THE CITY: Little Greenwood, Mississippi, sits beside the Yazoo River, the waterway that forms the eastern border of the Delta basin and parallels the Mississippi River, which marks the region’s western boundary. Thanks to its location and rich, productive land, Greenwood enjoyed a place of prominence in the South’s cotton economy for decades. But changes in agriculture brought an economic downturn in the mid-twentieth century. In the last few decades, however, downtown Greenwood has experienced a resurgence.
THE DIGS: The Alluvian opened in 2003 in the shell of a historic hotel. Named for the area’s alluvial soil deposited by centuries of river floods, its sleek lobby, with gleaming marble underfoot and contemporary decor throughout, makes a sophisticated opening statement. Paintings and photography by Mississippi artists collectively tell tales of how the whims of water have shaped the Delta. Guest rooms boast amply sized bathrooms and ritzy bath products amid clean-lined furnishings in purple and gold tones. The superstars are the comfy beds decked in sumptuous linens.
THE BACK STORY: Fred Carl founded Viking Range Company in the 1980s to grant his wife’s wish for a specific kind of oven that was no longer being made, sparking a downtown renaissance of locally owned boutiques, restaurants, and galleries. The company invested in the heart of the city, opening the Alluvian and the Viking Cooking School. By the early 2000s, once-abandoned buildings were housing new businesses, like TurnRow Book Company—with its floor-to-ceiling shelves stuffed with Southern literature, and Mississippi-brewed beer and author readings at its loft cafe—and the Mississippi Gift Company, offering all manner of locally made goods, including jewelry and Delta pottery.
INSIDER’S TIP: Come morning, grab a warm doughnut at Honest Abe’s, a favorite Greenwood bakery and deli, but don’t forget the bountiful breakfast buffet included in your room rate.
Whether you’re a seasoned home cook or can barely boil water, a class at the Viking Cooking School, across the street from the hotel, is a treat. Thousands of people have expanded their culinary comprehension with the friendly, hands-on instruction in state-of-the-art kitchens outfitted with the latest Viking appliances. Expert instructors (and sometimes, notable Southern chefs) take things step by step, teaching students how to prepare everything from pasta and decadent desserts to specialties featured in the hit movie The Help (filmed in Greenwood). The level of learning is serious, but the atmosphere is light-hearted and fun. And you can take home a few of the classroom gadgets from the adjacent Viking kitchen store. But the best part? You get to eat your classwork.
It makes good sense that a hotel owned by a cooking appliance company would include a stellar on-site restaurant, and Giardina’s, first opened in 1936 by a Sicilian immigrant and renovated by Viking, fits the bill. This new take on an old place has kept its character intact, while expanding the menu beyond its original offerings. While pasta dishes still occupy a section and Italian influences are evident, there are now twists on Delta traditions like pan-fried catfish cakes served with tangy comeback sauce, and of course, hot tamales.