We love football in Oxford. We also like our bars and restaurants, as we do like to think we’ve cultivated quite an impressive little culinary scene in our north Mississippi haven. As we have already done our town’s restaurants a service by publishing words about them here, it is only fair that we do the same for some of our favorite bars.
No, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list, nor is it meant to be some sort of travel guide for visiting fans and Rowan Oak pilgrims to come. It also isn’t supposed to be some foodie’s exploration into the various mixologies and zymurgies at play here. More simply, this is just some of the places that we like to kick back a few when we are in town. If you feel like sharing some of your favorite places as well, then please do in the comments.
No time spent in Oxford should be spent without an evening at Snackbar’s happy hour. What has fast become one of Mississippi’s most celebrated restaurants, one known for Chef Vishwesh Bhatt’s fusion of cuisines of the American South and the Indian Subcontinent, Snackbar first captured our attention with their craft cocktail bar. Their cocktail happy hour, which features six classic cocktails - think Negronis and Sazeracs - for five dollars apiece, is easily one of the best happy hours in Oxford.
We recommend: If not getting a classic sazerac during happy hour, then get the “Stop Your Nonsense & Drink Your Bourbon,” a take on a classic boulevardier that is sweetened with a strawberry-yerba mate ice cube.
Library Sports Bar
It is a bit, shall we say, “basic” to mention the Library when mentioning watering holes in Oxford, as the Library is a rather basic college town bar. It’s cavernous, dimly lit, the home base of a locally famous DJ, and the type of place that serves its mixed drinks to you in small plastic cups. And, yes, as you’re probably imagining, the every flat surface in the place is uncomfortably sticky.
But the Library, like Mississippi, contains multitudes. Moving on from its off-campus fraternity party vibe, it has branched into three distinct bars in catering to a less-rambunctious crowd, one such bar being the 21+ Library Sports Bar. For all the unfair grief we may give the Library around here, the Sports Bar is actually a pretty damn good place to watch sports. They’ve got huge screens, and lots of them; they’ve got plenty of local beer on tap; and the place is spacious enough to catch a game with a group of friends.
We recommend: When the weather’s nice and the windows are open, sit along the Van Buren Avenue side of the bar and grab a Wiseacre Tiny Bomb Pilsner.
The Blind Pig Pub
The Blind Pig is the type of bar you hope every town has. It’s friendly and warm, the bar food is good (the pork rind nachos are killer and the reuben sandwich is the best in town), and they are the spot for things like bar trivia and open mic nights. They also have a whole host of local beers available to try, as well as the usual dive bar swill. Come when it’s slow for a nice place to chat with friends over a beer, or come when it’s late at night and one of Oxford’s 900 alt-country-indy-rock-we-really-just-want-to-be-Wilco bands are playing.
We recommend: Weevie Road Golden Ale by JR Brewing Company (by way of LuckyTown), or hell just pound a bunch of PBRs or High Lifes
The Graduate hotel has quickly become a destination for Ole Miss coeds looking for a quiet place to study (way to clog up a hotel lobby, y’all) as well as a place to take in Oxford from its rooftop bar, The Coop. When sitting on top of the Oxford Square, there is not really much one can do wrong with regards to drinking, but one can do very, very right by themselves and try one of several barrel-aged cocktails offered by the Coop’s bartenders. These cocktails are allowed to age for 45 days in French wine barrels, taking what are your standard-fare Manhattans and Rusty Nails and whatnot, and rounding them out with a smoothness and complexity you probably can’t find in a cocktail anywhere else in Oxford.
Also, you’ll look like a worldly person ordering one. So do it. Impress someone, even if that someone is yourself.
We recommend: The Barrel-aged, Smoked Vieux Carre
Did you expect us to write anything else here? If there is a single bar in Oxford, Mississippi that is Oxford, Mississippi, it’s City Grocery’s upstairs haunt. It’s the place where Oxford’s culinary scene, literary scene, and obnoxious college town scene converge into a should-be-dysfunctional sort of Venn diagram, with everyone honestly wanting nothing more than a good drink and a good conversation.
In a Deep Southern society known for its need to put on appearances and sharp divides along class lines, City Grocery’s bar is one of the few places that has, if only somewhat successfully, been able to brand itself as a “come as you are” establishment. It’s where college professors and Ole Miss undergrads can share a happy hour drink. It’s where starving artists and aspiring chefs can commiserate after work. It’s where Anthony Bourdain drank when he visited Oxford. It’s where I saw the bouncer throw a drunk LSU fan down a flight of stairs in 2009-ish. It’s a kickass bar, and we’re all better off for having it in our lives.
We recommend: Maker’s Mark on the rocks, and on the balcony if you’re lucky. Don’t try too hard here.