AS PROUD POPLARVILLIANS, Chapel Hart is thrilled to launch their excursion of Mississippi eateries, dives, and hidden gems in their hometown. First on the list is Ward’s, of course. If you’ve lived in Mississippi for any period of time, chances are you’ve heard of this state staple. Earning a shoutout in one of our soon-to-be-released songs, Ward’s has always had a special place in Chapel Hart’s hearts. Both Danica and Devynn’s first job was at this hometown favorite, and with Trea’s childhood home just blocks away, Ward’s was always a go-to for those daily chili cheeseburger fixes. When pulling up to the drive-thru, even now, cashiers always know when Chapel Hart is ordering, because there is sure to be at least a couple of Double Big Ones (with extra chili, cheese spread, and sometimes bacon). That mighty burger isn’t for the faint of heart, but you can always wash it down with a float featuring their signature homemade root beer. Just make sure to leave room for at least one chili cheese dog!
Another P-ville fave for Chapel Hart definitely has to be Deb’s Pizza. It’s by far the best pizza place around. Their top pizza is the chicken bacon ranch. And, what is a great pizza joint without the wings? Deb’s are top tier. Maybe if you’re lucky, you can get them tossed in both buffalo and barbecue sauce.
A little down the road are some of the Gulf Coast’s best places to eat…or at least some of Chapel Hart’s favorite spots. Nothing says a beachfront morning like stopping in at Cat Island Coffeehouse in Pass Christian. From dazzling Southern-themed drinks, both hot and cold, to breakfast and lunch sandwiches, their menu offers the perfect start to any day. The Southern Belle and dulce de leche coffee drinks will really make you feel like a million bucks, and the breakfast tastes like something you should find in a Michelin 5-star restaurant: Their biscuits and gravy are what dreams are made of, with the flavor of a dish made by a Southern woman with at least three generations under her belt and the added sophistication of the most elegant debutante.
For lunchtime eats, the Blind Tiger in Biloxi is the place to go. You can’t quite beat fresh seafood served on a patio right on the beach. Crawfish, shrimp tacos, and smoked tuna dip will take any meal to the next level. You can finish off the night at the Silver Slipper’s Jubilee Buffet. Even if your luck isn’t up to par for the games, the crab legs are a sure winner any night of the week.
Just up I-59 as you’re passing through Forrest County, be sure to stop by Sully’s in Petal for a to-die-for selection of steaks, pasta, and desserts. (Oh, the desserts!) There hasn’t been a time that Chapel Hart has gone to Sully’s without getting some of their pecan pie cheesecake. The waitresses already know multiple orders are a must because although blood is thicker than water, cheesecake is thicker than both—and nothing comes between a Southern girl and her pecan pie! Now, if you want something that tastes like winding roads on a Sunday afternoon topped with a hug from your grandmother, the banana pudding cheesecake is what your soul truly desires. Its light-and-fluffy-yet rich-and-bold flavor is the perfect twist on this Southern classic.
So, we’re not sure if this next place qualifies as a “restaurant,” but Southern Oaks Venue & Catering’s menu is one that will have you heading straight home to Google ALL of the recipes. Trust us, it still won’t hold a candle to what this amazing crew is cranking out. The number one dish from S.O. has to be their signature chicken salad wonton tacos. They are the perfect combination of juicy chopped chicken and diced celery, followed by the slightly sweet yet tart burst of chopped grapes that adds that unexpected finish you didn’t know you needed. And talk about crisp! Never have you ever tasted anything in a wonton that after a full performance plus meet-and-greets still maintains that “fresh from the grease” crunch. With one bite, it’s easy to see why this is one of their most requested dishes.
For all those looking for a healthier option, their pecan-crusted chicken bites can stand toe-to-toe with any tenders you have tried in the past. Never mind the fact that they are virtually a no-carb snack—the way the pecan coating blends with the Southern Oaks signature sauce creates a euphoric reaction in each and every one of your taste buds. In an effort to not use up too much ink, suffice it to say there’s nothing they offer that won’t have you talking it up for weeks to come!
The Pine Belt is chock-full of great gems including Columbia’s Crooked Letter Kitchen. Well, if you want to be exact, this jewel belongs to the small town of Pelahatchie (if you know, you know). If it seems a little off the beaten path, worry not, because Crooked Letter Kitchen can come to you! If you ever find yourself passing that black-and-red food truck, pull over and place at least a couple of orders of their boudin egg rolls.
Your Mississippi munchies mission wouldn’t be complete without stopping in Meridian. It’s known as the Queen City, and one thing is for certain: You’ll surely eat like one. Meridian boasts some of the best places to grab a bite, but be careful—you might need to order a pillow and blanket afterward. Regardless of how many times you’ve been stricken with the “itis,” Jean’s will push your waistline to the limit every single time! Just make sure to wear your stretchy pants, because their classic meat-and-three menu offers so many options that it’s not unusual to turn that into a meat and four, five, or even six. With a wide range of meat options, from Southern fried chicken to pot roast, you already know the meal is going to get off to a great start.
Now, let’s talk sides! The taste and variety of these side dishes will convince you that a team of Southern aunties and grannies are in the kitchen working like it’s the night before Thanksgiving. The macaroni and cheese, fried okra, and braised cabbage make the side selection quite a doozy, and no matter what you get, it just has to be accompanied by their sweet potato souffle. It’s literally like biting into a cinnamon cloud with tiny chunks of candied pecans.
Moving into the central Mississippi food experience, you don’t want to miss Choctaw. This destination reservation near Philadelphia has something amazing that most would not typically expect to find in a casino hotel and resort.
Mama ‘n’ Em is exactly what it sounds like: the culinary personification of Sunday dinner after church gathered around the table with family and friends coming together in the name of love and great Southern cooking. Let’s just say: Order one of everything! They have dishes that will take you back to the good ol’ days—like Mama’s million-dollar collards, gumbo, jambalaya, and fried green tomatoes. An absolute must-try is their steak and cheese fries, which will put any Northern poutine to shame. These are definitely not your run-of-the-mill steak and fries: Mama ‘n’ Em starts with the best cuts of grade-A steak over a king-size bed of fluffy yet crispy fries (fried to perfection, of course) smothered with cheese that tastes like it was made from the milk of cow angels! Anyone would be amazed by the level of creativity when it comes to Southerners and banana pudding, and Mama ‘n’ Em’s multilayered banana pudding cheesecake is definitely something to write home about.
The Magnolia State is full of so many other amazing places packed with amazing folks and even better food. Regardless of where you’re from or what you’re in the mood for, the cuisine down here will fill not just your belly but your soul as well. So grab a friend, gas up the truck, turn on some Chapel Hart, and head on down to the greatest place in the nation to get your fill of soul food: Mississippi!
Chapel Hart’s Top Picks at Mississippi Restaurants
>Ward’s (anywhere in Mississippi): big one double, root beer float, chili cheese dog
> Deb’s (Poplarville): chicken bacon ranch pizza, wings
> Cat Island Coffeehouse (Pass Christian): anything!
> The Blind Tiger (Biloxi): crawfish, tuna, awesome drinks
> Silver Slipper (Bay St. Louis): crab legs, pizza, chicken and mashed potatoes
> Juan Tequila’s (Pass Christian): chicken happy plate, California burrito
> Marina Cantina (Biloxi): literally anything on the menu
> Sully’s (Petal): pecan pie and banana pudding cheesecake
> Southern Oaks (Hattiesburg): chicken salad wonton tacos, pecan-crusted chicken tenders, bacon-wrapped sirloin, mini chocolate chip cookies
> Crooked Letter (Columbia): boudin egg rolls
> Jean’s (Meridian): meat and three
> Mama ‘n’ Em (Choctaw): steak and cheese fries, deviled eggs, fried okra, pot roast, German chocolate cake, banana pudding cheesecake
> Barry’s (Florence): the buffet > Mugshot’s (anywhere in Mississippi): the Gambler, the Texan, queso dip, most of the burgers
> El Charro (Oxford): steak fajitas, chicken quesadillas, burrito
Chapel Hart’s Recommendations of Mississippi Venues
- by Erin Byers Murray