Southern Living Off the Eaten Path: Second Helpings is a travel guide/cookbook that takes you on a journey to eateries in 16 Southern states.
Written by former Southern Living travel editor Morgan Murphy, the 272-page book published by Oxmoor House and sold for $22.95 features 150 of Morgan’s favorite recipes.
“When researching my books, I always look forward to traveling through Mississippi, because the culture and feel of the state is so very familiar and feels like home,” said Murphy, an Alabama native who began his magazine career at Vanity Fair and later worked at Forbes, is a best-selling author, editor, entrepreneur and decorated naval officer.
“I usually travel with companions to help me eat all that food, and on much of my research for this book, I actually took my mother along. She’d always wanted to take one of these trips with me, so I saved Mississippi for her. I knew it would be a great one, and the Magnolia State didn’t let me down.”
Five Mississippi business are featured in the book. They are:
Gulfport’s The Blow Fly Inn at 1201 Washington Ave.
When Murphy returned to the U.S. from a deployment to Afghanistan, he touched down in Gulfport.
“Aside from a hot shower and a hug from my momma, there was one thing I really wanted — a fine cheeseburger,” he said. “And ‘lordamercy’ does the Blow Fly Inn have that.”
It’s not an inn and you won’t find many flies there, but you will find a great menu.
“Briefly wiped off the map by Hurricane Katrina, the Blow Fly Inn has been completely rebuilt and stands on tall stilts overlooking Bayou Bernard,” he said. “Don’t let the pristine setting fool you. It’s still a down-home spot worthy of a lazy Mississippi afternoon.”
Starkville’s Grumpy’s at 105 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive West
(According to an Internet search, Grumpy’s is now closed.)
“‘Welcome to Grumpy’s!’ the sign proclaims. ‘Lousy service, hot beer, bad food.’ You can’t say that this Starkville joint overpromises,” said Murphy. “Truth is, Grumpy’s is an incredibly friendly spot, serving lots of very cold beer and delicious, reasonably priced food in this college town.
“A lot of the menu is fried. But I’ll tell you what — these are some of the lightest and crispiest fried shrimp, fried pickles, and fried green tomatoes I’ve ever tried. I begged Chef Mark Azlin for the beer batter recipe. Fortunately, it’s simple and easy to master.
You could fry a dishrag in it, and I’d probably eat it, and like it, too.”
“The Mississippi stretch of the Mississippi River Delta grows eccentric characters like Georgia grows peaches,” Murphy said. “They’re the people who give this otherwise flat, farming region its rich music, stories, and food.
“Chief among it sits Lusco’s, a legendary spot that has fattened up generations of visitors looking for excellent steaks, fresh pompano, and classic dishes such as owner Karen Pinkston’s eggplant Romano.”
Lusco’s is eclectic. Look one way and you’ll see a stuffed squirrel smoking a cigarette. Look another and you’ll see a refrigerator that dates back to President Woodrow Wilson’s administration.
“Lusco’s sells beer and wine, and you can bring your own booze to drink in the private, curtained booths,” Murphy said. “My favorite bit of lore about the place came from the last thing famed Mississippi writer Willie Morris ever penned. The note simply said, ‘Gone to Lusco’s.’ We should all be so lucky.”
“With rusty tin and discarded wooden pallets, homemade light fixtures, and dad’s old hi-fi system, Oxbow goes to show that you needn’t spend a million bucks to open a first-class restaurant,” said Murphy. “Hayden and Erica Hall call their found-object decorating style ‘our way of recycling.’”
Hayden worked for Wolfgang Puck and Susan Spicer, and Murphy said Oxbow has developed a following for everything from its tuna tacos to its burgers.
The name of the restaurant is a nod to the Halls’ return home to Clarksdale.
Greenwood’s The Alluvian Hotel at 318 Howard St.
“Finding the Alluvian Hotel in Greenwood is like stumbling over a unicorn in Grand Central Station,” Murphy said. “The Alluvian is a posh, luxury hotel that I’d expect to find in London.
“The Alluvian’s rooms are modern and spacious. The stylish lobby is elegant and often filled with music from local bands. And if you want a taste of London, hop into the Alluvian’s English cab and get whisked around in British style.”
Murphy said some things that stand out most about his food travels are Oxbow’s burger and decorating style.
“Their sense of style uses local palates and other things they’ve picked up in the Delta, yet it all comes together as if they spent thousands of dollars on professional decorators,” Murphy said. “I cannot think of another restaurant I’ve visited that was so profoundly surprising.”