We understand that elevated fuel costs can make a trip to the gas station a painful experience. But on some visits, you might just find something else inside the station to dull the pain a bit — great food! While the wall of jerky and the robotic brisket-ordering system at Buc-ee’s (a gas station complex that can be seen from the International Space Station) might be impressive, we prefer smaller, down-home service stations when we’re hunting for tasty food.
Mississippi is well-known as a hotbed of culinary excellence, from fine dining restaurants in Jackson and Oxford to seafood shacks in Biloxi and Gulfport and soul food joints in Tupelo and Clarksdale. Between those towns, you can make a pit stop to fill up your tank and your belly at any number of outstanding service station restaurants whose reputations precede them. Here’s a guide (organized from north to south) of a dozen potential destinations to help you find some seriously good grub on the road.
When it comes to beloved gas station food in Mississippi, probably the most iconic (and ultimately portable) dish is the famous chicken-on-a-stick. This giant chicken tender is fried to a lovely golden brown and skewered for ease of transport as a late-night snack after an evening out in downtown Oxford. Most importantly, to be the authentic version, it must come from a Chevron station — and not just any Chevron station. Generations of Oxonians and Ole Miss students have preferred the 4 Corners Chevron on the southern edge of the quaint downtown. If you show up at a party with a styrofoam clamshell box filled with chicken from the other Chevron just a few blocks away on the north side of town, be prepared to never receive a return invitation again! Regardless of where they come from, fried chicken on a wooden spear is always a good idea. A side of buttermilk ranch only makes it better.
Littlejohn’s Quick Shop isn’t really walkable from Oxford’s town square as it’s on the outskirts of town past the University of Mississippi, but it’s definitely worth the drive. The unassuming Citgo station on Highway 30 serves up plate lunches with specialties like meatloaf, field peas, mac ‘n cheese, and homemade cornbread like grandma would bake. Farm-fresh vegetables are also a solid choice for side dishes. Pro tip: crumble your cornbread over the peas to help soak up the delicious juices.
Not all the great fried chicken at Mississippi gas stations comes on a stick. At Mr. Jiffy’s in Charleston, they fry it up until it’s crisp and sell it by the box. Order it by the piece or the quarter-bird, and be sure to set the container on something so it doesn’t stain your front seat on the ride home. (Not like it will last the whole drive before you dig in!)
Midway Market and Deli is aptly named and located about halfway between Charleston and Oakland on Highway 32. Affordable combo meals are the house’s specialty, and plates of burgers, sandwiches, cheesesteaks, chicken, and fish are served with a side dish and a fountain drink for a full meal. Choosing between side dishes might be the most challenging decision you’ll make all day! Po’ boys are another highlight of the Midway menu, with roast beef as the popular favorite.
The smorgasbord at the Double Quick in Sunflower County’s Moorhead, MS, is always quite a spread. The restaurant shows real expertise with the fryer, pumping out crispy chicken, fish, corn dogs, and potato wedges. The real standout is a dish you probably don’t cook for yourself at home — fried chicken livers. These savory morsels are a down-home classic, so reach outside your comfort zone and try them.
Although Louisville, MS, is about four hours away from the Gulf of Mexico, they somehow managed to get some fantastic seafood at Gregory’s on the Bypass Texaco and Cock of the Walk Restaurant. In addition to a convenience store that sells all sorts of sundries, including scrumptious desserts packaged to-go, Cock of the Walk is a full-service restaurant specializing in Southern classics like fried chicken and fried fish with housemade tartar sauce, beans, and greens. When they’re in season, you can also buy crawfish and oysters fresh from the water to your backseat for the ride home. You’d better keep the a/c on or the windows down for that trip, though.
While some of the gas station eateries on this list are just little deli counters or steam tables primarily set up for carryout, The Market Cafe at the Fleetway in Gluckstadt is a full-service restaurant with plenty of seating for a proper pit-stop meal. In addition to grab-and-go sandwiches and fruit parfaits, they serve a menu of fried chicken, smoked meats, and Southern sides, plus daily blue plate specials worth planning your schedule around. Meatloaf Tuesdays are an excellent time to stop by, and their breakfast biscuit sandwiches are an everyday treat!
The Chevrons in Oxford may specialize in poultry on a spike, but in Flowood at the Chevron on Lakeland Dr., barbecue is the focus. At Hog Heaven, they fire up the smokers every day except Sunday to serve up fall-off-the-bone tender slabs of St. Louis-style spare ribs, hickory-sweet smoked chickens, and spicy sausages that have taken a trip across the grill before resting on a bun. If you’ve never tried a rib sandwich, you’ll discover that it stretches the definition of “sandwich” — it’s three bones laid across white bread. But we’re confident you can figure out how to eat it.
In nearby Jackson, they also offer some great ’cue at an outpost of the small chain of Exxon-based Rib Daddy’s restaurants, with two other locations in Carthage and Canton. Of course, pork is the star of the show with a menu featuring sticky sweet and tangy ribs, pork chops, and rib tips — a delicacy rarely seen on Southern barbecue meat lists. If you don’t feel like gettin’ piggy with it, smoked turkey and fried chicken are other options worth considering, and you can ask for a plate of just about anything on the menu then add a slice of bread and two side dishes.
Although Seafood Express is just off Interstate 59 in Meridian, you could swear that you’re at the other end of the highway where I-59 meets Lake Pontchartrain right outside New Orleans. People drive from miles around to feast on Seafood Express’s po’ boys, which are piled high with perfectly fried shrimp, oysters, chicken, scallops, and catfish. (But when soft shell crabs are in season, there’s really no other choice than a “softie sandwich!”) The bread is just crunchy enough to hold on to all that fried goodness without shattering on the first bite, and you can buy live or cooked crawfish by the pound when they’re in season.
The closer you get to The Big Easy in Mississippi, the more plentiful (and often more delicious) the po’ boys become. At Vine’s Brothers in Centreville, fans flock to the cozy wood-paneled dining room that started as a tiny deli in a former storage closet and has expanded into a restaurant, smokehouse, and meat processing facility for local deer hunters. Now under the fourth generation of management, Vines serves a full lunch buffet seven days a week plus á la carte options like the aforementioned po’ boys and dinner on the weekends. While the fried seafood sandwiches are top-notch, the open-faced roast beef and gravy are the star of the show. Don’t forget to take home some of their famous smoked sausages for the perfect addition to some homemade red beans and rice.
At Fayard’s in Ocean Springs, you’re almost close enough to Biloxi Bay to smell the salt air from the Gulf, and some folks consider them the best po’ boy restaurant on the coast. The power move is to order your sandwich “pressed and dressed,” which means it’s topped with shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, pickles, and mayo before a final pass through a panini press to delightfully smush everything together while adding a perfect toast to the crust. Any fried seafood po’ boys are exceptional, but the roast beef with rich brown gravy is a delightful mess that will make you want to roll up your sleeves and dig in.
This article was made possible by Visit Mississippi.
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