When football season gets going and the temperatures start to ease, Oxford is where I want to be. As August rolls into its last weeks, the Square comes alive with open-door boutiques, Thacker Mountain Radio shows, signings at Square Books, hot pizza, cold martinis, and yes, Ole Miss freshmen driving the wrong way around the circle.
Plenty of folks visit for the classics, including William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak and fried catfish on the weathered porch of Old Taylor Grocery. But the place is also constantly reinventing itself. College towns tend to do that. Here’s what’s new and forthcoming:
Formerly the Chancellor’s House, this property shuttered for a full revamp. Recently reopened, the Oliver now welcomes guests to three in-house dining options, including a patio restaurant, cocktail parlor, and rooftop venue. The forty guestrooms keep a boutique and bespoke vibe thanks to dark wood dressers and linen-wrapped headboards. The little luxuries extend far past Mississippi’s borders, however, and include Rivolta Carmignani Egyptian cotton linens and London’s James Heely bath products.
It’s no secret G&G is a fan of Wonderbird Spirits. (They were our overall Made in the South Award winners in 2021.) This year, Mississippi’s first grain-to-glass gin distillery has announced an expansion. The new distillery will not only have loftier production capabilities but also a tasting room for visitors to sample their flagship No. 61 gin, made with rice from the Mississippi Delta and a complex layering of ten botanicals. The crew will also be pouring their other award-winning distillates, like the No. 97 Magnolia Experimental Gin, which features a profile of cinchona bark, juniper, coriander, and black peppercorn, plus fresh-harvested magnolia blossoms.
Hot dog haven
Sometimes you just need a really, really good hot dog. Quacks understands. This plucky (excuse the pun) gourmet hot dog joint serves classics from cities around America, be it a New York dog with spicy mustard or a Chicago-style creation complete with a pickle spear. The menu favors fun, one-of-a-kind styles as well, like the ode to New Orleans Bou-Dat dog, with whipped boudin cream cheese and Andouille sausage, red beans, and onions. A must-try would be the over-the-top (but tasty) Mississippi Delta dog, with a split beef frank filled with a delta tamale, chipotle ketchup, and fried Saltine crackers. Catering for your game-day tent in the Grove is available.
Made to measure
Oxford has always provided a wealth of women’s fashions, but last year, Finch & Kelly arrived to focus on the gentlemen, with custom suits by professional tailors. The shop stocks luxury fabrics from renowned mills across the globe, from Scabal to Loro Piana to Dormeuil. Once you stand for your measurements during your appointment, you can expect to receive your suit in four to six weeks. Finch & Kelly also stocks an excellent array of leather belts, Oxford shirts, cotton dress shorts, and colorful swim trunks.
Events at Square Books
One of the nation’s most recognized and revered bookstores since 1979, Square Books has hosted authors like Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Willie Morris, who was fond of bringing in authors himself when he was the writer-in-residence at Ole Miss back in the 1980s.
Off Square Books is the adjacent, smaller shop just a few doors down. It’s here that locals and visitors enjoy Thacker Mountain Radio, a live show with author readings and music performances broadcast every Thursday. Thacker Mountain celebrates twenty-five years this year, and it’s better than ever. The August/September lineup will include North Carolina author Ron Rash reading from his new novel The Caretaker, a conversation hour with authors Ann Patchett and Lindsay Lynch, as well as an event with the author of Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk, reading from his latest title, Not Forever, But for Now.