Jackson Mississippi Run-down
- Barry Strugatz
I was in Jackson, the capitol of Mississippi, a few weeks ago. Here's a brief report on a great weekend of eating in the deep South.
Farish Street is the main artery of the African American community. Historically the center of business, entertainment, culture and the civil rights movement -- it is also an avenue of culinary pleasures.
Next to the beautifully restored Alamo Theatre is Peaches a classic neighborhood soul food restaurant. I had an excellent lunch of fried chicken, turnip greens, mac & cheese with lemonade and cornbread.
Thanks to the authoritative guide Southern Belly I visited the Big Apple Inn. Nothing there suggested my native NYC. This place is a Jackson institution. The lighting is low, the juke box playing and busy with loyal customers. I sampled the pigs ear (recently featured on TV's Ripley's Believe It Or Not) and the sausage sandwiches. They were served on White Castle type buns with a spicy sauce and other condiments. The sausage was good and hot and the pigs ear was good and...cartlidgey.
The fish place across the street looked very promising.
Fifteen minutes outside of town in Florence, MS is Jerry's Catfish House. A catfish mecca. But this mecca is a giant two story tall white igloo. Inside there are two floors of tables. The rounded igloo ceiling makes you feel like you're eating in a planetarium, but the stars and heavenly objects here are the delicious (mostly) fried foods. Hushpuppies: probably the best I've had. Fried Cat Fish: thin, moist, with a hint of bacon in the batter...addictive. Fried pickles...like psychedelic potato chips...a mind-altering experience. Lemon Ice Box cake...light, very tasty and cold. The menu contains other items that would undoubtedly be of the highest palatability.
And then there's the Subway Lounge a highlight of my trip. Probably the last juke joint in town. Incredible blues and r&b of the highest order in a unique colorful basement club. Had a first-rate Blues (chili) Dog at 2:30 to cap the evening.
Also had good food at Que Sera, Sera (Cajun); Elite (Southern and Greek);Country Boy's Produce (sandwiches, fruit, etc.). Due to bad timing I missed eating at Frank's which I heard was really good for breakfast (they claim world famous biscuits).
The Jackson Visitors Bureau has a good listing of eateries in their "What's Going in Jackson" booklet.
All in all much good vittles in this town.
1. the "Southern Belly" book Barry refers to is briefly reviewed (and linked to Amazon.com) at the "ChowBooks" link below (southern belly is the first book on the page), and...
2. Barry is probably the most consistently reliable and skillful chowhound I know. If you're ever in Jackson, place yourself in his hands (well...not LITERALLY...)
Barry, next time you are in Jackson, drive down 49 about an hour and fifteen minutes south of Jackson for the *most* delectible southern meal you've had. In Mendenhall (basically a one-horse town), you will find the Revolving Table Restaurant in an old hotel. There are only 3 tables, but they each hold about 16 people. On it, there are giant lazy-Susans filled with food. You have to be quick to grab what you want. It's a hoot.
Too bad you missed the old (and gone) LaFleur's Restaurant. One of my old faves.
Oh.....one other thing.....I think we talked about this while dining at Jerry's.....there is this great little shack in Jackson that sells homemade hot tamales. I sure wish I could remember the name.
I am still snickering about the pig's ear sandwich. You are a braver soul than I. :)
re: Susan Ridgway
I tried to eat brunch with my grandparents and parents at the Round Table in Mendenhall several years ago, but the reaction of the staff to a sleeveless shirt has forever cured me of the urge to eat there.
As my 70 year old grandparents, my parents, and I entered, we were stopped by a staff member, who informed us that I was not appropriately dressed. As was the fashion in the late 80's, early 90's, I was wearing two sleeveless shirts of differing colors with a pair of khakis, and big earrings of course.
Certainly, my mother would not have let me leave the house in anything inappropriate -- I was very modestly covered, but if the restaurant has a rule, so be it. Had he left the conversation at a simple "no sleeveless shirts", it would have been fine.
Unfortunately, as we turned to leave, he launched into a story of a large breasted woman who had once eaten in the restaurant after coming in from the rain in a wifebeater tank top and (I quote) "her twin 38's". He described to my then fainting 70 year old grandmother about this woman's "twin 38's" causing a ruckus. All of us were struggling to pick up our jaws off the ground and hoping for some natural disaster to allow us to move as quickly as possible *away* from this horrible man, who finished the story with "and that's why your 12 year old daughter cannot wear a sleeveless shirt in our restaurant".
This was 12 years ago, and that man hopefully is no longer an employee. How his behavior and speech was less offensive than me at 12 years old in a very modest sleeveless shirt is beyond me, but we've never been back. Nor do we plan to.
re: Susan Ridgway
Yes, next time I'm in Jackson I definitely will try to check out the Revolving Tables. I am also very curious about the hot tamales, I saw signs for them around town. Also want to check out Frank's, Bully's, Crechales, etc., etc.
Who knew that Jackson was an eater's paradise?
re: Barry Strugatz
Thanks for your great post. Even though I used to live in Jackson, you listed some places that I never heard of-- especially along Farish street. I guess growing up in the suburbs is not a good culinary idea. :)
I hope everyone learns as you did that for a city of Jackson's size (~300K), it has great food.