The Gem Around the Bend
Story and Photography by Karen Ott Mayer
The Enid Depot has become a destination in tiny Enid, Miss., and amazes patrons with its rich history, fresh local foods, and live music.
As the old adage implies, a surprise awaits around an unexpected bend in the road, and such is the case with The Enid Depot. This locally-owned restaurant perches atop a hill overlooking the petite valley and dirt roads of Enid, Miss.
“It’s not a town because it’s unincorporated. It’s really a village,” says David Howard, who owns the historic building and restaurant with his wife, Dana. Smiling at his own words, he understands their greater meaning, having lived in the town his whole life. It’s fitting he would come to own the building that once housed the town’s dry goods store, complete with a barbershop and bank during its heyday.
Thanks to the Howards, the building’s next chapter in life involves food and people.
“I ran an event venue and weddings for a short time,” he says. “Dana then opened an antique store with a small lunch spot.”
Howard bought the building in 2007 and began renovations. When the pair decided to venture into the restaurant world in 2018, they spent another six months getting ready. And why open a full-service restaurant in what some would consider the middle of nowhere at a dead-end road?
“People kept telling us we should open a restaurant,” she says laughing. With a long career working in financial roles, Dana nonetheless grew up helping her parents run a grocery and small eatery in the Delta town of Tippo. Her love of antiques and vintage items sets the stage for the restaurant.
With two long second-story balconies opening upon a large dining room below, the store retains its original footprint and woodwork. Howard remembers the long glass cases that ran the length of the store and a clear horseshoe-shaped display case near the front. Today, the wall cases display local art, cutting boards, and memorabilia.
Meanwhile, the tables fill up quickly every week as visitors from as far away as Oxford or Jackson drop in to indulge. Committed to serving only the freshest dishes, the Howards and their chef Daniel Michael Corbett, aka “Boo” to all of north Mississippi, have quickly earned a solid reputation for the food.
Raised in Grenada, Corbett has spent his career opening restaurants across the state and in Tennessee. The Howards were able to catch Corbett at an ideal time and hire him as the chef. Self-trained, Corbett’s first work began at age 13 in a friend’s ham store where they served barbecue. “I loved it and as he went on to open other restaurants, I just kind of followed him,” remembers Corbett.
Back at The Enid Depot kitchen, he and the Howards never cut corners, insisting that every menu item is fresh or homemade. The menu features seafood and steaks, with the oyster dinner covering the plate and the crab delight appetizer appearing as a welcome change to crab cakes. Blackboard weekend specials change but may include red snapper or baked oysters.
“All of our seafood is fresh, never frozen. I cut all of our steaks and make our home fries from real potatoes. The menu is 100 percent about quality,” Corbett says.
If the main courses aren’t enough, the desserts are all homemade. Amy’s caramel cobbler is made by a local who also helps in the restaurant.
The atmosphere is what draws everyone — guests and the staff. “You can’t make a new building feel like this 1900 general store,” adds Corbett. With a strong musical tradition, The Enid Depot was a favorite stopover for past musicians, and the Howards continue to offer live music on Saturday evenings.
Open Thursday through Saturday evenings, the restaurant recommends reservations although walk-ins can take a chance. Diners can choose to eat at a solo table in the original barbershop on the building’s front corner, or they can dine al fresco and soak up the forgotten landscape. The Howards welcome private parties and events during the restaurant’s off days, Sunday through Wednesday.
When COVID hit, the Howards shut down for seven weeks, but have remained open since then. Judging by the steady stream of Mississippians pouring into the doors, the destination restaurant doesn’t seem to have missed a beat.
The only thing richer than the praline pecan cheesecake is the treasure trove of David’s historical stories and boyhood memories about the general store. He particularly remembers his Dad returning from World War II. “He got off the train right here, and after years in the war, (he) had a hard time climbing the icy hill to get home!”
While the sleepy village may seem stuck in a time long ago with the leaning cotton gin and historical Baptist church in the center, The Enid Depot has proven that history can repeat itself with a new story.
“I love to see the look on people’s faces when they come in,” says Dana. “They all say they never dreamed a place like this would be out in the middle of nowhere.”
With good food, friends, and stories, this Mississippi gem proves time and geography hold nothing against dreamers determined to reclaim a piece of history.