Food & Drink

Eat Like a Local in the Delta

Mississippi native Cole Ellis shares his favorite places to eat in “the most Southern place on earth”

“In 2013, we started with two meat counters and a little bit of ambition,” says chef Cole Ellis of the Delta Meat Market, located in his hometown of Cleveland, Mississippi. Originally intended to be a grocery store with a prep kitchen in the back, the establishment began serving lunch soon after opening. Business boomed, and Ellis had to open its doors six days a week instead of the intended three. “Now we do everything from serving food, to catering, to sourcing produce from far and wide—and as local as possible,” says the James Beard semifinalist. “We even dabble in beer. We have a dream of opening a brewery.”

photo: Grant Ellis

Cole Ellis of Delta Meat Market.

Although not a common destination for renowned chefs, Cleveland was a no-brainer for Ellis. After thirteen years of training and cooking in Charleston, South Carolina, and Nashville, Tennessee, Ellis and his family simply moved home. “We really want to continue to develop this community, which has been a stronghold in the Delta,” he says. “All the buildings downtown are occupied.” And next year, a new building will add its name to the list of thriving storefronts: a few months ago, Ellis and a team of investors broke ground on a 95-room boutique hotel right across the street from the current Delta Meat Market location. Ellis will move his shop across the street and take control of the rest of food and beverage in the hotel, including a 100-seat rooftop bar. The venture, dubbed the Cotton House, is scheduled to open in a little over a year.

photo: Grant Ellis

Tamales at the Delta Meat Market in Cleveland, Mississippi.

As for the rest of the Delta, change is also on the horizon. “People say things are constantly changing in the food scene,” Ellis says. “The area is a melting pot and personalities come out in food.” From the “great meat-and-threes” to the “dynamite steakhouses,” see Ellis’s suggestions on where to eat in this beloved part of Mississippi and beyond.

Doe’s Eat Place
502 Nelson Street, Greenville

“You can’t talk about the Delta and not mention Doe’s. It’s a great steakhouse, but it also has so much character—it’s infamous. With steaks bigger than your head, a room that’s full of the ‘chef’s tables,’ and the ‘wet’ salad, you will be enamored by the Delta-ness of this place.” 

Amy Evans, Courtesy of the Southern Foodways Alliance

La Sierrita in Greenville
3796 US-278, Greenville

“This is one of the best Mexican restaurants I’ve ever eaten at in my life. If you make it there on a Saturday, the caldo de res will change your life.”

Crustaceans Crawfish
724 S. Davis Avenue, Cleveland

“Crustaceans is a little crawfish house here in town—it’s only open seasonally. A guy farms them in Louisiana and trucks them up once a week. It’s my favorite place to dine on the mudbugs—harvested, cleaned, and boiled to perfection. Can’t miss the boudin either.”

Crystal Grill
423 Carrollton Avenue, Greenwood

“Again, a cornerstone Delta restaurant. Its characteristic Delta charm is everywhere and screaming to tell a story—they’ve served a variety of pies with ‘mile high’ meringues for almost a century.”

photo: Courtesy of Crystal Grill

Mile High Coconut Pie from Crystal Grill.

Mai Little China
617 W. Park Avenue, Greenwood

“Born in a strip mall in Greenwood, Mississippi, Mai Little China is hands-down the best Chinese food in the Delta. It’s a must-try. From lobster to lamb, the dinner menu can’t be beat.”

The Country Platter
700 Ruby Street, Cleveland

“I like to start my Sundays with fried catfish and grits, then sometimes go back for fried chicken. I am a glutton for the delights harvested from the fryer of this place, and you can’t miss the mustard greens.”

Fine & Dandy
100 District Boulevard, Jackson

“This place isn’t in the Delta, but it’s great. It just opened up recently. It’s like your grandmother’s-kitchen-table-burger-joint with deviled eggs. It serves feel good food. The stuff you want to eat.”

photo: Courtesy of Fine & Dandy

Deviled eggs at Fine & Dandy.