• 46°

When it comes to eating, Natchez does it right

We all know, when it comes to great restaurants and food, Natchez is blessed. That’s been one of the great things about coming home.

Cotton Alley, The Carriage House, Pearl Street Pasta, Magnolia Grill, King’s Tavern —all top-notch places that have consistently pleased Natchez residents and visitors alike and withstood the test of time.

I have been frequenting Biscuit and Blues for lunch lately. It has great daily lunch specials. The vegetables — lima beans, mustard greens, sautéed squash — are like your mother used to make.

And we have a number of new restaurants I’m eager to try.

I’ve discovered Regina’s Kitchen is a nice, quiet place to spend your lunch hour.

If you haven’t tried the Salad Nicoise there, you’re missing out. It’s delicious, and is a different twist on a salad. You can order it to go, or eat it there — just know they don’t have a wait staff. They have other carry-out lunch options, but I haven’t been able to get past that salad.

The tables by the front window are a good vantage point to sit back and watch people as they walk around Main Street. I’m a people watcher, and that’s a good place to do it.

I’m looking forward to having my niece and baby sister in town at the same time so we can take a class at Regina’s to learn how to make her biscuits.

Natchez has always been home to great restaurants. Growing up, I recall many special occasions — like before prom and homecoming and for birthdays — spent at Loveta Byrne’s Sidetrack. I found a pearl in a fried oyster there on my 16th birthday. It was the first place I ate spinach salad with warm bacon dressing. And do you remember the Bluff High Pie?

And what about the restaurant at the Belmont Hotel? That was a good one. Henry Zizzi, who happened to be our neighbor when I was growing up, made his homemade lasagna and ravoli that were served there.

Do you recall the Sunday buffet at the Ramada Inn when Mr. Eyrich ran it? Mercy. That Grape Nut pudding was so good.

Or the Italian Kitchen? What about the Home Bakery? Its petit fours, the stuffed eggs and the “ham”burgers were something special. Those were the days.

In later days, there was Cock of the Walk and The Landing, both originally located under the hill.

Or Doug’s, which was located on Main Street in the same place Top’s Cafeteria was when I was growing up here.

When on the bus tour of Miss-Lou industrial sites recently on the Vidalia side of the river riding along the levee, the conversation turned to Jugheads. That took me way back. It had the best fish anywhere, and what other restaurant did you have to take a boat over to during flood season? And along that same road was Cozy Kitchen. When I was growing up, many Sunday afternoons consisted of going fishing with my family in the “borrow” pits, which usually ended with a meal at one of those two places.

Most of us here enjoy good food because we come from a long line of family members who were good cooks. I know I surely do.

I could kick myself for not paying closer attention to my grandmother and aunts when they were cooking at my great-grandmothers house, which is where we gathered every Sunday until I was about 12. What I wouldn’t give to be able to make my grandmother’s meatballs with fresh chopped cayenne pepper, swimming in her tomato gravy. Or wilted lettuce salad. Or my mother’s beet salad — shredded iceberg lettuce with chopped beets and finely chopped onions mixed with a little Blue Plate.

Yes, we’ve always eaten well here in Natchez. Food does more than simply nourish. In Natchez, whether in one of our restaurants or at our kitchen tables, it feeds the soul.

Jan Griffey is general manager of The Natchez Democrat. You may reach her at jan.griffey@natchezdemocrat.com or 601-445-3627.