(From the archives of Burgerdogboy’s wanderings)
For me, “discovering” someplace “new” is a kick. Even if the entire rest of the world knows about it. I get suggestions on places to stop from friends, acquaintances, strangers, locals and world travelers alike – look at tourism materials, websites, stop and ask people on the street. But the thing that jazzes me the most is finding someplace that nobody mentions, and discovering a restaurant or experience that everybody SHOULD mention, because it is just so unique and delightful, you want to share it with the whole world, but at the same time, hope that nobody ever discovers it, because you want it to remain exactly the way it is, forever.
I found one of those places in Greenwood, Mississippi, but the more I talked about it after the visit, the more I have found out I may well be the only person that did NOT know about it. In the oft chance you haven’t had the pleasure, I am here today to tell you all about Lusco’s, a very unique dining experience in Mississippi Delta Country.
Walking through the front door of Lusco’s is to experience the cliché “like walking back in time,” but that’s the only way it can be described. A small grocery at this location since 1933, my first thought was “this ain’t the place, this IS a grocery,” with a small counter and shelves behind the counter stocked with bodega-like provisions. But an amiable hostess led us through a curtain at the back of the store and through a series of old hallways covered with an original stamped tin ceiling, back to a partitioned area of small wooden partitioned private rooms, with curtains offering privacy from the world and the rest of the restaurant. Surely nothing has changed within these walls in the past 70 years – not the paint, not the light fixtures, not the wall decorations – not even the small electric buzzer one can use to summon the staff when you are ready to order or need another cocktail.
Founders Charles and Marie Lusco and their three daughters added the partitioned booths to their grocery to serve customers who largely came for Papa Lusco’s homemade brew. The advent of World War 2, the opening of several military bases in the area, and a train station directly across the street that disgorged hundreds of traveling GI’s, and Lusco’s reputation grew as soldiers returned home and mentioned this unique establishment. It’s reputation continued to grow with the flux of travelers and locals alike during the years of prosperity after the war, when cotton was king in the Delta, and planters and local businessmen entertained their guests at Lusco’s.
Presently being operated by the 4th generation of family members, very little has changed at Lusco’s.
We started with an off the menu appetizer, baked oysters wrapped in bacon, large juicy pearls of Gulf oysters served on the half-shell, followed by a half-order of Lusco’s Onion Rings which was too large to finish. Other favorite starters include seafood cocktails or broiled shrimp in Lusco’s special hot sauce.
The dozen or so salads, ranging from $3.50 to $8.95 have a decidedly Mediterranean bent – often adorned with anchovies, capers, and olives, with the top of the line offering including fresh lump crabmeat, bell pepper, celery, tomato and egg tossed in a special dressing. Add-ons are available for the salad – extra heaping portions of shrimp, crabmeat, lives, capers, or feta.
Entrees are “plain and simple:” steaks, seafood and chicken. Steaks are sold at market price because they are cut in-house, so one can request a variety of sizes to fit one’s appetite on the day in question. I opted for an 8 oz filet, which I ordered “bleu,” and it was prepared perfectly. At “market price,” it came in at $25.00.
Entrees include a small salad, and choice of starch. Beef can be cut to serve two as well, a nice touch; a single porterhouse can weigh in as much as 28 ounces, if you’ve a mind to ingest all of that.
Fish offerings include fresh cat, snapper and pompano filets (it’s nice to see pompano on a menu these days), broiled only, specify having it served “wet or dry” (with or without Lusco’s fish sauce, a garlic-butter-seafood stock based accompaniment. Add their unique crabmeat topping for $4.25 more.
A variety of broiled shrimp and crabmeat offerings round out the mains, with a broiled or fried half chicken also available. One additional choice, handmade rigatoni with homemade red sauce completes the offerings, and is also the least expensive item on the menu at $8.25.
In addition to baked potatoes, rice, and fries, sides include two additional gravies: a plain mushroom, or a mushroom and garlic, for those who like that addition to beef dishes. I didn’t have room for dessert (I seem to never get to it), but Lusco’s offers some refreshing choices, including flan and a crème de menthe parfait, as well as the usual regional specialties.
Service is what you want it to be at Lusco’s, with the “buzzer/waiter” option. Ring and they come. Don’t ring, and they won’t bother you. You’re behind a curtain in a private booth, free to enjoy your meal and your company.
Lusco’s offers only soft drinks and beer for beverage choices. Set-ups and ice area available if you BYOB, which is encouraged. Corkage fee is:
How great is that?
Open nightly, Lusco’s is “off the beaten path” at 722 Carrollton Avenue, in the “old downtown” of Greenwood. Call them at 601-453-5365 to check on hours before heading up. Greenwood is approximately 4.5 hours up I-55 from New Orleans, and a half hour west of the Interstate on US 82 West.