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Pure Mississippi food

Slick Rick’s owner Rick Simons, courtesy Natchez CVB

In Natchez, Mississippi, visitors have several opportunities to dine inside historic antebellum mansions and grand plantation homes.

Chef and artist Esther Carpenter runs a bed-and-breakfast in her Natchez antebellum home known as the Elms, which was built in 1804 and has been in her family for more than 130 years. Carpenter hosts custom dinners for groups of up to about 25 people, said Sally Durkin, media liaison for the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau. After dinner, guests cross the street to the 1850 Stone House, where owner Joe Stone, a Eastman School of Music-trained concert pianist, treats guests to a 45-minute piano concert.

“It’s not your typical restaurant meal,” Durkin said “It’s just a completely unique product.”

A trip to 1818 restaurant guarantees diners a peek into Monmouth Plantation because the restaurant is on the first floor of the mansion, which is decked out in period decor. The servers are educated about the history of Monmouth, “so not only can they spin off the evening special, they can tell you all about the plantation,” Durkin said.

The Carriage House restaurant sits on the grounds behind Stanton Hall, a sprawling antebellum mansion that was built in the 1850s. Chef Bingo Starr maintained the restaurant’s Southern staples like fried chicken and buttery biscuits, but has incorporated gourmet touches and “jazzed it up a little bit,” Durkin said.

Built in the shape of a woman, Mammy’s Cupboard delivers classic roadside Americana. The 1940 restaurant resembles a mammy archetype, and her full, red-brick hoopskirt houses part of the dining room. The restaurant serves its sandwiches on homemade sourdough bread, but Mammy’s is best known for its pies.

“Their meringue is about 6 inches high,” Durkin said.

Slick Rick’s in downtown Natchez is slammed every day for lunch, Durkin said. Several years ago, owner Rick Simons started his own organic spice business, but that grew into his launching Slick Rick’s, where he uses his own spice mixes and serves sandwiches with names like the Triple Bypass, Hey-suess and Kick Your Bit.

Ridgeland restaurants are all about local, local, local.

“We’re part of the metro Jackson area, but we’re an artsy area, culinary arts being one of those,” said Melanie Archer, director of communications for the Ridgeland Tourism Commission.

She added, “We have over 140 restaurants here, and a lot of those are these amazing locally owned and operated restaurants, which sets us apart.”

Three locally owned steakhouses have carved out their own niches in Ridgeland. Shapley’s is known for its marinated beef, and Ely’s is known for its bone-in steak. At Tico’s Steak House, the steak continues to cook on special plates as it comes to the table.

In spring 2012, Anne Amelot-Homes and her father, executive chef Christian Amelot, opened their French restaurant, Anjou, to bring a taste of their hometown of La Ferte Bernard, France, to Ridgeland.

This spring, Eat Y’All organized one of its Chef’s Table events as part of the Ridgeland Fine Arts Festival. A local and regional chef prepared a seven-course meal with wine pairings for the 70 people who were lucky enough to get tickets. The chefs met and mingled with guests before the meal, and a sommelier was on hand to answer questions, Archer said.

Organizers plan to hold another culinary event during next year’s art festival, and Archer hopes to work with Eat Y’All to have more Chef’s Table events in Ridgeland.

“It’s something that went so well, we’ve definitely discussed doing more of these types of events in the future,” Archer said.