By Danny Toma, staff writer
Mississippians love barbecue and always have. That being said, I can remember when good barbecue joints were not as plentiful as they are now in the Magnolia State. There were always a few old-time standbys, like Abe’s in Clarksdale, or Goldie’s Trail in Vicksburg, but compared to states like Tennessee, North Carolina, or Texas, the number of restaurants serving honest-to-goodness barbecue, cooked “low and slow” over hardwood, were relatively few.
That has begun to change, and it’s not necessary to drive several hours just to have a nice plate of ‘cue. Even so, Mississippians have suffered over the years from the lack of a particularly Mississippi-style. Say “Memphis” or “Kansas City” or “Lexington, North Carolina,” and barbecue aficionados don’t need any qualifiers to imagine what to expect when the barbecue hits their palate. But Mississippi barbecue? Sure, we eat it, but there is little that causes it to stand out from our more famous neighbors.
Perhaps for this reason, locavores seeking to shop for a “Made in Mississippi” barbecue sauce have to go the extra mile in Oxford to find one. All of the big supermarkets have impressive and extensive collections of barbecue sauce, even carrying unusual offerings like white, northern Alabama sauce (Big Bob Gibson’s) available at Wal-Mart or a wide-range of Texas sauces at Kroger, but nary a sauce carries a Mississippi return address.
Mississippi sauce can be found, however; you just have to know where to look. At the Lily Pad, on the Oxford Square, one can find “Colonel’s Choice,” a sauce made right here in Oxford and available in both Whiskey BBQ and Garlic Ginger flavors. They also carry the famous Abe’s Bar-B-Q Sauce, from the famous Clarksdale establishment that has been around since 1924. Lily Pad also carries a couple of sauces from Oxford Falls in Starkville. While not, strictly speaking, barbecue sauces (they have Raspberry Chipotle and Three Pepper Peach flavors), they are Mississippi-born-and-bred and deserve a shout-out.
Mississippi Madness on the south side of the Square used to have a very extensive food and kitchen section that was reduced some years ago. However, they still carry a few edibles, and while they do not carry barbecue sauce, they do have Rebel Bar-B-Q Rub out of Flowood. They also carry the Oxford Falls sauces as well as the mysterious steak topping known as Yocona Sauce.
The only other purveyor of Mississippi barbecue sauces that I was able to find is LBs. Meat Market out at 2008 University Avenue (across from Kroger). Like Mississippi Madness, they also carry Rebel Bar-B-Q Rub and Yocona Sauce, but they also are the only carriers in the area that I am aware of that have Ubon’s Sauce out of Yazoo City and Hoover Sauce out of Louise, Mississippi. In addition, they have their own proprietary rub blends (“Steak, Rib,” and “2 Guys”) that are available for purchase.
There are any number of really good Mississippi barbecue sauces out there, even if the local selection is somewhat limited. Go out and sample some of the ones I’ve mentioned here. If you need to branch out beyond that, try the Mississippi Gift Company out of Greenwood, as they generally carry three or four varieties of barbecue sauces from right here in Mississippi.
About Danny Toma:
After spending time exploring Italy, Ireland, Poland, Israel, Iraq, Germany, and, perhaps most exotically, Washington, Danny Toma is now back in Oxford to stay after a 22-year career with the U.S. Department of State. He enjoys dining out, as well as cooking in, and contributes to EatingOxford.com on a regular basis.