Easy Southern Escapes: Greenwood, Mississippi

by  Melanie Warner Spencer | Sep 17, 2015
Crystal Cafe
Crystal Cafe / Melanie Warner Spencer

Home cooks and savvy food-lovers are hip to a tiny town nestled at the eastern edge of the Mississippi Delta -- Greenwood, Mississippi. About two hours from Memphis, Tennessee, this quiet escape is home to the headquarters of Viking Range, the high-end appliance company, and foodies flock there for the Viking Cooking School and retail shop, as well as dining at some of the local restaurants, one of which is a culinary destination in its own right, the Delta Bistropub. Here, your guide to Greenwood, Mississippi.

The Stay: The Alluvian Hotel is a cosmopolitan jewel tucked in among the picturesque, historic brick and mortar buildings in the downtown Main Street district. The 45-room boutique property has a spa, restaurant, complimentary daily Southern buffet breakfast, fitness center and yoga studio, Southern library, and a vast art collection throughout the hotel, featuring the work of Mississippi artists. The courtyard, with its stately fountain, is the perfect place to relax with cocktails from the bar or coffee and a book. (Rates start at $195 per night.)

Activities: Schedule a class at the Viking Cooking School, with courses like Parisian, farm-to-table, Italian, Cajun and Creole, and Southern specialties from the movie The Help, which was filmed in Greenwood (classes run about $100). Browse the vast selection of classics, contemporary fiction and non-fiction by Southern authors (and a few Yankees, too), as well as classics and countless cookbooks at the charming TurnRow Book Company. The Café on the second floor serves lunch and a seasonal brunch, as well as the usual coffee drinks. Catch local music there in the evenings, and then visit a few nearby shops and boutiques for an hour or two of shopping. Be sure to slip out of downtown and visit the farmer’s market for fresh local produce and flowers before you leave town.

Food and Drink: Plan to have dinner at the Alluvian’s storied restaurant, Giardina’s, founded in 1936. Fourteen private booths, as well as open dining, which opens into the courtyard, exude vintage sophistication. The menu is laden with Southern favorites, such as fried green tomatoes with lump crab meat, steaks and Gulf seafood, and of course, traditional Italian pastas and entrees. A Gin Blossom cocktail in the bar is a must. And no trip to Greenwood is complete without a stop at the Delta Bistropub. Brainchild of the James Beard Award-nominated Chef Taylor Bowen Rickett, it's an unexpected treasure in this small Southern town. The varied menu offers up duck fries with fresh mozzarella, a fried green tomato BLT, and seafood and game, including quail, elk, and rabbit. Wine and local beer complement the food and it’s worth coming back more than once to take in both the lunch and dinner service. Southern Living, the Food Network and more tout The Crystal Grill as a top diner in the South and we agree. Seafood, pasta, steak, chicken, and sandwiches, as well as heavenly desserts round out the menu.

Museums and Tours: The Back in the Day Museum (free) explores the history of the blues and the Museum of the Mississippi Delta focuses on history and art. Tours in town include a self-guided The Help driving tour, featuring locations for the film, as well as the places the stars stayed during the shoot. The Robert Johnson Mystery tour explores the lore of the blues legend who allegedly sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads in exchange for mind-blowing musical skills. (Adult admission is $10.)

Getting There: Fly into Memphis and take the two-hour drive via Interstate 55. Greenwood is also about one hour and 50 minutes from Jackson, Mississippi.

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