Pigskin Pursuit

An eight year odyssey across the backroads of America during the ultimate College Football roadtrip.

Tag: Taylor

Taylor Grocery: Catfish & New Friends

When I hopped up onto the porch at Taylor Grocery on an unusually brisk Mississippi October night, I had no idea that the folks I would encounter inside would set the tone for one the most welcoming weekends I have ever had.

 

Taylor grocery is a landmark in Taylor, Mississippi about 20 minutes outside of Oxford. It occupies an old dry goods store that was originally build in 1889, and after changing owners a few times, they have been frying up catfish dinners inside since 1977. The interior and exterior are worn from generations of patrons, and their mantra is a chuckle worthy “Eat or we both starve”.

After greeting the owner and proprietor Lynn, I was informed that despite being alone I was going to spend about an hour on the front porch waiting for a place to sit. Overhearing this, a moment later I was tapped on the shoulder by a fellow that introduced himself as Regan. With a welcoming smile and genuine sincerity he invited me to join him and his eight other friends for dinner that evening when their long awaited table was available. I’ve certainly encountered some great hospitality in some of the SEC trips I have made, but this show of kindness was completely unprecedented.

 

 

After a short wait out on the porch, the entire table was ready and Regan, true to his word, waved me over to come join the entire group. At this point, all of them were warmly beckoning me to join, and dumfounded at such remarkable hospitality, I slid into a chair at the end of the table grateful for such warm company.

I spent the next couple of hours exchanging stories with the entire crew (Regan & Allison, Jonathan & Gretchen, Nathan, Andy) all of whom were banded together by various connections to Ole Miss and making their annual pilgrimage back to campus. Obviously, they provided me with a handful of recommendations for the weekend wanting to ensure that my entire Ole Miss experience was a noteworthy one. As if dinner weren’t enough, they insisted that I join them for their tailgate the next day, and I quickly accepted, humbled yet again by their remarkable openheartedness.

 

 

For having no real plan when I walked into Taylor Grocery, this amiable group of friends welcomed me as one of their own, and made it one of the most memorable meals I have had on my travels.

 

 

As for the food itself. Despite being a regular fish eater, as a habit I generally eschew catfish, as I find it has a bit too strong of an “earthy” flavor for my taste (and by “earthy” I mean tastes like an old boot dredged up from a murky river bottom).

 

 

Not so the case with the catfish at Taylor Grocery. They had a reputation for having the best catfish in Mississippi, and after downing a plate of it I can see why. The fish is a pristine flaky white filet that is deep fried to perfection with just the right amount of crunch from the battered crust. All the catfish is farm raised, so it’s delectably light and clean on the palette, free of that earthiness that plagues other catfish. It was truly some remarkable catfish.

While at Taylor Grocery I was introduced to yet another undiscovered Southern delight by some of my new well informed friends: Rotel Cheese sauce.

 

 

I’m quite sure a jukebox scratched somewhere in the joint, when, to mixed looks of sheer pity and astonishment on their faces, I informed our table that I had never even *heard* of Rotel, much less actually tried it. Mothers instinctively covered their childrens ears at my blasphemy, and a few hound dogs ran and cowered beneath the porch. Regan, with aplomb far better than I, quietly urged me to “simply try some”. Judging by the popularity of Rotel at the table, I needed little convincing.

 

 

Rotel, for my unenlightened Northern audience, is a canned mix of green chilies and diced tomatoes that is mixed with cheese sauce. Don’t be fooled by its simplicity, however, Rotel cheese sauce is one of the most addictive substances ever devised by man. I timidly dipped my first french fry into the sauce for a taste, only to find myself dumping the entire cup on my plate seconds later, and straining to resist the urge to lick the remaining contents out of the cup. You could put this stuff on ANYTHING, and it would taste phenomenal.

 

 

While the food and atmosphere at Taylor Grocery is exquisite, it was truly the company that made it such an extraordinary evening (and weekend) for me. I cannot overstate how thankful and humbled I am by the entire table of new friends that welcomed me into their group in a remarkable show of hospitality. Especially towards a guy wearing a Notre Dame sweatshirt in Oxford on a football weekend…

 

 

Special thank you to Regan, Allison, Jonathan, Gretchen, Nathan, Andy and the other names that I forgot. You are the kind of folks that make my travels so enjoyable, and give Ole Miss such a well deserved reputation. Thank you again for what would become such an amazing weekend.

 

 

http://www.taylorgrocery.com/

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Mueller Time

Louis Mueller Barbecue had eluded my appetite for some time now.Considered the #5 barbecue establishment in the state, it was the only one of those top five that I had yet to conquer thus far.I assured myself that on our next trip down South, things would be different and a detour in Taylor, Texas would be arranged.


After a grumbly 7am start, we arrived at Louis shortly after ten in the morning just as they were cracking open the front doors for business.Though like any smokehouse worth their salt, at that time of morning the pit masters have already been at it for about ten hours, and are well into their second shift.We even heard an early anecdote of a local connoisseur coming in to pick up five whole briskets for their Notre Dame tailgate down in San Antonio (about 2 hours away).I must say this fellow must have had impeccable taste in both BBQ and collegiate football affiliation.
We promised ourselves that this would be a modest meal, given that we were meeting Bryce & crew at Kreuz Market in an hour or so, and wanted to save adequate stomach space for both rounds of barbecue.After a quick glance at the enticing menu, however, we proceeded to quickly bite off way more than we could chew.In addition to the usual suspects of brisket, pork ribs and sausage we added in a beef rib and half a chicken to boot.

The brisket and ribs were both cooked to perfection, and complemented by a peppery rub that accented the smoky flavor of the meat quite well.The jalapeno sausage was a bit disappointing, despite receiving rave compliments from the discerning taste buds of Bryce the night before.I’m not sure if the sausage just needed more time to bathe in the smoker, but it just didn’t seem thoroughly finished on this morning. The beef rib, which could aptly be described as a Flinstone sized slab of meat on bone, came with mixed reviews, but given its size is worth ordering as a spectacle alone.Finally, the enormous half chicken was smoked to perfection.I don’t normally get too excited about poultry offerings, but we knew we were in for a treat when, after a gentle tug on the leg bone, it effortlessly slid out cleanly, leaving a neat pile of tender meat behind.

The interior of Louis Muellers is a sight to behold, as the creaky wood floors and smoke charred walls reveal a rich history dating back to 1949.They certainly aren’t newcomers to the BBQ game.The staff at Louis Mueller is equally as friendly as the warm interior.We were warmly greeted at the counter by Mitchell, one of the proprietors of the place, where he arranged for a personal tour of the smokers by the pitmaster.We gleefully took up this offer to get a peek under the tent at what goes into smoking first class BBQ.

Next time you are driving down to Austin, detour your way through Taylor, Texas and pop into Louis Mueller’s for a bite.Your taste buds will thank you.

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