Hitting the Culinary Trail | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Hitting the Culinary Trail

The Mississippi Culinary Trail inspired Casey Purvis to finally try Brent’s Drugs, as well as revisit her old favorite Beatty Street Grocery.

The Mississippi Culinary Trail inspired Casey Purvis to finally try Brent’s Drugs, as well as revisit her old favorite Beatty Street Grocery. Photo by Courtesy Casey Purvis


I am a fan of food and historic restaurants, so when I heard about Mississippi's Culinary Trail, I had to read up. The trail is divided into five regions: the Delta, the Capital River, the Pines, the Hills and the Coast.

Jackson is part of the Capital River region of the culinary trail, which highlights Mississippi's unique flavors and the historic structures that house many of them.

"I do believe when you are eating at a local place, you get a taste of the local culture," says Sandy Bynum, advertising and communications bureau manager for the Mississippi Development Authority's Division of Tourism. As far as criteria restaurants met to qualify for the trail, "it's not meant as a restaurant guide," she adds. "It's more of a culinary heritage. We looked at them being owned locally."

In order to ensure impartiality, a secret team went out and asked members of the local communities what visitors should see and do in their areas. "I think over and over people ask where the locals eat. When you meet people in that area ... you immerse yourself in that culture," Bynum says.

I decided to start my own culinary tour with two places on the list. My first stop was Brent's Drugs (655 Duling Ave., 601-366-3427). I confess I had never partaken of any of this adorable diner's fare and felt that I had deprived myself for too long. The diner makes me think of a '50s-era soda fountain, with its vinyl-covered bar stools and booths.

I walked in, and a smiling silver-haired gentleman, Bill Nobles, immediately greeted me. Upon hearing my confession of never having eaten there, he "tsked" me warmly and told me: "You have to try one of our milkshakes. We still make them the way they're supposed to be made." Tell me about it! My chocolate shake arrived with an extra wide straw already lined with frost. Sucking down a shake from Brent's has to be as close to drinking nectar from heaven as you will ever get on earth. Add in a classic burger and crinkle-cut fries--or if you are really lucky, get there on a night they are serving breakfast for dinner--and you'll never want to leave.

My next stop was a place I wanted to revisit, on the corner of West and Beatty streets. There she was: Beatty Street Grocery (101 Beatty St., 601-355-0514), in all her whitewashed glory, the aroma of freshly cooked burgers still hanging in the air.

Mom used to take me and my brother to Beatty Street for lunch. Back then, it was still a grocery store with a little short-order kitchen in the back. It was always packed with people ordering food.

The grocery shelves are gone now, making way for lacquered wood counters and bar stools. The staff is friendly, easygoing and can whip food out in no time flat.

"What can I getcha, hon?" the lady behind the short order counter asked with a grin. I ordered the chili dog. They're as tasty as I remember--classic, all-American flavors, nothing fancy. This is just plain good food.

I also got to meet the gracious lady who runs Beatty Street, Mary Harden. This landmark has been in her family for more than 70 years. Her grandfather opened the store, and she continues the legacy.

"He worked six days a week," she says, her eyes beaming with pride. "People used to sit on the back of their trucks to eat."

Despite its longevity, Beatty Street remains somewhat of an undiscovered classic in town. Do yourself a favor: The next time you're downtown at lunchtime, stop in.

For a complete listing of restaurants on the Mississippi Culinary Trail and a map of the different culinary regions, go to visitmississippi.org/culinarytrail.

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