Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Getting Lucky in Natchez

Biscuits & Blues
315 Main St.
Natchez, MS
Visited August 19, 2010

Beer Selection: Unusually good variety of national and regional beers.

Food: As good as Southern cooking gets. (Real good)

I don’t believe in luck. At least not when it comes to finding good places to eat on the road.

No, you’ve got to put some effort into it if you want to avoid eating all your meals from a Taco Bell sack.

Trust me, I’ve learned that one the hard way.

But just because I don’t believe in luck, doesn’t mean that Lady Luck doesn’t shine on me every once in awhile.

Tonight was just such a night as I stumbled into Biscuits & Blues, quite by default.

My research led me to a famous Southern restaurant, Cock-of-the-Walk, that started right here in Natchez but has branched out to tourist spots throughout the South.

By the time I checked into my hotel and ventured out to eat, it was 9pm.

I knew my best laid plans were in deep trouble the moment I pulled up next to the only lonely car in the vast parking lot down by the Mississippi River.

I caught the last waitress on her way out the front door who just laughed at me when I asked if they were open. “Honey, we’ve been closed for an hour and a half. But I think Taco Bell is open.”


I should have known. I live in a small Southern town that makes Natchez look like a metroplex. Quite simply, if you are hungry after 8pm, you are out of luck.

Before resigning myself to a run for the border, I gave my rental car one more spin through downtown Natchez.

That’s when I spotted the glimmer of life emanating from Biscuits & Blues.

I couldn’t believe my luck as I slammed the car into park and walked through the front door to find actual people actually eating and drinking at the ungodly hour of 9:15pm – when most self-respecting Southerners have been soundly asleep for hours.

At this point I was thrilled just for the opportunity to order a beer and some non-fast food.

But I felt almost like an Obama bailout recipient when I fully recognized the name of the place into which I had stumbled.

Biscuits & Blues.

I’d been here before. I was sure of it.

Sure enough, the front of the menu said “Natchez & San Francisco”.

How’s that for a far ranging restaurant chain?

Over a decade ago I spent one of the best nights of my life listening to a great blues band and dining on genuine Southern fried chicken and biscuits – all in the left coast city better known as the home of Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer and tax-payer-funded sex changes, among other things.

Wow. Come to think of it, this is even better than finding out that some other hard-working sucker is going to pay your mortgage for you!

Alas, there was no rocking live blues band at this version of Biscuits & Blues. In fact, the bar tender had just popped in a Don Henley concert DVD the moment I sat down.

I mean, Don Henley is okay, but the blues he ain’t.

While the music may not have quite lived up to my decade-old California dreamin’ memories, the food certainly didn’t disappoint.

First out of the kitchen was a basket of what had to be the best biscuits I’ve ever had – warm, light, fluffy, crisp on the outside and greasy through and through – and even better when smeared with sweet apricot butter which instantly melted into the fresh-from-the-oven dough.

My Southern fried catfish were crispy and simple. A few dashes of Tabasco livened up the corn meal batter perfectly.

On the side were garlic mashed potatoes and a half of a tomato lovingly hollowed out and hand-carved into a work of art that was stuffed with creamed spinach.

It never ceases to amaze me how normally nasty sounding vegetables like spinach, broccoli, butter beans, okra and squash can go from healthy to decadent in the hands of a skilled Southern cook. No mother in America would ever have trouble getting their kids to eat spinach if it tasted like the Picasso-like creamed and spiced version served up here.

The baked beans were even better, enhanced with big chunks of BBQ pork.

Almost just as exciting as the food, was the beer selection – something you just don’t expect in the South.

One of the few draw backs about living in the South – aside from finding something to eat after the sun sets – is lack of beer variety. Most of my redneck friends won’t touch anything not in a red, white and blue can.

Coors Light? “Yuppie beer.”

With attitudes like that, any Southern microbrewery is swimming against the tide.

But Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company is doing just that right here in the great state of Mississippi. At Biscuits & Blues, I had a few of their Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ales, brewed with real Mississippi pecans. Absolutely delicious and the perfect compliment to great Southern cooking.

By 9:55, I had finished off an outstanding meal, the place had cleared out and the waitress was sweeping the floors and turning out the lights.

As I stepped out onto the Main St. sidewalk, only the sound of crickets could be heard in downtown Natchez. It was like the waitress and I were last two people awake in all of Mississippi.

The stars were shining brightly in the clear summer sky. As I meandered down the street toward my rental car, I contemplated the role of fate in my evening.

Instead of Taco Bell and a Seven Eleven 40 of Bud on the Comfort Inn bedspread, I had unwittingly stumbled into one of my all-time favorite restaurants – the only one in town open past 8pm.

As I looked up at the bright Mississippi moon while fumbling with my keys, I couldn’t help but notice a streak of light shoot across the Southern sky.

My lucky star? Nah, I don’t believe in luck.

Rating: Bought the Shirt!
Biscuits & Blues on Urbanspoon

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