A Dinner Down Main Street
by Erin Austen Abbott
Erin Austen Abbott, a local and lover of small town America, is back again to share her journey with her son, Tom Otis, through Water Valley. Read her previous posts about Small Town Living here.
Water Valley, MS is a really small town. Only about 3900 residents and only 19 miles from Oxford, so it’s a sweet little bedroom community to the bigger college town to the north. For such a small town, we have a pretty great line up of places to eat ; twelve independent restaurants, two food trucks, a brewery, a chocolate shop, and an ice cream counter inside the local drug store. If we were in a big city, it would be like eating in your neighborhood, every time you eat out. The funny thing is, I’m pretty sure that another couple of restaurants would also thrive here.
When I moved to Water Valley 13 years ago, there weren’t a lot of restaurant options. I think there were about four places you could eat out, so I love the progression that we’ve seen here.
Tom Otis and I decided to take you on our own version of a progressive dinner weekend, down Main Street in Water Valley. If you make it here to visit sometime, I’d love to hear where you stopped in to eat. We spread it out over the day, because I really wanted to include the BTC in the mix and they are only open for breakfast and lunch…
We started off the afternoon with hand-cut french fries at The BTC Old Fashioned Grocery Store. Make sure to get an assortment of house made dipping sauces. Their full menu is delicious, so don’t hesitate to come back for lunch. Their building is one of the oldest ones on Main Street. It’s a beautiful, three story brick building, that the owners painstakingly re-mortared when they refinished it almost ten years ago. Upstairs is an apartment and a coding school, mixed among a few offices.
We weren’t in any hurry, so Tom and I stopped by our little (it’s only ten feet across and thirty feet long) book store, Violet Valley Books to look through the new arrivals. They have a great selection of used books, across a wide range of topics. They even have story time on Saturday mornings, for the kids. It’s directly next door to the BTC Grocery.
Next we walked down to Trusy’s Diner to grab some soup from the special board, which was black bean. Sitting just a block from The BTC, it’s a sweet little diner in style, but offers a lot of healthy options next to BBQ sandwiches and rotisserie chicken plates. All the pies and cakes that line the counter are made in house as well.
Continuing down the road, we headed to the converted gas station that is now the Crawdad Hole.
Offering fresh gulf shrimp, oysters, and crab legs year round, you can stop in here and get a full shrimp boil in one go. The namesake item, crawdads are seasonal, but so delicious. Tom loves the shrimp and tamales, so we go the sample plate to split.
We walked off the appetizer, soup, and seafood, and headed to Turnage’s Drug Store for an ice cream cone. Where can you get an ice cream cone for $1? Turnage’s is where. It’s the charming little spot within the drug store. With a classic, vintage diner look, it’s a favorite after-school ice cream location too. I didn’t get any, but it was a nice treat for Tom.
Tom Otis and I ended the night playing a few games at the arcade, Bits Arcade, inside Yalobusha Brewery. He is still getting the hang of how to play these games. I grew up playing in arcades, so I love that I get to share this with him, just a couple blocks from our house.
Small towns don’t work for everyone, but we certainly love it here, and can’t see ourselves living anywhere else.
Here’s a round up of the places that we will work in next time we do a progressive dinner style evening.
Dining in Water Valley:
- China Star
- Dunn’s Country Store and Bait Shop
- Hometown Pizza
- Downtown Inn
- Mrs. C’s Wings
- Southern Kitchen
- B and B’s
- El Charrito
- Bound’s BBQ
- The Fish Shack
- Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
Erin Austen Abbott, born 1976, in Tupelo, Mississippi, studied photography at the Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston, MA and at the Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle, WA. She has had photography shows in Tampa, Seattle, Boston, Memphis, Los Angeles, Oxford, MS, Charleston, SC, Basel, Switzerland, Milan, Italy, Berlin, Germany and Water Valley, MS in the years 1999- 2017.
Erin has had her work published in Esquire, Bon Appétit, Visit Baton Rouge, Invitation Magazine, Country Roads, Liquor.com, Sycamore Magazine, Southern Living, Garden & Gun, Bitter Southerner, Teen Vogue, Alternative Press, LA Times, Uppercase, and Southern Spaces. She is a regular contributor for Design* Sponge, one of the leading interior design blogs in the world, Oxford Magazine, and also on the Splinter Creek journal, where she shares monthly. She also published her first book, How To Make It, on Chronicle Books, in the spring of 2017. Erin lives in Water Valley, Mississippi, where she is currently working on her second book, running her shop Amelia, and working on various interior design jobs.
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I’m Erin Napier, co-owner of Laurel Mercantile Co. and Scotsman Co. with my husband, Ben. I’m an artist and he’s a craftsman and we help people moving to our town find and restore old houses on HGTV’s Home Town. In an effort to count my blessings, this journal has documented only the good things that happen on each and every day of my life since January 1, 2010. I am a wife, a daughter, a homebody, a bubble bath lover, a book reader, a sentimental, stressed out, slightly obsessive southerner. Welcome!