The pandemic has changed a lot of how we enjoy our restaurant experiences. While some restaurants have opened at limited capacity for indoor dining, most now offer curbside or pick-up opportunities for dining on your own. Rather than take your culinary claim back to your home or a hotel room, why not enjoy a repast in the great outdoors, socially distanced from other pods?
Here are five great meals and parks I discovered on my trip to DeSoto County, Mississippi. This county just south of Memphis across the Tennessee state line offers several wonderful outdoor venues and plenty of excellent restaurants to supply your vittles.
Full disclosure: I was hired by a public relations company to visit DeSoto County, with full autonomy to cover whatever stories I happened to find. The opinions and photographs are my own, and I paid for each and every meal featured here. In fact, these restaurants had no idea who I was when I made my orders and picked up the food shown here.
First pairing: A quick mobile breakfast from Coffee Central and a jog at Snowden Grove Park in Southaven.
A brisk, clear morning calls for getting out and getting a little exercise. I picked up a rich iced coffee with cream at Coffee Central on Getwell in Southaven, then headed over to Snowden Grove Park for a light jog along the walking trail that winds through the facilities there. This marvelous red velvet muffin with chocolate chips was excellent fuel for the expedition. I'll be back when it warms up for a round of mini-golf!
Second: Catch and release fishing and wings and things from Memphis Barbecue Company at Latimer Lake Park in Horn Lake.
Call in your order in advance to the Memphis Burger Company, which has curbside pickup and short wait times. Take your bounty to the side of a fishing pond at Latimer Lake Park, a multi-use complex with golf, sports fields, playground, fishing and walking tracks on the west side of town.
Wings are a great option for picnic dining while watching the waters. They're smoked first, then fried and sauced, for glorious flavor throughout.
The burnt ends melt combines the lusciously long smoked brisket ends with caramelized onions and Cheddar on Texas toast for soft, pull-apart bites - a good match for the tangy-sweet MBC sauce. Lots of sides to choose from, including onion rings or fries.
Be sure to get more than one slice of the blueberry butter pie - or a fight might break out. The sweet custard and crumble pie comes with an additional blueberry coulis to drizzle over the top.
Third: Watching the ducks and enjoying a Fat Panda from SideStreet Burgers in Olive Branch City Park.
This underrated jewel a few blocks from the heart of the city is festooned with ponds, walking trails, sports complexes and plenty of places for a grand picnic. It's an excellent place for a quick lunch or picnic - with a quick grab of one of SideStreet Burger's signature sandwiches and a side. The Fat Panda itself is a glorious compilation of tender beef chunks, cilantro, and Asian mayo on a poor boy loaf - just the right size for a quick pondside dine.
And isn't this just the right spot for a little relaxation?
Fourth: Lots of playground fun and customized burgers and shakes from Velvet Cream at Conger Park in Hernando.
Velvet Cream, Mississippi's longest running dairy bar, offers dozens of combinations of burger toppings, cheeses, and buns - which means you can please just about anyone with the selections the eatery offers.
Once you make your choices on the restaurant's app and pick up your repast, take it with you to Conger Park - which has one of the most splendid free playgrounds for counties around. Younger kids will spend hours exploring all the nooks and crannies, while older kids may go for walking the trails or rolling on the hillsides.
Remember before you go to make sure and select ice cream delights as well - concretes, shakes, malts, sundaes and more are also on Velvet Cream's menu.
Fifth: Watching the barges float by while digging into barbecue from The Original Tom's BBQ at Hernando DeSoto River Park on the Mississippi.
This is an excellent spot to watch barges move up and down the river. Birdwatching is another marvelous choice - and if you like to bike, there's a station just for you.
The barbecue combos are a good choice - with two sides each. The brisket comes with a sweet and tangy sauce and goes ever so well with the soft and creamy potato salad.
You may also want to go for a quick handheld, like this smoked and fried beef sausage with barbecue sauce and coleslaw. It's substantially good.
Be sure to get your turnip greens - The Original Tom's does them slightly sweet, with plenty of potlikker.
If you're planning at trip to DeSoto County and you'd like more information, head to this website. Enjoy the views, the delicacies, and the adventure, safely.
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