Road Trip: Oxford, Miss. is Perfectly Southern
Ninety miles south of Memphis, Oxford, Mississippi is the quitessential quaint Southern town. The Square is so perfect that it looks like a movie set, the people are impossibly good-looking, and the vibe is just the right mix of boisterous and bookish.
Oxford is the home of Ole Miss (or, if you’re not from around here, the University of Mississippi) and William Faulkner. It’s also a got the greatest bookstore on earth, fantastic shopping and some of the best food in the south.
Here are a handful of things you shouldn’t miss on your next day trip:
Start the day at: Bottle Tree Bakery
Because if you don’t start your day there, they may be all out of some of their more popular items by the time you show up. If they’ve got it, try the strawberry humble pie, the cream cheese and honey danish or the delicious, biscuit-y ginger scones. If you’re headed back to Memphis the same day, pick up your baked goods in the morning and eat them on the drive back.
(Bottle Tree Bakery, 923 Van Buren Ave., Oxford, Miss.)
Sit on a bench with: the Faulkner statue in front of city hall.
Everybody else does it, so you should, too. Plus, it’s a really nice bench (even if Faulkner is staring at you all inquisitively).
Spend too much money at: Square Books
No offense to Burke’s or the Booksellers at Laurelwood, but Square Books is my favorite bookstore on earth, and the standard by which I judge all other bookstores. Their staff recommendations are always on point, the big tables near the entrance have a great selection of new releases, and their shelves have been carefully filled with books you’ll want to read. They also sell signed and rare copies, host book signings, serve great coffee and have one of the best patios in Oxford.
(Square Books, 160 Courthouse Square, Oxford, Miss.)
Buy yourself a little something at: Amelia Presents
Good things come in very small packages. Erin Austin Abbott’s tiny, sunny gift shop is stocked floor-to-ceiling with jewelry, handmade gifts, adorable toys and vintage-inspired housewares.
(Amelia Presents, 1006 Van Buren Ave., Oxford, Miss.)
Eat a meat-and-three at: Ajax Diner
Ajax is an Oxford classic. Eating in the casual, cozy dining room feels a little bit like eating on someone’s front porch. I’ve yet to have anything bad there, but you can’t go wrong with the plate lunches which some with a Southern meat (meatloaf, turkey and dressing, red beans and rice, jalepeno corn bread and two sides of your choice.
(Ajax Diner, 118 Courthouse Square, Oxford, Miss.)
But really, have lunch at: Taco Shop
When I stopped by Amelia, Erin recommended that I have lunch at a place that she reverently referred to as “Secret Taco” (it’s proper name seems to just be “Taco Shop”). Taco Shop isn’t on the Square, and from the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but it’s probably the most authentic Mexican food in Oxford. The tacos are traditional perfection, the Cokes come in glass bottles and the homemade chips and queso will be the subject of all of my future food-related dreams.
(Taco Shop, 1921 University Ave., Oxford, Miss.)
Pick up new tunes at: The End of All Music
The End of All Music is a little tricky to find (it’s in a very unassuming, un-record store-like building on North Lamar, a few miles past the Square), but it’s worth the drive. The shop sells new and used vinyl and CDs, and they’ve got a sizeable selection of records from Mid-South record labels (Fat Possum, Goner, etc.). Plus, they leave notes like this one on new records.
Have dinner at: Snack Bar
I wasn’t able to stay in Oxford long enough to have dinner, but Snack Bar comes highly recommended by Kelly English (Restaurant Iris), and I’m inclined to trust him. The restaurant calls its mix of French and Southern cuisine “Bubba Brasserie”, which makes me love it even more. If you need another reason to give it a try, it’s owned by the same people who own the fantastic City Grocery in the Square.
(Snack Bar, 721 N. Lamar, Oxford, Miss.)
Oxford, Miss. is about 90 miles south of Memphis. The easiest (and fastest) way to get there is to take I-55 South to Batesville, then take US-278/MS 6 to Oxford.