If there’s one place that’s set the pace for Oxford’s culinary renaissance, it’s City Grocery. Situated on the south side of the square—Oxford’s charming, thriving downtown center—City Grocery exudes a confident elegance. The downstairs dining room is a bright and peaceful space framed by beadboard ceilings and ancient brick walls, while the dark bar upstairs is famous as a watering hole for visiting and local literati.
Chef–proprietor John Currence, winner of the 2009 James Beard Best Southern Chef Award, marked City Grocery’s 20th anniversary this past spring. The celebration included a series of guest-chef dinners and a revival of the restaurant’s original menu, which from Currence’s perspective now seems “almost cute” in its naïveté.
Like its hometown, City Grocery has come a long way while staying true to its roots. In addition to one menu classic that spans the seasons—Shrimp and Grits—you’ll find a changing selection of sophisticated Southern choices such as Truffled Chicken Pot Pie and Shaved Fennel Slaw.
If anything, City Grocery is more rooted in its locale today than ever before: Along with three sister restaurants—Bouré, Snackbar, and Big Bad Breakfast—it has benefited from a slate of new community-supported farms, local food suppliers for items such as grits and dairy products, and connections with high-quality vendors from around the region.
Sourcing local ingredients may be easier today, but it’s long been a priority for Currence. In preparing to open City Grocery, Currence planted his own tomatoes and basil, quizzed clerks in the grocery store’s produce section, and bought as many ingredients as he could from an old farmer who still plowed with a mule on a farm east of town.
Currence and John T. Edge, director of the University of Mississippi-based Southern Foodways Alliance, were later instrumental in starting a local farmers’ market. It was a community service, sure, but for Currence, it also was a great way to find out who was growing what. –Lucy Schultze
152 Courthouse Sq.
Oxford, MS 38655