Article byPosted Featured AuthorMarch 2023
The first installment of this column mentioned my recent experiences in traveling to Laurel on a receivership case pending in Jones County Chancery Court that has required me to go to Laurel quite a few times over the past year for 9:00 a.m. hearings. December’s installment chronicled traffic issues, deer with bad timing, and my newfound preference for traveling to Laurel via Highway 49 and Highway 84, rather than going through Brandon, Puckett, Bay Springs, etc.
In the last piece, I mentioned 28 Diner in Taylorsville, where I had eaten on the way back from a receivership hearing. It is on Highway 28, which runs from Laurel through Soso, Taylorsville, and Mize, before picking up Highway 49 at Magee. If you have never taken this route, I highly recommend it. I suspect that like me, many readers aren’t overly familiar with this area of the state, despite lifelong residence in Mississippi.
If you prefer to stay on four-lanes though, and travel through Collins, there are a couple of good lunch places offering contrasting fare. I may have even mentioned Main Street Café in a prior column. It is located on the main drag — i.e., Main Street — of Collins, a block or two down from the courthouse, on the other side of the street. You probably know what they serve, without my telling you. The buffet serves a different main course every day, with the usual assortment of southern vegetables and starches.
By contrast, Deli Diner serves a different type of food, more geared to the sandwich and salad crowd. I’m a fan of both culinary genres, but when I’m in more of a mood to eat just a bit healthier, a large salad will get the nod over a meat-n-three. On this point, Deli Diner is actually quite good. They have really good sandwiches, and an excellent selection of salads. It has been some time since I have been there, but I recall the Crunchy Asian Salad being particularly good. If you are interested, Deli Diner is on the south side of town, about a half mile from the courthouse.
If you decide to be a little more adventurous, and to take my advice on exploring the road less traveled through Soso and Taylorsville, you will want to keep your eyes peeled for a little bend in the road about 20 minutes outside of Laurel, halfway between Soso and Taylorsville. It’s one of those little communities in Mississippi that has a rectangular green sign as you approach, with another rectangular sign bearing the same name, about 200 yards down the road, on the other side.
This particular hamlet is called Gitano, and is the home of Gitano Grill Restaurant & Bakery. I know what you’re thinking right now. You are thinking that it is pronounced “JHEE-TAHNO.” You would be wrong. It is pronounced “GUY-TAYNO!” The word “gitano” means “gypsy” in English. More specifically, from Merriam-Webster, it means “Spanish male gypsy.”
As for why this little postage stamp of land has this particular name, according to an unverified nugget I found in an internet search, the name derives from a gypsy camp that existed there long ago. 1
The original owner of the land supposedly let a band of gypsies camp there. (Again, all unverified.) It is situated in the far northwest corner of Jones county, and could easily be mistaken as part of Jasper, Smith, or Covington counties, which all converge in that vicinity. It’s the area that Newt Knight roamed and camped, to evade the Confeds who wanted his neck, for refusing to toe the line on their distorted worldview and culture.
But that was then. Newt Knight is long gone, as are the gypsies. Now, its more about a place where loggers, oil field workers, and other locals flock at lunchtime. Coming from Laurel, the Gitano Grill is on the left hand side of the road, past Soso, before Taylorsville. It is easily missed, if you are not paying attention. But you should pay attention. Rather than being a buffet or regular plate lunch type of place, it is more of a burger, sandwich, and chopped steak kind of joint. The day I ate there, I had a hamburger steak smothered in onions and gravy, with a copious amount of French fries as a side order. I’m still recovering. 2
As noted in its name, the Gitano Grill also has a bakery. I bought several cookies from there and took them home to my kids who were home over Christmas. I wish I had bought one of the freshly made caramel cakes sitting in the display case. It looked fabulous. But since my doctor has told me to cut down on carbs, it looks like I will have to wait awhile on that. But as for you younger and healthier legal road warriors out there though, I encourage you to pay a visit to Gitano and buy one. I would love to hear about it.