Our trip down the I-55 corridor was an eye opener – we were taken aback by the beauty of Mississippi’s great outdoors. But between stops at various lakes and campgrounds, we paid visits to a few towns. We didn’t have time to really examine any town in-depth, but we enjoyed getting even a glimpse of places we’ve always heard about.
We made our first stop in Grenada – at Jake and Rip’s, a barbeque restaurant we read about in Mississippi Magazine. WOW! We expected good barbeque, but we were blown away by how good everything we ordered was. The menu piqued our interest with its fried okra appetizer. An okra appetizer. Who thought of that? Whoever it was, we love them. But mostly we love whoever cooked our personal plate of okra – the closest to homemade we’ve ever had in a restaurant. No pre-frozen, thickly-floured, industrial-flavored puff balls here; Jake and Rip’s okra tasted fresh and came coated in cornmeal and fried like Mama used to.
Okay, we’re not sure Jake and Rip’s could even find fresh okra in April, so maybe theirs did come out of a freezer…we don’t know. What we do know is that if they can buy frozen okra and turn it into what we ate, they have magical powers. And by the way, their catfish is outstanding.
When we finally finished eating – and it took a while – we waddled off toward downtown Grenada. It’s a pretty little town of about 15,000 and it’s done a lot of historic preservation work. There’s a beautiful town square with a gazebo, some well-restored storefronts, and a couple of lovely murals. They also have an extensive (35 properties) Historical Walking and Driving Tour – go to http://www.grenadams.com/ for a brochure.
|The John Moore house c. 1856, 201 Margin Street|
|The John Lake House c. 1880, 425 Margin Street|
|The Golladay House -- said to be haunted -- c 1850, 501 Margin Street|
|The First Presbyterian Church, established 1838.|
|One of the two murals in downtown Grenada depicting its history.|
|The town square in Grenada has a clock tower, statue and gazebo.|
Full disclosure here: Although we were touring the I-55 corridor, we didn’t actually take I-55. We don’t like interstates. Oh, we use them when we need them, but we prefer not to so we stayed with Highway 51 – a fine road that runs right alongside the interstate – and we’re glad we did. If we’d been on the interstate, we would have missed the tiny hamlet of Tillatoba. There are only something like 100 Tillatobans, and we actually spotted one. He waved. And, had we been on the interstate, we would have missed the little town of Oakland, and the beautiful house whose owner spied us as she was leaving and told us to come back anytime and she would show us around inside. We wouldn't have seen Courtland, either, and its pretty United Methodist Church. What a charming little church and what beautiful stained glass windows.
|Courtland United Methodist Church|
|This beautiful early 1900 mansion in Oakland has been lovingly restored.|
|Turn around in their driveway and you'll get a bouncy barky greeting, too...had to share.|
Batesville’s really been busy renovating their downtown, sprucing up buildings and painting murals. They’ve also done a beautiful job of hardscaping and landscaping their (courthouse-free) town square. It’s really lovely – an open and airy park, very green, with gazebo-like structures that have a “railroad depot” vibe.
|Town square in Batesville.|
Sardis’s tiny downtown has a lot of potential, and revamping seems to have gotten underway recently. Some of the original brick facades have been uncovered already and it’s looking good.
Sardis is home to the Panola Playhouse, “A Historic Community Theater.” It’s a live theater company that has been around about fifty years – remarkable for a town of some 2,000 people. http://www.panolaplayhouse.com/