by Kara Kimbrough
"Staycations” have become a popular buzzword during the pandemic, as elaborate vacations to other states were put on hold. Luckily, there’s plenty to see and do in Mississippi, including exploring some of the interesting cities and towns from the Coast to the Tennessee line. One of my favorite small cities is Columbia. It's a charming slice of Americana filled with historic buildings and homes, a Rockwellian downtown fronted by gift shops and a 100-year-old hardware store and more than a few above-average family-owned restaurants.
One of my favorite places to dine when I’m in the area is Stacy’s Skillet, a family-style restaurant owned by locals Stacy and Eddie Morgan. Before you sit down in the large dining room at Stacy’s just off U.S. Hwy. 98, however, you’ll need to spend a little time exploring this special city.
First, there’s the 115-year-old county courthouse standing guard at the end of downtown. Shaded by majestic oaks, the courthouse actually served as the state’s capitol for one year before it was moved to Jackson.
Other can’t-miss sights are the nearby City Park inhabited by rare white squirrels placed there by former Govenor Hugh White and across the street, Columbia High School, an impressive Art Deco style building dating back to the 1930s. In nearby Foxworth, there's Red Bluffs, called “The Little Grand Canyon of Mississippi." There you'll find breathtaking views courtesy of red clay hills and scenic valleys perfect for hiking and photographing.
But enough about the scenery. When it’s time to eat, give Stacy’s a try. If you drop by at lunchtime, the restaurant offers a variety of specials ($11) that include fried or grilled fish, fried or grilled shrimp, shrimp and grits, hamburger steak with gravy, beef tips with peppers and onions, skillet alfredo chicken or shrimp and gumbo. Each lunch entrée comes with a side, trip to the salad bar and beverage.
Appetizers are the $6 to $8 range and include fried green tomatoes, loaded potato bites, crab cake, cheese sticks and fried pickles.
Looking for a sandwich or po'boy? Stacy’s has a full line-up, ranging from Philly cheese steak ($12), pulled pork sandwich ($8) and shrimp, fish, oyster and roast beef po’boys ($8-$12).
Stacy’s is known for its steaks, and, most likely, you’ll find your favorite cut on the menu. From sirloin ($15) to filet mignon ($25) to the house ribeye ($23) and everything in between, including hamburger steak ($13), beef tips ($14) and surf and turf ($36), you definitely won’t leave hungry.
If a seafood meal is more to your liking, you’ve come to the right place. Selections like fried ($13), shrimp ($13), oysters ($18) and redfish ($17) are served up fresh, perfectly fried or grilled and accompanied by favorite sides, hush puppies and a salad.
Pasta is often my selection of choice when I visit most restaurants, and Stacy’s is no exception. One of my favorite dishes is crab cake pasta ($14). Two crab cakes are situated on top of a bed of fettuccini adorned with crawfish cream sauce. Other selections are equally good, including chicken or shrimp etouffee ($12-$14), skillet Alfredo ($12-$14) and Stacy’s gumbo ($3-$8), to name a few.
Just like the charming city of Columbia, it’s hard to encapsulate Stacy’s in a few paragraphs. You just have to visit and, to borrow a slogan from the chamber, “Experience Columbia” (and Stacy’s Skillet) for yourself.
If you go:
Where: 12 E. Lakeview Drive, Columbia
When: 11 am to 2 pm and 4 to 8 pm Monday through Friday, and until 9 pm on Friday; 4 to 9 pm on Saturday and closed on Sunday.
Contact: (601) 736-0602 or check out their Facebook page.