Because of its modest size, most restaurants in Jefferson  are within walking distance of the historic downtown shopping and lodging attractions. The best spot, however, requires a 15-minute drive west of town.
Those seeking memorable, authentic local experiences should definitely head to the incomparable Big Pines Lodge (at the end of Pine Island Rd. in nearby Karnack, 903/679-3466, $6–15, cash only). Overlooking the majestic Lake o’ the Pines , this rustic lodge is an ideal representation of the Piney Woods  experience. It’s all about the catfish at Big Pines Lodge, and you won’t taste a better filet anywhere. Fried or grilled, the fish is tender, flaky, and absolutely flavorful. The platter is the way to go, with accompanying mildly spicy jalapeño hush puppies and refreshingly sweet and fresh cole slaw. You’ll feel like a local as you munch away on your crispy fried catfish while gazing past the Spanish moss–covered Cypress trees lining the banks of the beautiful lake.
Back in Jefferson , one of the downtown stalwarts is the tremendous Riverport Bar-B-Que (201 N. Polk St., 903/665-2341, $6–14). This is traditional East Texas –style ’cue, with sweet spicy sauce covering savory smoked meats, including pork ribs, brisket, and chicken. The turkey and chopped beef sandwiches are amazing, and the sides (potato salad, cole slaw, beans) are way better than average. Drop by Friday night for a catfish feast.
Another popular local eatery is The Hamburger Store (101 N. Market St., 903/665-3251, $4–13). It should be called The Pie Store, however, since it’s best known for its incredible homemade pies. Call in a custom order (it takes about four hours) or pick up an individual slice while strolling through downtown. Of course you can also try to save room for pie after devouring one of the restaurant’s enormous juicy burgers. Go full-throttle and order a jalapeño chili cheddar burger followed by a piece of chocolate pie.
For a fancier dining experience, make reservations at the top-notch Stillwater Inn (203 E. Broadway St., 903/665-8415, www.stillwaterinn.com , $7–25). Located in a 1890s Victorian house, this busy upscale restaurant is famous for its grilled seafood and steak, veal specials, and roasted rack of lamb.