The story of Leatha’s Bar-B-Que

The new location of Leatha's Bar-B-Que in Petal

When someone talks about Hattiesburg, one topic that often comes up is Leatha’s Bar-B-Que. If you haven’t been to the famous barbecue joint, do yourself a favor and go!

Having been featured on an episode of the Cooking Channel’s Man-Fire-Food for her out-of-this-world ribs, Ms. Leatha’s title as the “Queen of BBQ” is well-deserved. Leatha’s is also a major stop on the Mississippi Culinary Trail.

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Leatha Jackson, also known as the “Queen of BBQ” passed away in 2013 at the age of 90.

People have come from near and far to eat Leatha’s famous barbecue and her other traditional southern comfort foods. Celebrities that have visited Leatha’s include Drew Brees, B.B. King, Matt Lauer, Jason Campbell, Jerry Clower, Gerald McRaney, and Delta Burke.

Leatha’s success is immersed in history. Leatha Jackson started her restaurant in the 450-person town of Foxworth in the 1970s before moving it to Hattiesburg in 2000. On Mother’s Day weekend of 2020, the restaurant was relocated once again, this time to Petal. No matter the location, word of mouth plus her secret sauce has kept customers coming in droves for over 40 years.

Leatha’s Bar-B-Que moved from its Hattiesburg location (pictured above) to Petal in 2020.

Once you go to Leatha’s, you’ll never forget the experience of kitchen rags for napkins, ice-cold sweet tea, and arguably the best barbecue that Mississippi has to offer.

After Ms. Leatha died in 2013, her family has continued to operate the business. Along the way, there have been many offers to franchise. However, the Jacksons continue to decline as keeping the restaurant in the family allows Leatha’s to maintain a high quality of food while controlling every nuance of the dining experience.

You can read more about Ms. Leatha, her barbecue, the secret recipes that hold the business together, and her life story in the book, These Fields Could Talk. The pages tell the inspiring and heartwarming true story of Leatha Jackson’s rise from abject poverty in the pre-civil rights south to a beloved matriarch and the “Queen of BBQ” in Mississippi. The book can be bought at the restaurant or on Amazon.

As Ms. Leatha would always say: “It’s all about love.” If you love great food, history, and supporting a family-owned business, have a meal at Leatha’s. It’s a guarantee you’ll come out with both a full stomach and a full soul.

*Photos courtesy of hubcityspokes.com

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Written by Meredith Biesinger

Hey y'all! I am a professional educator, and writer, with a great love of southern culture. There's no place like Mississippi!

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