Being from Las Vegas, I get asked constantly why I chose Mississippi of all places to come to school. It’s easy to say that it’s because of SEC football, which is partly true, but the real reason is because of places like B.T.C Old-Fashioned Grocery in teeny tiny Water Valley, Mississippi.
Last spring, my parents were coming to visit for the Grove Bowl. I was tired of taking them to the same places in Oxford to eat and saw someone posted this old-fashioned grocery store in a nearby town. It looked like a cute place to take my mom and that was the extent of my expectations. We got there in the late afternoon and ended up with a lot of things we didn’t need.
We drove back to Oxford late that afternoon after browsing the antique section. We had just missed the lunch service but settled for some fresh Mississippi tomatoes from Hal Vaughn for the road.
The B.T.C. Grocery has its own cookbook and Alexe (founder and co-owner) is a New York Times bestselling author. Their saying sold us on the purchase.
My mother insisted on me reading it to her in the car on the way back. It was beautiful. In the book, there are stories to go along with the recipes as well as features of some of the faces of the B.T.C.
The way it is written makes you feel like you know these characters. Each recipe looks better than the last and we took turns saying “that looks so amazing!” and “we have to make that soon!”
On the refrigerator side of the store, they have some premade dips, drinks, and meals. One of them is a Tex-Mex Pimento Cheese dip. I’ll remember that first bite for the rest of my life. Somehow we waited until we got home to try it with these little crackers we also bought there.
It took one bite of Dixie’s pimento cheese dip to decide we were going back for lunch the next day.
The small kitchen at the back of the store is only open Wednesdays-Saturdays from 11-2. Dixie works every day except Saturdays because Saturdays are for watching her Ole Miss Rebels.
At this point, the expectations were very high for this lunch at the Dixie Belle Cafe. It did not disappoint. It’s the perfect combination of traditional and edgy. Just like Dixie.
Because I’m not a native southerner, there are a lot of things I’ve had to learn. One of those is you really are not supposed to mess with Mississippi food. It’s a faux pas to mess with tradition down here, but it doesn’t matter to Dixie.
Head chef and co-owner Dixie Grimes has the ability to take something good and make it exceptional. She doesn’t do anything the way you’re supposed to, however. The Oxford native prides herself in creating beautiful food that makes people happy.
I went down to Water Valley to interview these two women and find out more about who they were and how it all started. Alexe van Beuren is from Virginia but moved to Water Valley, Miss., and began to daydream of opening her own grocery store. On May 1st, 2010 she did it. She wanted to restore the greatness of Water Valley and give people a place that they could find local food and mingle together.
After that first year, Alexe started to panic a little. Running a grocery store in a small town is difficult, and she needed a miracle. Dixie was that miracle. She came in and made food people had to have. All of a sudden, the BTC had locals that would come every single day for lunch or breakfast.
They post specials on social media, and while they all look unbelievable, sometimes you can’t say no. The drive is only a 25-minute commute, and it’s worth it every time.
I tell anyone who will listen to me about my love affair with this grocery store. It’s perfect. After the game, instead of eating the same places that you always do, head to Water Valley for the best food and lunch in Mississippi. You won’t regret it.