11 Fabulous Restaurants to Try in Hattiesburg

Hattiesburg, Mississippi is one of those towns you just can’t ignore. With a resident population of less than 50,000, the number increases by 15,000 when students are on campus at the University of Southern Mississippi and William Carey University. Camp Shelby, the nation’s largest state-owned training site, is a short drive away, and Hattiesburg shares the title “Birthplace of Rock and Roll” with Clarksdale, Memphis, New Orleans and Detroit. With its 1964 Freedom Summer Trail, it is an important destination for telling the story of the civil rights movement.

Hattiesburg’s location is strategic as it sits at the intersection of Interstate 59 and Highways 49, 98, and 11, but it was previously a major rail link station. It is a midway point between Jackson, Mississippi; Biloxi, Mississippi; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Mobile, Alabama, earning it the nickname “Hub City”. Public art is starting to pop up more frequently, and his Pocket Alley was born during the pandemic.

One of Hattiesburg’s most surprising identities is its appeal to foodies. Even though there are many chain restaurants in the city, there are also 200 local restaurants offering regional flair and culinary options.

On a short visit to Hattiesburg recently, I tried as many of these local restaurants as I could fit into my schedule. Here are my recommendations listed in no particular order.

My tour was organized by VisitHattiesburg, but all opinions are my own.

Crawfish pie at Crescent City Grill (Photo credit: Connie Pearson)

1. Crescent City Grill

Robert St. John, a talented chef who is also a creative genius, has a strong impact on the palates of Hattiesburg diners. It has six distinctly different restaurants in town, and Crescent City Grill is considered the classiest with its inviting wood and stained glass accents and attractive courtyard. At the same time, it’s family-friendly with a Cajun-leaning menu featuring fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. Crescent City Grill’s White Chocolate Bread Pudding won Best Dessert in a local contest. I chose to sample a few entrees and highly recommend the crawfish pie and gulf shrimp wontons.

Pro Tip: Everyone looks forward to the seasonal crayfish menu which usually runs between January and July.

Alcohol-free cocktails at the Mahogany Bar
Mocktails at Mahogany Bar (Photo credit: Connie Pearson)

2. Mahogany bar

Diners can walk straight into Mahogany Bar from Crescent City Grill, yet the bar has a different vibe. As expected, there’s an extensive beer and wine selection, but the bartender is also adept at making creative and delicious mocktails.

Beautiful herb infused citrus and blackberry drinks were made for my husband and I. Both were refreshing and imaginative.

Inside the El Rayo Tex Mex
El Rayo Tex Mex (Photo credit: Connie Pearson)

3. El Rayo Tex Mex

Go through another door and you will find the colorful atmosphere of El Rayo Tex Mex spilling over onto its patio. Saturdays are good times to visit El Rayo. A “Bottomless Tex Mex Brunch” is offered from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. A crayfish porridge takes place on the terrace from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Popular Mexican favorites appear on the menu along with unexpected dishes such as crawfish enchiladas, barbecue baby back ribs and smoked gouda queso. The Ray is Spanish for “lightning”, so you’ll see these bolts in the menu, logo, and decor.

Candy Store Outrageous Shake at Ed's Burger Joint
Candy Store Outrageous Shake at Ed’s Burger Joint (Photo credit: Connie Pearson)

4. Ed’s Burger Joint

At Ed’s Burger Joint, everything the burgers are double patties with certified Black Angus ground chuck. If you order a Fat Ed, you’ll be greeted with a three-patty burger described as “extremely huge.” For those not in the mood for a burger, Ed offers hot dog choices and several sandwiches. The homemade bacon jam puts many menu choices above in terms of flavor, and the rolls are baked in the oven every morning.

The Outrageous Shakes are works of art, and the size is shareable. I ordered the Candy Shop creation and got my sugar quota for a week! It was so good and so much fun to devour.

Pro Tip: Be sure to ask for a side of sweet potato fries. The marshmallow dip is homemade.

Note: The first four recommendations are located at Midtown Market, so you can park once and walk to one. They are also all owned by Robert St. John and the New South Restaurant Group, who helped start an agency called Extra Table, providing healthy food to hungry and food-insecure people in the Hattiesburg area.

Combined aperitif plate at Sully
Plate of appetizer combinations at Sully’s (Photo credit: Connie Pearson)

5. Sully Tavern

At Sully’s Tavern, it’s all about steaks cut from certified wet-aged, never-frozen Angus beef. For appetizers, I recommend the Spring Rolls South of the Border, Sully Sacks, and Jalapeno Cheese Curds, or you can try all three with a combo plate.

Sully’s atmosphere is enhanced by live music every night from Monday to Saturday. I was happy to find that the music level was pleasant and not too loud to be able to have a conversation with my fellow diners. The decor and name refer to John Sullivan, a world heavyweight bare-knuckle fighting champion of the late 1800s. The restaurant is near the site of the last known bare-knuckle fight in 1889, which Sullivan claimed won against fierce competitor Jake Kilrain. Both men survived the fight – barely – and Kilrain eventually served as pallbearer at Sullivan’s funeral.

It’s a casual, family-friendly place with great food.

Bru's Breakfast Bowl at Depot Kitchen
Bru’s breakfast bowl at The Depot Kitchen (Photo credit: Connie Pearson)

6. The Depot Kitchen and Market

Gourmet coffee and freshly baked cookies are just two reasons to start your day at Depot Kitchen & Market. The location near the train depot is attractive and conducive to a relaxing breakfast or lunch. Bru’s breakfast bowl is a menu favourite. It’s anchored by a cheddar biscuit that’s topped with sausage sauce, bacon, a scrambled egg, and cheddar cheese.

Another excellent choice is the breakfast plate, which consists of two poached eggs, bacon, cheese, fruit, a small salad and brioche bread. And did I mention the coffee? The blend chosen for The Depot comes from Coava Coffee Roasters based in Portland, Oregon.

Lunch is also special at Le Depot with an attractive choice of sandwiches and salads.

Smoothie bowl at the Birdhouse Cafe
Smoothie bowl at Birdhouse Cafe (Photo credit: Connie Pearson)

7. The Birdhouse Cafe

Owner and chef Katie Dixon is a refreshing burst of energy every time she’s in the room. Her fit little body is a great advertisement for her passion for exercise and healthy, nutritious food. You can be sure that the plant-based dishes served at the Birdhouse Café are filled with fresh produce and great flavors. Although she had no formal chef training, she grew up watching her grandmother serve the people she loved, and Katie started cooking to motivate the clients she helped as a personal trainer. . His skills have reached the level of being a Chef Runner-up on Season 7 and star of the Food Network on Season 14. Katie has also traveled to 50 countries and brings culinary delights from around the world to Hattiesburg.

My husband and I sampled one of the smoothie bowls at the Birdhouse Café with wonderful granola, acai, fruit, oats, strawberries, blueberries and banana and a sandwich called Heavy Tee which consisted of turkey, brie, green apple, spinach and bacon.

Don’t be surprised when you arrive at the address on Hwy 98. The Birdhouse Café is inside an appliance store.

Pro Tip: Plan to get a copy of Katie’s beautiful cookbook, be fedwhich is full of wholesome, creative advice and great photos.

Note: the restaurants above are the ones I have personally visited, but there are four others that are on my list for a future visit as I heard rave reviews from locals while I was there. in the city.

8. Jutamas Thai Restaurant

Jutamas Thai Restaurant’s original location is at 910 Timothy Lane, but they recently added a second storefront on Highway 98. The words “fine” and “authentic” are often used as descriptors for the atmosphere and the Jutama menu. Meals made to order with fresh ingredients keep diners coming back often. Pineapple fried rice served in a pineapple shell is hugely popular, but everything looks amazing.

9. Movie Star Restaurant

Classics such as fried chicken, country-style side dishes, cornbread, and cobblers are the headliners at Movie Star Restaurant. Their breakfast buffet and family atmosphere are great magnets for the hungry people of Hattiesburg.

10. Downtown

Midtowner sits across from the main entrance to the University of Southern Mississippi, so it’s guaranteed to draw students in with its sweet, tea-brined chicken and gigantic buttermilk pancakes. It is primarily a breakfast and lunch-dinner serving everyday fare for people who seek familiar Southern comforts.

Pro Tip: The new ‘Hatsbirds’ mural is right across from The Midtowner, so choose your favorite bird and snap a selfie while you’re in the area.

11. Mario’s Italian Restaurant

Mario’s Italian Restaurant is a pasta lover’s paradise. Three Italian brothers serve homemade Sicilian dishes and their alfredo sauce is said to be divine. These brothers are often seen cooking, serving, and even serving tables as they interact kindly with their guests and staff.

These 11 restaurants are just the start, considering there are up to 200 local eateries in Hattiesburg, but I can verify that the city is well on its way to becoming a recognized foodie mecca. Pack your stretch pants and schedule a visit soon. To ease your conscience, plan to burn some calories with a hike or bike ride along the Longleaf Trace that begins in downtown Hattiesburg and stretches for 44 miles.

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Sandy A. Greer