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John Currence dedicated to ‘spirit’ of Oxford

Oxford captured the heart and imagination of chef and restaurateur John Currence 25 years ago and he has been working since to bring the best to the community’s table.

With popular restaurants considered Oxford foundations in his City Grocery Restaurant Group that receive regional and national acclaim, including the flagship City Grocery, Snackbar, Big Bad Breakfast and Boure (there’s also The Main Event Catering), Currence delivers much of this city’s best food, drink and fellowship each and every day.

It’s a commitment of locally owned business and community that Currence believes helps Oxford maintain its hometown flair.

“There is a special spirit to this town that has grown dim with the tremendous amount of development and homogenization that has occurred, but we along with dozens of others, are dedicated to keeping that part of what makes Oxford so unique alive and burning,” Currence said.

Currence’s restaurants are among the winners of Oxford Newsmedia’s Best of Oxford 2017, which will be celebrated at a public event Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Lyric in Oxford. You can see the complete list of Best of Oxford 2017 on Page 11 of today’s Eagle.

Still growing

Currence has been busy expanding his food establishments to other cities, including Birmingham and most recently Inlet Beach, as Big Bad Breakfast becomes a Southern brand. But BBB’s home will always be Oxford, he says.

“Big Bad will always be an Oxford original. Oxford supported us and made it what it is. I could not be happier that it has legs and we are on the road to building something real and far-reaching out of it especially because it has never been touched before,” Currence said.

“Nobody out there was trying to elevate the breakfast meal before. It had basically been surrendered to a fistful of corporate chains and the product was mediocre. It was my deepest belief that if we turned our culinary attentions to it, we could create a real winner.”

But amid the expansion Currence is as entrenched as ever in the commitment to presenting Oxford with the highest qualities of a welcoming table, hoping to be a good community steward along the way. He’s most proud of the many jobs City Grocery Restaurant Group provides and how the community has key gathering spots that are Oxford owned and operated.

“There are hundreds of people who work every day at our restaurants who believe in what we do and, I hope, like being part of a company where everything else takes a back seat to quality,” Currence said. “I want the people working for me like Vishwesh (Bhatt) at Snackbar or our chef at City Grocery, Ralph Taylor, or our insanely talented pastry chef Austin Agent, and so many others, to get credit for the work they do.”

Currence said he often thinks about longtime Oxford establishments no longer around including the Busy Bee Café, Smitty’s, the Gin and Irelands, and understands that it takes effort to mark and preserve the city’s unique character. Such awareness parlays into a sense of responsibility.

“All I truly hope is that one day we will be remembered for being in some way part of helping make Oxford and Mississippi a better place,” Currence said. “I hope we can inspire one person to be a better citizen of their community or have had a positive influence on our industry.”

Best Chinese Restaurant Noodle Bowl
Best Sushi Jinsei
Best Bar The Library
Best Barbecue Handy Andy
Best Bakery Bottletree Bakery
Best Breakfast Big Bad Breakfast
Best Brunch Big Bad Breakfast
Best Casual Dining Ajax Diner
Best Place to Grab Dessert YaYa’s Frozen Yogurt
Best Catfish Taylor Grocery
Best Fried Chicken Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
Best Catering My Michelle’s
Best Coffee High Point Coffee
Best Fine Dining McEwen’s
Best Local Burger Handy Andy
Best Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt Holli’s Sweet Tooth
Best Happy Hour Rooster’s Blues House
Best Liquor Store Kiamie’s Package Store
Best Lunch Boure
Best Lunch Under $10 Cook Out
Best Date-Night Spot Snackbar
Best Mexican Restaurant El Agave
Best Late-Night Food Four Corners Chevron
Best Salad Spot Greenline
Best Sandwich Spot Newk’s Eatery
Best Seafood Snackbar
Best Steakhouse Oxford Grillehouse
Best Sweet Tea McAllister’s Deli
Best Wings Buffalo Wild Wings
Best Gas Station Food Lindsey’s Chevron
Best Italian Restaurant Saint Leo
Best Pizza Saint Leo
Best Farm-to-Table Dining Ravine
Best Soul Food Mama Joe’s
Best Cupcakes The Cakery
Best Milkshake Sonic Drive-In
Best Cocktail Snackbar
Best Kids Meal Oby’s
Best New Restaurant Saint Leo
Best Restaurant Ajax Diner
Best Park Lamar Park
Best Walking Trail Whirlpool Trails
Best Local Event Double Decker Arts Festival
Best Massage Epicure Day Spa
Best Medical Clinic Oxford Urgent Care
Best Men’s Clothing Store Hinton & Hinton
Best Women’s Clothing Store Miss Behavin
Best Nail Salon Nail Bar
Best Nursery/Garden Store The Barn
Best Place to Find Ole Miss Gifts Rebel Rags
Best Pest Control Pickens Pest Control
Best Pharmacy Chaney’s Pharmacy
Best Photographer/Photography Service Scott Burton
Best Real Estate Agency Kessinger Real Estate
Best Shoe Store Lulu’s
Best Spa Epicure Day Spa
Best Tanning Salon Oxford Supertan
Best T-Shirt Shop Catdaddy’s
Best Bridal Shop Oxford Bridal
Best Pet Groomer Bottletree Animal Hospital
Best Car Wash USA Car Wash
Best Chef Vishwesh Bhatt
Best Bartender Joe Stinchcomb at Saint Leo
Best Dentist Ross Family Dental
Best Pediatrician David Dennis
Best Chiropractor Henderson Chiropractic
Best Psychiatrist Tim Kelly
Best OB-GYN Julie Harper
Best Nurse/Nurse Practitioner Leigh Spencer
Best Veterinarian Lee Payne
Best Doctor (Any Specialty) Kecia Kirk
Best Lawyer Jay Carmean
Best Realtor Adam Quick
Best Firefighter Wes Anderson
Best Law Enforcement Official Brad McDonald
Best Local Writer Ace Atkins
Best Local Artist Bradley Gordon
Best Local Musician/Band And the Echo
Best K-12 Teacher Kathy Beasley
Best College Professor Lorri Williamson
Best Oxonian to Follow on Social Media Oxford Police Department
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Cheap Happy Hour Coyote Blues
New Breakfast Option Beagle Bagel
Boozy Brunch Rafter’s Music and Food
Food Truck YoknapaTaco
Wine Bar The Wine Bar
Dessert Insomnia Cookies
Hangover Cure The Good Old Boy at Big Bad Breakfast
Best Take on a Biscuit Biscuits & Etoufee (Sinfully Southern)
Townie Bar City Grocery
Undergrad Bar Funkys
Beer Selection Jackson Beer Co.
Dog Friendly Bar Frank & Marlee’s
Luxury Tailgating Gifts Katherine Beck
Coworking Space The Edison
Haircut for the Money Avenue West
High-End Haircut Alice & Co.
Hair Color for the Money The Parlor
High-End Hair Color La Rousse
Mani-Pedi for the Money The Nail Shop
Best Salon for African-American Hair Tammy’s Hair Gallery
Life Photographer Danny Klimetz
Fashion Splurge Blue Delta Jeans
Taxi Alternative Uber
Hostess Gifts Amelia
Foodie Gifts Mississippi Madness
Gifts for Ex-Oxonians Olive Juice
Quirky Gifts Off-Square Books
Vinyl Shop End of All Music
Reason to Take a Staycation Chancellor’s House
Oxonian to Follow on Instagram Erin Austin Abbott
Study Spot High Point Coffee
Meeting Spot The Graduate Lobby
Story Time Square Books Jr.
Quick Health Fix Juva Juice
Ultimate Football Rental East Jackson Guest House
Underrated Sports Experience Basketball/ The Pavilion
Sweet Treat Oxsicles
New Lunchtime Option Chicken Salad Chick
Best Makeover Summit Bar
Worth-the-Drive Adventure Yalobusha Brewing Co.
Tailgating Setup Service Southern Tradition Tailgating
Grove Catering Taylor Grocery
Best Oxford Export Big Bad Breakfast (multiple locations)
New Children’s Boutique Elliott Lane
Best Hometown Bank Oxford University Bank
Appliances/Electronics Cowboy Maloney’s Electric City
Best Plate Lunch Ajax Diner
Best Outdoors Gear Hunters’ Hollow
Best Yoga Southern Star Yoga
Best Barre Class Cardio Barre
Best Workout Orangetheory Fitness
Best New Workout Hotworx