by Kara Kimbrough
After suffering through the pandemic for over a year, our state is slowly returning to normal. Instead of jumping ship to other states, get on the road and explore our state’s treasures, natural beauty and nearby places to eat. Over the next few weeks, I’ll feature some of best places to explore, including our beautiful state parks, along with a restaurant to top off the visit.
A place that’s been on my mind recently is Mississippi Petrified Forest in Flora. I toured it as a child during a church camp outing and was mystified by the archaic trees and stones. Seeing it again as an adult was equally memorable.
The petrified forest is aptly named. It was formed 36 million years ago after massive logs floated down a nearby river channel to the current site, then became petrified. Fast forward to 1965 and the area earned National Natural Landmark status. The State of Mississippi even claimed its fossilized wood as our state stone. There is a lot to see, but a favorite stop along the shaded nature trail is the Caveman’s Bench, a popular place to take the perfect selfie. There’s also a park for picnicking or relaxing.
At the end of the trail is an earth science museum filled with petrified wood samples from the other 49 states. Fossils and minerals from around the world, along with dinosaur footprints, whale bones and other interesting artifacts are on display.
After working up an appetite from the invigorating hike, stop by The Blue Rooster in Flora for a burger at one of the area’s most popular restaurants.
There are many questions to answer before placing an order at Blue Rooster. First, will you choose the Rooster Burger – the house burger ($10) that can be made in any size, topped with any sauce and encased in a regular or Jalapeno cheese bun? Some customers get so confused at this point that they have to ask for a “burger building sheet.”
Or maybe the Old Fashioned ($12) is what you need. It’s an eight-ounce patty topped with homemade chili, shredded cheese, onions and mustard in a bun.
The Ryan OH! ($16, pictured right) is a giant 16-ounce patty with lettuce, tomato, pepper jack and American cheese and sauce in a regular bun.
Despite its intimidating name, The Big Nasty ($16) is loved by young and old. It’s composed of not one, but two eight-ounce patties with sauteed onions, bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and pepper jack cheese on a Jalapeno cheddar bun.
The adventurous at heart choose The Flame Thrower ($14), an eight-ounce patty topped with sirloin steak, sauteed onions, jalapeno peppers and cheeses on a Jalapeno cheddar bun.
And don’t forget the sauce! The Blue Rooster’s famous Hollerback Sauce, their version of familiar Comeback dressing, is the perfect accompaniment to any burger.
In addition to the burgers, appetizers, salads, sandwiches and wings are available for those looking for a little something different.
Appetizers ($5-$6) include cheese sticks, fried mushrooms, egg rolls, cheese fries and pickle spears with sauce. Wings ($6) are served with a variety of sauces.
Those looking for lighter fare can try the chicken, Philly steak, burger and house salads served with a choice of Hollerback or other dressings. Salads are listed in the $3-$10 range.
Chicken tenders ($8) are on the menu, served up with a choice of side and tossed in diners’ favorite wing sauce.
Signature sandwiches include the Rooster club, kickin’ chicken (pictured right), and Philly steak, among others. Sandwiches range from $9 to $11.
If You Go:
What: Mississippi Petrified Forest
Where: 124 Forest Park Road, Flora
Cost: Privately-owned, but open to visitors. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, students grades 1-2 ($6). Groups of 15 or more $5.
Summer hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.
Contact: 601.879.8189; mspetrifiedforest.com.
What: The Blue Rooster
Where: 344 First Street, Flora
Hours: Closed on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Open Monday, Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 4 to 8:30 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.