South (Destination)

November 2016

Mississippi cooks up foodie fun for groups

by Carolyn Blackburn

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    Chef Cheri Hiers at Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center of Arts & Education, Ocean Springs

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    The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint, Ocean Springs

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    Saltine Oyster Bar, Jackson

Exploring Mississippi’s cuisine scene, which is as diverse as it is tasty, is a great way for groups to learn about the state’s culture.

Cooking classes incorporating seafood from the Gulf, foodie tours in interesting neighborhoods, brewery tours and tastings, hopping on the Hot Tamale Trail, dining at group-friendly restaurants featuring Southern specialties, and sampling pecan vodka are among the culinary-centric activities awaiting groups who would like to add a little flavor to their Mississippi meeting.

Gulf Coast Region

Cooking classes with popular local chefs are being served up along the Gulf Coast.

Chef Danie Rodriguez from LUNCH in Biloxi teaches sushi-making and how to prepare a fresh catch from the Gulf, and Chef Owner Cheri Hiers from the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center of Arts & Education in Ocean Springs demonstrates how to make dishes using ingredients found while foraging at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center.

“Not only will participants learn valuable cooking techniques and escape the mundane of sightseeing or touring multiple museums, but they also have the opportunity to explore our culture through their taste buds,” said Kristen Livingston, leisure group sales manager at Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Group-friendly restaurants are aplenty on the Gulf Coast, including The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint in Ocean Springs and Sal & Mookie’s New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint in Biloxi, where “indoor and outdoor seating and a separate Pie Lounge bar area is available for groups,” Livingston said.

A favorite restaurant in Hancock County is the Bay St. Louis-based Cuz’s, which has a semi-private dining area for groups.

“This restaurant has that Gulf Coast feel with local favorites and New Orleans traditions,” said Myrna Green, manager of the Hancock County Tourism Bureau, who noted that specialty menu items include seafood baskets and po’boys.

To wash it down, groups can head over to Kiln-based Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company, Mississippi’s oldest brewery, for a tour and tasting. Beers here include Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale and Timber Beast Rye Pale Ale.

Hattiesburg is home to stops on both the Mississippi Brew Trail and the Mississippi Barbecue Trail.

Southern Prohibition Brewing has scheduled tours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays that small groups can jump into, and several of Hattiesburg’s popular barbecue purveyors can cater group events, including Rose’s Bar-B-Q, Stonewall’s BBQ and Strick’s Bar-B-Q.  

Capital/River Region

A fun foodie tour in Jackson highlights is its arts district, called Fondren, an “eclectic funky neighborhood,” according to Sherri Ratliff, convention sales manager, religious/government/education markets, for the Jackson CVB.

Within a four- to six-block radius, groups will visit Saltine Oyster Bar, which has a great selection of local craft beer, Babalu Tapas & Tacos, Campbell’s Bakery and Brent’s Drugs, a 1940s-style diner filmed in The Help, among other stops.  

“This neighborhood also offers a great variety of shopping opportunities, with antiques, art galleries and consignment shops,” Ratliff said.

Groups might also enjoy a private tour at Cathead Distillery, Mississippi’s first and oldest distillery, which makes gin and vodka, including the caramel-colored Cathead Pecan Vodka.

The distillery also has space to accommodate group gatherings.


In Vicksburg, at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center, there are hands-on cooking demonstrations and classes led by local experts who teach everything from making gumbo and Korean barbecue to homemade bread and sushi.

“The group will experience a food demonstration and also be able to cook the meal and then partake in a meal with other conference attendees,” said Ashley Gatian, sales manager at the Vicksburg CVB.

 Vicksburg also has a new restaurant, 10 South Rooftop Bar & Grill, that is perfect for groups, Gatian added. Specialties here include chicken and waffles, sweet potato hummus and mile-high peanut butter pie.

“It’s located in our historic downtown district with views of the river, bridges and our beautiful downtown area,” she said. “This restaurant is an open-air experience that is not to be missed.”

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