Jackson, MS is known as the “City with Soul,” but this mantra takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to its culinary charm. It’s impossible to talk about the culinary scene without mentioning the phenomenal chefs and the committed Mom and Pop restaurants that have been staples in this community.
This was most recently realized when Bully’s Restaurant was named a James Beard 2016 American Classic and Chef Jesse Houston was recognized as a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef: South!
Tyrone Bully and his father built the mansard-roofed restaurant with their own hands. Today he and wife, Greta, operate Bully’s, and you will always find Mr. Bully behind the counter with his white bouffant cap and a smile. The soul food dishes are made from scratch with fresh ingredients and include: (smothered) oxtails, (smothered) pork chops, fried chicken, beef tips, freshly picked greens, macaroni and cheese, yams, and an assortment of cobblers, just to name a few.
Fondren is an eclectic neighborhood in Jackson, filled with rich options for an authentic culinary experience from the acquired taste of raw oysters to delicate deserts. Chef Jesse Houston, established Saltine Oyster Bar, after a stint at Parlor Market. His style of cooking is creative and playful as shown in his different variations of Ramen Noodles. He’s partnered with local Lucky Town Brewing Company to share his love for cutting-edge craft beer. You must try the Banoffee Pie or another signature desert for a full Saltine experience!
You can’t go wrong if you venture on either side of Saltine. Babalu on the east side, serves chef-inspired dishes with a focus towards sourcing natural, hormone free and fresh produce. The guacamole is made fresh at tableside with Hass avocado, the flash-fried Calamari is lightly breaded with Fresno peppers, served with a lightly sweet soy Sambal glaze and the Baba Burger is another signature dish. Don’t forget to try the Baba-Rita to cap the night off!
Just a step down to the west of Saltine sits CAET. This restaurant features a small plate menu, along with a full bar with over 30 by-the-glass fine wine selections each night. CAET is the newest venture from husband and wife team Derek and Jennifer Emerson. Chef Derek was a 2014 James Beard semi-finalist. They also own Walker’s Drive-In, a nostalgic 1950’s regional favorite diner. Walker’s presents an upscale experience in a casual atmosphere, and also features local ingredients.
Brent’s Drugs is just a rock-throw away. Brent’s is an all-time favorite that has its greatest notoriety for its prime roll in Kathryn Stockett ‘s movie “The Help”. It was recently featured in Vogue Magazine as one of the 7 Coolest Diners in America, and made Delish’s list of the 20 Best Diners in America. The authentic diner with retro décor will allow you to stop time for a moment and enjoy a signature float. Drop by and see Chef Mitchell Moore and get an iced teacake at Campbell’s Bakery. The bakery has been around since 1962 and everything is served fresh from scratch daily! Fondren has more culinary charm. Let’s just say, hunger won’t be your problem.
Like every city, there are some must-do’s in Jackson! The Mississippi Museum of Art houses more than just artistic paintings, it houses culinary art by Chef Nick Wallace. He’s hosted enough James Beard Foundation dinners in New York to need no introduction. The award winning fried chicken at Two Sister’s Restaurant is coupled perfectly with those buttered grits. Fourth generation owned Big Apple Inn serves smoked sausage, known as “smokes” and pig ear sandwiches, both crowd favorites, along with tamales and bologna fried just right!