As his career progressed, Tony Bourdain’s perspective changed: while his early travels featured far-flung destinations and foreign foods, he eventually realized that some destinations close to home were just as unknown to viewers as those on the other side of the globe. Much like his visits to West Virginia and Louisiana’s Cajun Country, Bourdain’s visit to Mississippi helped open the door to show how even within the United States, we have a lot to learn about each other… and some incredible foods and flavors we can share.
Anthony Bourdain visited Mississippi to film season 3 (episode 6, “Mississippi Delta”) of Parts Unknown; it was his only on-screen visit to The Magnolia State, though he did explore other parts of the South, notably neighboring Louisiana, and Nashville in Tennessee to the north.
If you’re planning to visit this state for business or pleasure, you might be curious about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Mississippi. Unfortunately, about half of the places he went are no longer open, but there are still a few spots you might also visit if you like to follow in his footsteps. Ready to discover the heart of the American South? Let’s dig in!
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Chahta Yakni (Choctaw), Koroa, O-ga-xpa Ma-zhoⁿ (O-ga-xpa) (Quapaw), Ofo, Tayoroniku (Tunica), Tioux, and Yazoo peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present peoples of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Big Apple Inn (Jackson)
One of the last surviving black-owned businesses on Farish Street in Jackson sits this nearly century-old sandwich shop slinging everything from tamales to pig ear sandwiches: Big Apple Inn.
As you might guess as a New Yorker, the name draws Tony in, where he orders the smoked sausage sandwich and a pig ear sandwich, both topped with slaw, mustard, and homemade hot sauce and a can of Dr. Pepper to wash it all down. He also grabs an order of the hot tamales, surprisingly a Mississippi staple after immigrants from Mexico moved up to find work in stockyards in the early 20th century.
Soul Wired Café (Jackson) (CLOSED)
Tony meets up with local hip-hop artist, Pyinfamous, for drinks and some conversation at this Jackson vegan café, bar, music venue hybrid. Soul Wired Café was located in one of the more run-down areas of Jackson but the joint itself is full of local life and energy.
Doe’s Eat Place (Greenville)
Located in Greenville, Mississippi, Doe’s Eat Place is a local chain of restaurants that serves a variety of Southern staples from tamales and chili to seafood dishes. Here, Bourdain meets up with Greenville native, Julia Reed, to discuss Mississippi’s past of racism and how the state is currently trying to keep diversity alive, despite that.
Tony has a meal of the Doe’s house salad, a recipe untouched for over 80 years, and then a plate of hot tamales that are cooked in leftover au jus from the steaks that Doe’s cooks up night-to-night. Next up is a serving of breaded shrimp, French fries, and a porterhouse steak topped with its own drippings.
The Senator’s Place (Cleveland) (CLOSED)
Although now permanently closed, The Senator’s Place was a soul food joint in Cleveland, Mississippi was run by State Senator Willie Simmons for over 11 years.
Served in a buffet-type line setting, Bourdain walks down the line and grabs some collared greens, fried okra, mac and cheese, red beans, neck bones, rice and gravy, and a bone-in fried chicken. Safe to say he needed about three plates to house all of these southern staples.
Lusco’s formerly operated as a grocery store until the 1930s when it became a part restaurant, part speakeasy. Lusco’s Greenwood is now out of business*, but it had a unique décor of curtained-off dining areas and taxidermy-riddled walls.
During his visit, Bourdain starts with some Bulleit Rye bourbon and the specialty house salad, topped with anchovies and Italian vinaigrette. He also gets an appetizer of the broiled shrimp, onion rings, and a plate of broiled pompano fish.
*Lusco’s reopened in Taylor, which is about 80 minutes away by car.
City Grocery (Oxford)
Bourdain stops at this second-story bar and creole-focused restaurant for some cocktails and appetizers of oysters and bar snacks. City Grocery is an Oxford watering hole for local writers, poets, and media business workers. Their menu has changed a bit since the airing of this episode, but they are still a great place to stop by for some Creole-inspired dishes and innovative cocktails.
Lamar Lounge (Oxford) (CLOSED)
John Currance’s Lamar Lounge is now closed down but operated as a live music, pit-smoked barbecue bar in Oxford, Mississippi. Anthony sits down with some of the writers that he met previously at the Oxford bar, City Grocery, for some bottled Abita Brewing beer, cornbread, biscuits, and pulled pork. Lamar’s kitchen staff also served Anthony some sweet Jamaican jerk chicken and brisket.
Unfortunately, Lamar Lounge closed in 2016.
LaVene Music Center* (Clarksdale)
To close out his visit to the Delta, Anthony stops by this cemetery-adjacent music venue to hear some authentic Mississippi blues at the Red’s Lounge. Open since the early 1900s as LaVene music center, Red’s is a cash-only bar and offers a genuine Delta Blues experience every night of the week.
*Since his visit, the LaVene Music Center has changed its name to the Delta Blues Museum.
Po’ Monkey’s Lounge (Merigold) (CLOSED)
Anthony meets up with the late owner of Po’ Monkey’s, William Seaberry to discuss “juke joints” and share some drinks out of mason jars. Po’ Monkey’s is a historic juke joint that’s open to everyone as long as you abide by their rules: 1. No backward hats and 2. No sagging pants.
Unfortunately, Po’ Monkey’s Lounge closed in 2016 after Seaberry’s passing, but the contents of the site went up for auction in 2018.
Have any questions about these places visited by Anthony Boudain in Mississippi or what he ate there? Let me know in the comments below!