Jun 16, 2022

Crisler’s – a satisfying soul food side trip in Crystal Springs, Miss.

It’s rarely a challenge to find good soul food in the Deep South.  But if you really want great soul food, it’s been my experience that you need to skip the cities and get off the beaten path as much as possible.  Punky and I applied this logic on one of our road trips to New Orleans not long ago, and my senses proved to be spot-on after we discovered Crisler’s outside of Crystal Springs, Miss.

Finding Crisler’s was one of those happy accidents that occasionally happen on road trips when you just go with the flow and don’t settle for something that’s bound to disappoint you.  After driving south through Jackson, Miss. at the height of lunchtime with only chain restaurants in our sights, Punky and I decided we’d rather keep driving hungry until we found something better. 

By the time we had reached Exit 72 for Crystal Springs, we had grown tired of the interstate altogether and decided to drive into town to see what was there, then continue south down old U.S. Highway 51.  Our efforts to find a good local eatery appeared to be fruitless until I quite literally passed by this narrow brown shed tucked back off the highway, by a small intersection with a one-lane country road.  As we drove past, I noticed a pair of vehicles parked beside the building and a few people scattered around a couple of round deck tables in front of the place.  I knew I had hit pay dirt.  I made a quick U-turn at my first opportunity, on a red clay road, and sped back to Crisler’s Soulfood.

I got a wonderful family-run vibe from the place as soon as we parked and walked up to the window to place our order.  The menu was pretty basic – your “meat and two” choice from whatever they had on hand that day.  I didn’t mind the limited options at all. It makes ordering that much easier.  Of course, Punky chose the fried chicken for her entrée, and I got the pepper steak.  And honestly, for just $8 (at the time), any home-cooked entrée with two comforting sides and cornbread or a roll is sure to be a satisfying meal.

After completing our order, we found an open table and patiently waited.  After all, this is not fast food; this is home cooking from the heart.  While we relaxed, I couldn’t help but notice a steady trickle of vehicles pulling up – about one every minute or so – and people walking out to pick up orders they had apparently phoned in.  This only confirmed to me that we had found the right place at the right time for lunch.

Soon enough, our orders were ready.  I walked up to the window and cheerfully grabbed our weighted down Styrofoam containers. 

My pepper steak came out hot, flavorful and practically drowning in the juices it was cooked in.  As evidenced by the picture, the portion was generous, too.  Look closely, and you can also see tiny bits of cornbread left over from where I dipped it in to soak up more of the juices.  But I also saved some cornbread to absorb the wonderfully briny pot liquor from the excellently simmered mustard greens I ordered as a side.  The best part of the meal, though, was the side of red beans and rice – just the right level of creaminess and smokiness from the bits of sausage cooked into the dish.

So, just how much off the beaten path is this place?  Well, I couldn’t find a pin for Crisler’s Soulfood on Google Maps.  Nor could I find a website.  But they do have a Facebook and Instagram page where they regularly keep followers posted on their daily specials. 

Crisler’s Soulfood typically offers three to four main dishes now with a solid rotating selection of sides (if only they had purple hull peas and okra the day we were there!).  A meal currently runs around $10, cash only, but that’s still a crazy good deal for what you’re getting.  It’s totally worth your time when you’re in the area and craving a home-cooked lunch.  Just drive slowly on U.S. 51 south of town, and look for the little brown shed along the highway.  The aromas of some seriously satisfying soul food just may lead you there on their own. 

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