RSJ’s Long-Gone Restaurant Top 40

Recently I discovered a Facebook fan group that focused on the restaurant history of Hattiesburg. People who had joined the site were discussing restaurants that had long since closed in this area.

I started thinking about the restaurants that I grew up eating in and realized that my love for the foodservice business started at an early age.

Feeling nostalgic, I decided to compile a list of my favorite long-lost Hattiesburg restaurants and rank them in order of importance to me. Such a list is obviously subjective. My memories and experiences are clearly different that everyone else’s.

In was born in 1961 so my restaurant memories in Hattiesburg don't really start until the mid 1960s. I will state that I was too young to have remembered the Choctaw and Bush’s, though I have heard many great things. I missed the entire drive-in restaurant phase altogether, and my mother never believed that I could behave long enough to have eaten in Jimmy Faughn’s (one of the godfathers of the Hattiesburg restaurant business), though I truly wish I would have eaten there.

The following are my Top 40 Long-Gone Hattiesburg Restaurants:

Honorable Mention: The original Kamper Park concession stand— I lived a few blocks away and spent several days a week at the park for the first six years of my life. If it was sweet and loaded with sugar, that concession stand had it. The old concrete block building is gone now, but it was packed back in the day.

40.) The Hercules Cafeteria— 7th Street (the art deco building is still there). It was an excellent meat-and-three that peaked in the 1950s when the plant was running full steam, and closed around the time I was in high school

39.) Shakey's Pizza— Highway 49. It was the original concept in the building that houses Shenanigan's today. They opened with a vaudeville style piano and banjo player. The pizza was OK, but it was the first restaurant I can remember having a themed atmosphere.

38.) Orange Julius— Cloverleaf Mall. That mall was a huge part of my youth in the 1970s. It was the center of the universe for most in my age range. In the 1980s, I met with a group of close friends there every Friday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. They had a surprisingly good burger

37.) Sambos— Hardy Street at North 33rd. It was a not-too-politically-correct concept, but the breakfast was pretty good and they were open late, too. It closed in the mid 1980s. I almost opened the original Purple Parrot Café there, but the building was in too much disrepair by 1987. My good friend Chris Bowen, and your Forrest County Supervisor, got his start washing dishes there when he was 13-years old.

36.) Magundi’s Sandwich Shop—  South 27th Avenue. This place was located one block off of the Southern Miss campus in the 1980s and they served good sandwiches with some of Hattiesburg’s first outside dining. Good jukebox, too.

35.) Burkett’s— Timothy Lane (where Jutama’s is today)— A classic old school breakfast/lunch diner for many years.

34.) Dale’s— Corner of Highway 49 and Hardy Street. It was a concept from North Mississippi that was originally called Dale and Danver’s. The two partners split and Dale came here. I liked the roast beef sandwiches and homemade fries. The building was originally a Burger Chef in the 1960s.

33.) Gus’ #2— Front Street. The building is still there and unoccupied. There’s lots of potential in that classic Hattiesburg restaurant building.

32.) Little Ray's Po-Boys— The Rosetti family came up from the Gulf Coast and opened a po-boy shop in the early 1970s, just across the street from Southern Miss next door to where the 30th Avenue Subway is located.

31.) The Burger House— Hardy Street next to Kamper Park. The building is still there and belongs to the Hardy Street Baptist Church. I loved their orange drink and fries. McDonald’s opened in town, others followed, and— unfortunately— you know what happened after that.

30.) Burger House #2— Hardy Street at 38th Avenue. The building that now houses a hibachi restaurant was built as a burger restaurant owned by the same investor group (several local businessmen) that owned the Burger House at Kamper Park.  

29.) Olde Tyme Donuts— Highway 49 Bypass and Camp Street near Forrest General Hospital (currently a bank). The drive-through window was my before school go-to in the 1970s.

28.) Pasquale's Pizza— 4th Street at North 25th (where the End Zone sits today). They had good pizza, but the roast beef sandwiches were even better.

27.) Jerry's Fried Chicken— Mulitple locations in Hattiesburg and Petal. When I was a disc jockey I used to call in an order, put on a long record (Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven or Frampton’s Do You Feel Like We Do) and race across the railroad tracks in Petal to get a late supper, trying to get back to the station before the song was over. They had surprisingly good hamburgers, and my lifelong love for tater tots was born there.

26.) Ichabod's— Hardy Street. It was kind of a fern bar-type place in the Milton's men’s clothing store building where the Neal House sits today.

25.) Michelle's/Wild Magnolia— both casual-dining concepts that opened in the Ichabod’s building after it burned.

24.) The Original Mack's Fish Camp— River Road (where the Mack’s On the River concept is located today). The original building burned down years ago. It was Hattiesburg's first all-you-can-eat restaurant. It wasn’t a buffet; they just kept bringing it to you. My boss at the radio station weighed over 500 pounds and loved to eat there. They hated seeing him walk in. He stopped eating— not when he was full, but— when he got bored.

23.) Ma Twilley's— Main Street. This long-running boarding house served excellent fried chicken to residents and the general public.

22.) Stockyard Steaks—This was my concept. In the early 1990s I closed the Purple Parrot Cafe and opened a steakhouse for two years. The steaks and burgers were good, but I missed the Parrot.

21.) Conestoga Steak House— The Original location was on Broadway Drive (in what I believe was the former Jimmy Faughn’s Sea Lodge restaurant)— James Cooper, the owner, was a little gruff, but deep down he was a teddy bear, a great restaurant operator and a very hard working man.

20.) The Wagon Wheel—Highway 49 South. They had good barbeque, everyone loved the bread, but they had seriously good baked beans, too. I’d love to have that recipe.  

19.) South China Restaurant— In the days before every Chinese restaurant had to be a buffet serving the same thing, this was probably the second-best Chinese restaurant in Hattiesburg, ever. It opened in the closed Burger House II building (across from Ed’s Burger Joint)

18.) Jack's Cafe— East 2nd Street. Great breakfast in downtown. The Egg McJack was Jack Bevon’s one-up response to the newly introduced Egg McMuffin.

17.) Burger Town— Hardy Street, where Checker’s stands today, across from USM. It had Hattiesburg's first drive-through window— a telephone on a pole in the back of the building that one had to pick up to talk to an order taker. That was high tech stuff in the mid 1970s. They served real-deal fried apple pies, and damn good cherry Cokes. It’s hard to find a real fried apple pie these days.

16.) Mixon's Catfish House—Highway 49 South, on the hilltop next to Rose's Quick Stop. The building is still there in front of the dirt track. They had good catfish and killer baked beans and slaw. It was my grandfather’s go-to for birthday celebrations

15.) Coach’s Dugout— Highway 49 bypass at O’Ferral Street. Longtime William Carey College coach John O’Keefe and his wife opened up a small poboy shop around 1977. I loved their roast beef po-boys and ate there often.

14.) Cuco's (the first 10 years)— It was a hot concept out of New Orleans in the early days. It’s still my favorite chimichanga, ever, served with some type of light, brown gravy on it. They had good nachos, too.

13.) 589 Family Fish House— Highway 589 (it was my concept, but I still miss it). We served family style fried catfish and passed vegetables. It was a fun place to eat and a fun place to own. I closed it a week or so after 9/11 with plans to reopen in a different location one day. I got busy and never got around to it. Still might do that one of these days.

12.) Blue Ribbon Bakery— Hardy Street at Pinehurst. The birthplace of the rainbow cookie.

11.) North Heights Restaurant— Highway 49 just off of 31st Avenue. Before there was Waffle House (and even after there was Waffle House) there was North Heights. They served a great plate lunch and made killer late-night patty melts.

10.) Hunan—Highway 49 bypass next door to the aforementioned Olde Tyme Donuts. Hattiesburg’s best Chinese restaurant, ever. The building was originally built as a Pitt Grill (kind of a Denny’s concept). If I had their recipes for Hunan Shrimp and Peking Chicken I could build an entire Oriental restaurant concept around them. I've tried replicating them both to no avail.

9.) Captain John's— Highway 49. It was the original concept that was located in the in the building that Cuco’s later occupied. It was former Hattiesburg councilman John Buckley's seafood restaurant and my go-to for fried shrimp on birthdays.

8.) Cock of the Walk— Lakeview Road (In that building just behind The Hunt Club). I was on the opening crew in 1981 (my first job as a server). They used to let employees charge against their paycheck. I always OWED money on payday.

7.) Nanny's— Edward’s Street. A longtime staple for meat-and-three fans with excellent chicken pot pie.

6.) Jeremiah's—Just off of 37th Avenue behind Pizza Hut. That building has been many things. I owned a live music club called Blues Alley there in the 1990s. Today it’s a pile of ashes, but when it opened in the mid 1970s— by the same group that owned The Gin in Oxford— it was the best bar in town. Stevie Ray Vaughn played there. Enough said.

5.) Seale Lily— Hardy Street at South 19th. It was a true soda shop located in the end of the strip center that Sunflower now anchors (a liquor store today). Seale Lily sold ice cream in grocery stores but their physical location was located near Kamper Park and the baseball field, and was always filled with kids. I loved their pineapple sherbet.

4.) The California Sandwich Shop— a moment of silence please while we remember this grandaddy of the Hattiesburg restaurant scene. Southbound is doing a good job holding down that spot these days.

3.) Mama Alma's—  Highway 42. Great recipes, poor location. Had Alma opened almost anywhere other than where she did, I believe we’d all still be eating there.

2.) Frostop— Hardy Street and 10th Avenue. I ate there every day after kindergarten and during my high school years when I would skip school and go to lunch. Killer jukebox. Before there was Ward’s, there was The Frostop.

1.) Mr. Ed's Pizza— Hardy Street at North 35th. I have eaten pizza all over the world, and Mr. Ed’s pizza still ranks in my top two. If I had the recipe (I searched and tried track people down to get it for years), I would open up a pizza restaurant tomorrow. It originally opened where the illegal burrito place is now, and then it moved a few doors down to the building that has been a revolving door for restaurants and currently houses a Chinese restaurant.