The Biscuit Capital of the World

Natchez, Mississippi

Thirty minutes after the burial of my husband’s estranged grandfather at the National Cemetery in Natchez, we were back across the Mississippi River and sitting under an ancient live oak tree in the shadow of the levee of the river, eating a bowl of homemade gumbo at his newly-acquainted family’s home in Vidalia, Louisiana. It had been a whirlwind of a few days, as news of my husband’s grandfather’s passing, a man who he had met about 20 years earlier and only seen a handful of times since, and we made the decision to travel to Natchez for the funeral. As our first visit to Natchez, I had quickly done as much reading and research as I could on all the things I wanted to see, do and of course, eat, while in the city! Upon hearing that Natchez was designated as the “Biscuit Capital of the World”, finding the best biscuits was pretty high on my list.

Two of the most well-known biscuit restaurants, Biscuits & Blues and King’s Tavern, were sadly not open during our stay. Biscuits & Blues is known for their biscuits that they bring to the table, and their crawfish and mushrooms beignets. The Biscuit Queen herself, nationally-known chef and Natchez native Regina Charboneau, reigned over the King’s Tavern, with her Chicken Pot Pie and Bacon-Thyme biscuit crust, but it is now closed. You can still get the Chicken Pot Pie to go and sign up for the Biscuit and Brunch classes at Regina’s Kitchen.

One place not to miss in Natchez sits outside of town, Mammy’s Cupboard. Built in the 1940’s, it is a 40′ tall woman, similar in appearance to Aunt Jemima, with a door in her skirt that takes you to some of the best home cooking in Mississippi.

Natchez is also said to have more antebellum (built before the Civil War) homes than anywhere else in the South, mainly because the Mississippi town was quick to surrender to Union officials and save their homes from being burned and destroyed. Many of the homes are open year-round for tours, such as the 1823 Rosalie Mansion, located on the cliff overlooking the Mississippi River. There are year-rounds tours of other antebellum homes, such as Stanton Hall and Longwood.

Private antebellum homes are open for display twice each year during the Spring and Fall Pilgrimage.

Many of the antebellum homes also offer B&B services, and a quick search on VRBO found cute rooms and homes for rent, as well. Driving through Natchez, we were surprised at how many of the homes were for sale.

The 1828 First Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of South Pearl and State Street, offers a FREE tour of the church and a display of old photographs of Natchez in the chapel.

Fort Rosalie, which is located adjacent to the Rosalie Mansion, is a public park, part of the National Park and Natchez Trace Trail, and signifies the camps of the Natchez Native Americans as well as the Natchez Massacre of 1729, and the importance of Natchez during the American Revolution and pre and post Civil War. One of the most interesting homes in Natchez is that of William Johnson, also part of the National Park. Johnson was born a slave to his white father and his mother, who was a slave. Johnson was freed by his father at age 11, and owned both property and slaves in Natchez. Johnson, who was taught to read and write by his father, although it was illegal, kept a diary for 16 years. Unfortunately, the Johnson home and the 1845 Melrose Mansion, were closed during our visit due to Covid-19, so be sure to check the National Park website.

While the charming city of Natchez sits on a bluff high above the Mississippi River, Under the Hill was the dark and seedy part of the city, tucked away on the banks of the Mississippi River. It was a gambling and red-light district where all things illegal could be found. Today, it is the home of the historic Under the Hill Saloon, and the Magnolia Bluffs Casino.

While you can’t board from Natchez, the American Queen Steamboat does stop in Natchez on their 9-day New Orleans to Memphis cruise. This is a bucket list item for me, cruising on the Mississippi River! Natchez also sits along one of the Great American Roadtrips, the Great River Road, which follows the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, over 3,000 miles and through 10 states!

It’s hard not to make a comparison of New Orleans to Natchez, simply because everywhere you go in Natchez the locals are reminding you that their city is 3 years older than N’awlins. There’s not a lot of night life in Natchez, other than the casino and a few bars, but there’s enough to do to fill a weekend!

Natchez is known for a great many things, and not all of them as good as biscuits. During the time before the Civil War, Natchez was home to Forks of the Road, one of the largest slave marketplaces in the South, where thousands of slaves were sold each year up until the Civil War. The area is now designated by markers, and was one of our first stops upon reaching Natchez. Natchez has come a long way from only portraying itself as a reminder of Southern Wealth, to honoring those who bared the burden of toiling for that wealth.

Upon learning we were headed for Natchez, some of the books I immediately read to prepare and learn more about the city were the fictional Natchez Burning by Greg Iles, who is a Natchez native and celebrity. I also loved the newly published The Deepest South of All; True Stories from Natchez, Mississippi by Richard Grant. This book was already on my short list to read. I had read his Dispatches from Pluto the previous year, and been looking forward to reading it. Black Boy (published 1945) by Richard Wright was a hard read for me but definitely gave me a different set of eyes during our visit.

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