then I’ll take the extra step and the restaurant’s T-shirt. In the case of the Taylor Grocery, I paid more for the T-shirt than for my meal.

Our trip began in Oxford, Mississippi, when a friend and I asked a family for directions to “That Catfish Place” we’d heard about. They gladly gave us directions to nearby Taylor, and even invited us to stay with them if it got too late to drive back to Atlanta. We thanked them for the offer and wound out of town past Ole Miss’ Grove, William Faulkner’s home, and the Big Truck Theater, a 200-seat barn where concerts start on the bed of a 1960 Ford truck.

Taylor Grocery was originally built around 1889 as a dry-goods store. I assume not much has changed about the storefront since then. Luckily, football season hadn’t quite begun, so when we walked in there was no wait. We split a whole catfish dinner, two fish and two sides, making it completely reasonable to also order two desserts – homemade pecan pie and chocolate cobbler.

The fried catfish was crispy and perfectly seasoned. Service was fast and friendly. Live blues music bounced off walls that had been covered with signatures. Every table brimmed with families and students enjoying the sweet tea and hush puppies. When we left people were still sitting on the porch talking and drinking from Styrofoam cups (this restaurant is all about BYOB). I hope the next time I come the wait is extra long, just so I can sit on the porch myself and catch a good story or two.

Taylor Grocery, Taylor, Mississippi, +1 662 236 1716.

Photo: Caitlin Etherton