You know a place is memorable when it’s the one recommended to you, that you then recommend to a friend. When friends told us about Berry’s Seafood in Florence, MS, I had my doubts.
Buffets are not high on my list, and a seafood buffet sounded like a major opportunity for tasteless fried shrimp and overcooked tilapia. Walking into Berry’s wasn’t particularly reassuring–except for the people passing us with thumbs up and smiles of enjoyment on their faces as they left.
The place is somewhat cavernous–think of it as a series of renovated barns, with lofts, high ceilings, and plenty of room for farm equipment. In this case, though, the hayloft was filled with a life-sized panorama of Mayberry RFD and the room was filled with tables, chairs, and a well-organized buffet line.
And that, that line, is the true reason for the recommendations–and, of course, the cadre of chefs and cooks and recipes that create the delicious offerings on display. Peel and eat shrimp that practically zings with flavor, no sauce needed. Fried shrimp, fried chicken, roast beef, and more–the meats vary, but they are all good.
Sides like coleslaw, cucumbers and onions, creamed corn, mashed potatoes, collard greens, squash, fried green tomatoes, and the sweetest hush puppies (with a hint of scallions) you’ll probably ever try. Desserts are all about delivering on Southern expectations, with buttery pecan pie, peach cobbler, and bread pudding, to name a few. You can stop at the bread pudding, though–it’s definitely a show stopper.
We tried to get the recipe, but were told it’s a closely guarded secret! One hint was all we got: the sauce has almond flavoring. We couldn’t get even an eyebrow raised as we guessed at the type of bread, quantity of eggs and cream, or how long it bakes. Just almond. If that’s enough to go on, let the re-creation attempts begin!
Make no mistake, Berry’s has figured out how to produce good food in large quantities and not make it feel like a buffet. There is also a steady stream of Christian music, with declarations of faith scattered throughout the building, lending to the family atmosphere. Maybe it’s the enamelware or the tin drink cups, or maybe it’s the helpful servers. Or maybe it’s just good food, perfect for a stop on your way further south to the Gulf.
And, while Berry’s may have all the trappings of tourism, the locals definitely eat here–they weren’t afraid to tell us it was their favorite place. Go to Berry’s. Tell your friends. Continue the cycle so they stay open for years and years and we can all go again.