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I’ve spent 97 percent of my life here in Mississippi.
It’s a place some people don’t understand. We aren’t the richest state — in money. We even imported our sand for our beaches. We have a 200-year-history we celebrate this year — a history that’s more muddy than the river from which we get our name.
That context gives our rich creative souls a faith and hope for our future that is strong and unwavering. And in that context, my company, Eat Y’all, in partnership with Visit Mississippi and several others, have launched an annual “bucket list” of sorts to help locals and visitors embrace the rich treasures of today’s Mississippi — with an emphasis on our state’s unofficial pastime: food.
It’s called The Mississippi List: 201 Places to Eat, Stay & Play in 2017.
After growing up in Starkville, I was startled to realize that I hadn’t actually seen much of the state. I vividly remember the wonder when I first traveled to Tishomingo State Park and saw the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. I’ll never forget how flat it was the very first time I dropped off the bluffs on Highway 12 and drove down that big kudzu-covered hill into the cotton fields outside Tchula. A summer spent in Clarksdale awakened my soul to riding turn rows and tasting a bit of that “Delta culture” that is just so hard to bottle up.
In college, I called my Coast friends “Coast rats.” I’d never been there, and I didn’t understand what it was like to fish for redfish and speckled trout in our coastal waters. I didn’t know that a short boat ride could take me to Mississippi’s stunning and carefully preserved barrier islands.
Today, it’s exciting to hear visitors to Mississippi compliment our food and put it into the same category with New Orleans and Charleston. With exciting new restaurants like 10 South Rooftop Bar & Grill, where Chef Jay Parmegiani is lighting it up with some of the best food in the state served with a side of what is arguably the best view of the Mississippi River south of St. Louis, you really can’t go wrong.
Head into hotspots like Jackson and Ridgeland, where world-class chefs are raking in national recognition as a hub for adventures. In every corner of our state, food and culture meet the outdoors and a creative spirit where hospitality reigns supreme.
Older and wiser? Maybe I am.
By now I’ve traveled to almost every corner of the state numerous times. I get calls, texts, tweets and emails asking me where to eat when friends are visiting Tupelo, Oxford, Jackson, Vicksburg, the Coast and everywhere in between. “What was the name of that great coffee shop in Natchez,” they seem to always inquire.
I hope the Mississippi List will help you on your way. It features places to eat, stay and play from five regions across the state including the Coastal, Pines, Capitol/River, Hills and Delta. That means it won’t matter where you live or where you enter the state — you’ll never be far away from one of our Mississippi List top picks for the year.
The neat thing about the list is that we asked our readers for their favorites through an online survey. We received literally thousands of suggested nominations for the list. That was the easy part. The hard part was narrowing it down to a mere 201. As it turns out, our state is rich — just in its own way. But I bet you already knew that.
I’m confident that the places listed on the 2017 Mississippi List represent Mississippi well and will give travelers and locals alike a wealth of options to guide their discovery into our great state this year.
If you’re a local, you’ll surely find beloved favorites on the list — and you’ll probably be offended that we left off one of your favorites. I’ll go ahead and apologize for that. Maybe next year. In the meantime, I hope you’ll forgive us and be willing to discover some new places you’ve never visited while you wait.
Don’t get stuck in a rut in 2017. Celebrate our state by exploring it. Visit MississippiList.com to view and download the list and and start exploring, y’all.