The next stop on our trip was Vicksburg, Mississippi. I was fortunate enough to live in the town from the age of eight until I started senior school; my parents then returned when I was 17, so I have many fond memories of the historic town situated on the Mississippi river.
Vicksburg is well-known for so many reasons but primarily for the town’s role in the civil war. The 47 day siege of Vicksburg has been well documented in history and the surrender of confederate General Pemberton on the 4th July 1863 is widely reported to have been a turning point in the war. The town has a much visited military park which commemorates the battle and is a memorial to those who lost their lives.
However, Vicksburg is not known purely for the famous siege; it is also home to several casino, numerous antebellum homes and the Biedenharn Candy Company although the significance of this is unbeknown to most.
In the late 1800’s when Coca-Cola was initially marketed as a soft drink, the beverage was only available to purchase directly from soda fountains to drink in. Mr Joe Biedenharn, a successful confectioner who sold Coke in his sweet shop on Washington Street, realised the increasing popularity of the drink and attempted to make the beverage more readily available to those who lived in the countryside surrounding the riverfront town and so, Coca-Cola was bottled for the very first time! Cola enthusiasts are able to visit the Biedenharn store in downtown Vicksburg seven days a week, for the bargain price of $3.50, where visitors can peruse a variety of Coke related exhibits and visit the restored candy store to purchase coke floats, ice creams and other sweet delicacies!
Another great foodie stop in downtown Vicksburg is Rusty’s Riverfront Grill, easily one of the best restaurants in town and our favourite dinner haunt some ten plus years ago! The popular restaurant is now situated 901 Washington Street, a stones throw away from Biedenharn, after a fire in late 2004 destroyed the original tiny premises that our family used to visit. The Washington Street location is much bigger with a large bar and waiting area which was much required as Rusty’s unfortunately do not take reservations, even when emailing from the UK!! Although, in my opinion, this is one of the only negative aspects to dining at the downtown eatery, service is prompt and efficient so when the staff say there is a half hour wait for a table, they really do mean only half an hour.
Rusty’s speciality is seafood with fabulous dishes on offer from crab claws, yellow fin tuna, oysters and soft shell crab. For those who do not adore seafood like I do, there is a grill menu featuring steaks and chicken. One thing that is apparent is the Southern influence on the food due to dishes such as New Orleans style blackened chicken, Cajun gumbo and Po’Boys. Obviously Rusty’s take the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach as I was delighted to discover that my favourite dishes were still on the menu! That being said, there is an ever-changing specials menu which is a testament to the fact that the restaurant always uses the freshest available ingredients.
To start, Neil and I opted to share ‘Fried green tomatoes topped with hollandaise sauce and lump crab’ priced at $10.99 to start. The portion was extremely generous and is definitely for two, or more, to share! I loved the combination of crisp batter with creamy hollandaise and flavoursome crab; fried green tomatoes are a must when visiting the South and indeed Rusty’s! My only criticism would be that the dish lacked presentation as demonstrated by the above picture however, the taste made up for the lack of refinement.
For my main course, I could not resist the ‘Fresh broiled Gulf grouper stuffed with crab cake and topped with parsley, onions and grilled tomatoes’ accompanied by onion rings and house salad with blue cheese dressing, $28.99. Some may say that this is on the pricey side for a main course at a family restaurant in Mississippi however, I will testify that it is worth every single penny! The fish was so meaty, flavoursome and temptingly flakey whilst the crab cake complimented it beautifully, both in texture and taste. My onion rings had the right amount of crunch and the salad was perfectly fresh. A winning dish in my eyes and just as good if not better than I remember, I was just disappointed I couldn’t finish it all but it really was a massive portion!!
One of the great things about Rusty’s is that there is a large variety of broiled or grilled seafood available, in contrast to the fried offerings from many American restaurants. I personally think that a heavy batter can often ruin the delicate flavours of a large amount of seafood but that is my personal preference! Neil chose one of the specials, ‘Jumbo bacon wrapped sea scallops’ at $24.99, and opted for them to be served with fries and a side salad. ‘Jumbo’ was not a lie, the scallops were huge!!! The bacon was nice and crispy but did not overpower the flavour and juciness of the scallops which were perfectly cooked. All in all a beautiful dish and another generous portion!
Unfortunately neither of us had even an inch of room left for dessert but the homemade pies on offer looked delicious! I would be interested to hear whether they tasted as good as they looked and I have a feeling they do!
Although Vicksburg, Mississippi may not seem like a foodie mecca, there are certainly some fantastic places to check out whilst soaking up the local history! If visiting the local area, be sure to have a fantastic and filling seafood dinner at Rusty’s after checking out the downtown shops and sights.
Places to visit: