Sites & Bites: Don’t forget the ‘Rez’ when looking for summer fun, delicious food

By Kara Kimbrough for the Dispatch

Here’s a suggestion: Don’t just drive through the Capitol City and adjacent counties in search of beaches, mountains and attractions in other states.

Instead, slow down, stop and enjoy the natural beauty, scenic water views and wonderful places and sites to experience on and near the Barnett Reservoir. The 33,000-acre Reservoir, or “Rez” as it’s called, and 17,000 surrounding acres with 105 miles of shoreline offer natural beauty and opportunities for boating, fishing, camping and dining. Two of my favorite spots are scenic Lakeshore Park and Shaggy’s on the Rez, a sprawling eatery on the water featuring stunning views and outstanding food.

To work up an appetite, first visit Lakeshore Park, located on the southeastern shore of the Rez in Rankin County. The area is open to the public year-round for picnicking, boating, fishing off the pier and swimming in a secure sand-filled water area with an adjacent beach.
Birdwatchers are fond of the area due to its annual influx of Canada geese, mallards and other birds. In short, it’s the Jackson area’s version of a beach.

If none of those pastimes sound appealing, let your dogs run loose in the dog park or lie back and relax in one of the hammocks strung between trees and enjoy the picturesque views of the shimmering water.

Admission is free Monday through Friday. A $5 parking fee is assessed on Saturday and Sunday at Lakeshore and other parks.

Picnicking or grilling may not be your idea of fun, but don’t worry; Shaggy’s on the Rez is nearby. It can more than adequately satisfy cravings for cool beverages, fresh seafood, juicy burgers and po’boys, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes and so much more.

Driving up to the colorful restaurant hugging the shoreline, it was easy to tell the latest Shaggy’s in a lineup of five popular eateries owned by two Gulf Coast restaurateurs (three are on the Gulf Coast; one is in Pensacola) has become a central Mississippi favorite since opening in 2018. Despite an overflow crowd during a holiday weekend, there was plenty of room to dine and take in the water views courtesy of four separate areas, each one with its own purpose and vibe.

An outdoor table on the deck just inches from the shimmering water provided cool breezes and an up-close view of boaters pulling up in search of a meal. My waterside table turned into an indoor table when raindrops began to fall. However, large windows continued to provide unparalleled water views that paired nicely with the numerous seafood offerings on the lengthy menu.

Like its Gulf Coast sisters, the Rez restaurant is a two-story waterfront building with a bright façade. The sprawling restaurant is composed of the light and airy main dining area, spacious outdoor deck, adjacent “tiki bar” with a livelier atmosphere and an upstairs events area with spectacular water views.

Water view aside, many people come to Shaggy’s for the food. Shaggy’s menu is filled with a dizzying assortment of appetizers and dishes. Everything that emerges from the kitchen is fresh, well prepared and served with a creative flair.

If you have a predisposed opinion about food served in a brightly colored wooden restaurant, check your attitude at the bottom of the stairs and come on in. I promise you won’t be disappointed. As regional director Adam Gully explains, “We strive for the best possible ambiance, personal service and meal for every guest. We want every visit at every location to be an ‘experience.’ We know what our customers want because we read every review, listen to feedback and quite simply, give them what they want and have come to expect from one of our restaurants.”

Shaggy’s Rez location is a few hours from the Gulf Coast, but that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of fresh seafood prepared a multitude of ways. The restaurant is known for its sumptuous royal reds ($18.99), a half-pound of extra-large, tasty shrimp served with Country Pleasin’ sausage and red potatoes served in a white wine and seafood broth. Shaggy’s snapper ($27.99) is another favorite dish that never disappoints. Fresh red snapper is topped with shrimp and mushrooms in a sherry cream sauce with a side of coconut rice.

Other offerings include seafood platters and pasta dishes, sandwiches and po’boys, fried chicken and steak and the best-selling Shaggy’s cheeseburger. After learning how the cheeseburger is made — the best strips of meat from a prime steakhouse are ground to produce the popular burger — I’m a little upset I’ve never tasted it. It’s an oversight I’ll soon correct.

I perused the appetizers and realized several of my favorites from the Biloxi location have made their way north. A sample includes smoked fish dip ($10.99), fried green tomatoes topped with remoulade sauce ($7.99), seafood fries ($14.99) smothered in lobster cheese sauce and topped with blackened shrimp and my favorite, peel-n-eat royal reds ($20.99) served with homemade cocktail sauce.

Choosing my entree proved difficult. Basically, I wanted to order it all. After briefly considering my go-to, a crispy fried shrimp po’boy, I perused the “World Tour” menu filled with delicacies from neighboring states and countries. Two that caught my eye were the Nashville hot chicken sandwich ($13.99) and New England style shrimp roll ($20.99). To say they were the best sandwiches I’d ever tasted would not be an overstatement.

Not usually a fan of spicy food, I sampled the chicken sandwich with a bit of trepidation. I was pleasantly surprised to find the meat had been seasoned with a light hand, offering only a small “bite” perfectly balanced by the coleslaw topping and brioche bun. The flavors intermingled beautifully to form a near-perfect dish.

However, the star of my “experience” was the shrimp roll. Encased inside a soft, buttery bun were generous pieces of tender shrimp pieces lightly coated with mayonnaise and lemon. The finished product is very reminiscent of a New England lobster roll and in fact, if I’d closed my eyes, I could’ve almost sworn I was sampling one.

The limited time menu filled with other interesting dishes is just one of the things I love about Shaggy’s. The menu is always changing to add new and creative dishes to the lineup. Most of the entrees and sandwiches come with a side, but if they don’t, or if you want more food, choose from among a variety of salads, sautéed vegetables, cole slaw and other side dishes.

Children are welcome at Shaggy’s and can choose from among smaller portions of fried shrimp or fish, chicken tenders and burgers.

Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer from Mississippi. Email her at kkprco@yahoo.com.

If you go
■ WHAT: Shaggy’s on the Rez
■ WHERE: 1733 Spillway Rd., Brandon, MS 39047
■ HOURS: 11 a.m. –9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; until 10 p.m. on Friday & Saturday
■ PHONE: 601-724-2990
■ DRESS: Casual

■ WHAT: Lakeshore Park
■ WHERE: 11112 North Shore Parkway, Brandon, MS 390477
■ HOURS: Sunrise to sunset, 7 days a week
■ ADMISSION: $5 per car on Saturday and Sunday; free Monday-Friday