Wednesday, January 27, 2010
If this were a question on the SAT, it might read: "Andre Previn is to the orchestra pit as Derek Emerson is to the (a) kitchen, (b) dining room, (c) menu, (d) all of the above." The answer would, of course, be "d." In order to be the best restaurant in Jackson, you must get it all right. You can't just rely on your food to make up for service and atmosphere.
Lucky for Walker's, they don't have to worry about that scenario. I have traveled my way across multiple continents and dined in the places you read about in the national press, and I can say without a doubt that Walker's Drive In is on par with some of the best restaurants in which I've ever lifted a fork. So it is no wonder that Derek and his crew also brought home the trophy for where to take your date. The service is impeccable, and the laid-back atmosphere allows you to relax, sit back, and concentrate on your date without hassling with chasing down a waiter to fill your water glass or bring another bottle of wine. Although the menu is varied and enticing, I prefer to randomly pick one of the nightly specials, knowing that it will live up to my already high expectations.
Second: BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-982-8111) / Third: Char (4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-956-9562) / Good Showing: Nick's (3000 Old Canton Road, 601-981-8017); Julep (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 105, 601-362-1411); High Noon Cafe (2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1513)
Best Place to Impress a Date
Second: Char (4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-956-9562) / Third: BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-982-8111) / Good Showing: Nick's (3000 Old Canton Road, 601-981-8017); Mint (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 5002, 601-898-6468); Shapley's (868 Centre St., Ridgeland, 601-957-3753)
Best New Restaurant
622 Duling Ave., 601-982-0002
How can people doubt evolution? The concepts of Nathan Glenn prove it. He started with Rooster's (classy burger joint), moved upscale with Basil's (sophisticated sandwiches and salads), and then naturally evolved into the casual dining and live music blend at The Auditorium. No one would argue that he is a craftsman of the highest caliber when it comes to the burgers at Rooster's and the lighter fare at Basil's, so it should be no surprise his latest concept and the menu he and fellow South-Jacksonian Nate Bullard developed are winners. The atmosphere is electric and happening, and the food is spectacular. Start with the Sweet Potato Crawfish Cake and move on to the Shrimp and Grits or Pan-Broiled Delta Catfish (pictured), but save some room for the Mississippi Mud Brownie!
Second: Underground 119 (119 South President St., 601- 352-2322) / Third: Five Guys (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, 601-605-1115) / Good Showing: Mermaid Cafe (652 Bellevue Drive, Madison, 601-605-8764); Kristo's (971 Madison Ave., Madison, 601-605-2266)
Dan Blumenthal, Mangia Bene Restaurants
Mangia Bene Executive Chef Dan Blumenthal impresses me, and I'm not easily impressed when it comes to dining. I want the whole package; atmosphere, incredible food and great service. Blumenthal's restaurants around Jackson (Sal & Mookie's, Broad Street Baking Company and Cafe, and BRAVO!) never leave me disappointed, thanks to his variety of culinary talents and careful restaurant planning. Blumenthal, a Murrah High School grad, learned his craft at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and then brought his skills back to his hometown. Blumenthal is not only a good chef, he's a partner in a successful, vibrant restaurant chain and the leader of a team of chefs at some of the most popular restaurants in the city. And Blumenthal is not just adventurous when it comes to food; he enjoys a little spice and kick out of the kitchen as well. Watch out for him around town, you might see him cruising the streets in his Caterham Super 7 Hayabusa roadster. You'll know it when you see it.
Second: Luis Bruno (Hilton, 1001 East County Line Road, 601-957-2800) / Third: Derek Emerson (Walker's Drive In, 3016 North State St., 601- 982-2633) / Good showing: Nathan Glenn (The Auditorium, 622 Duling Ave., 601-982-0002); Bryan Carrero (High Noon Cafe, 2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1513); David Ferris (Mint, 1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 5002, 601-898-6468)
Best Brunch, Best Late-Night Dining, Best Cocktails and Best Martini
4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 105, 601-362-1411
Thanks to Julep, my finicky tastes and my stomach can both be appeased after church and cocktails (but not at the same time). Julep offers a delicious brunch (complete with beignets and the perfect Bloody Mary!) on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
During a night out and after a couple cocktails, it's inevitable I will start thinking about food about 10 minutes after the kitchen closes. Julep, though, serves food as late as 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. So, after you do some cocktail sampling from the martini menu (you must try the Fantastic Jason and, of course, the Mint Julep), you don't have to rush out for icky fast food. Julep offers options such as the Julep Cheese Plate for lighter snacking and heartier options like the Honey-Rosemary Chicken.
Second: Char (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 142, 601-956-9562) / Third: BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111) / Good showing: Bon Ami (1220 E. Northside Drive, 601-982-0405); Que Sera Sera (2801 N. State St., 601-981-2520); Sophia's at the Fairview Inn (734 Fairview St., 601-948-3429)
Best Late-Night Dining
Second: Underground 119 (119 S. President St., 601-352-2322) / Third: Time Out (6270 Old Canton Road, 601-978-1839) / Good showing: Fenian's (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055);
F. Jones Corner (303 N. Farish St., 601-983-1148)
Second: BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111) / Third: (tie) Mint (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 5002, 601-898-6468); Underground 119 (119 S. President St., 601-352-2322) / Good showing: Sal & Mookie's (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919)
Second: BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111) / Third: Mint (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 5002, 601-898-6468) / Good showing: Char (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 142, 601-956-9562); Underground 119 (119 S. President St., 601-352-2322); Pan Asia (720 Harbour Point Crossing, Ridgeland, 601-956-2958)
720 Harbor Pointe Crossing, Ridgeland, 601-956-2958
No matter what kind of food mood you are in, as long as it leans toward the Far East, you will find something to please your palate at Grant Nooe's Pan Asia. From Indian dishes such as Tandoori Chicken to the Thai and Chinese-influenced stir-fry bar, to the sushi baryour taste buds will be entertained and satisfied here, whether you're a carnivore or a vegetarian. If you're looking for a hip spot for happy hour, Pan Asia offers drink specials every night, most notably the half-price draft beer on Mondays and half-price martinis on Thursdays. The soothing sounds of the Gong Bar's water wall will help drive away any leftover stress that lingers from your workday. Andi Agnew
Second: Thai House (1405 Old Square Road, 601-982-9991) / Third: Nagoya (6351 Interstate 55, 601-977-8881; 111 Crossing Drive, Madison, 601-856-5678) / Good Showing: Bonsai (1925 Lakeland Drive, 601-981-0606); Little Tokyo (876 Avery Blvd. N., Ridgeland, 601-991-3800); Sakura Bana (4800 Interstate 55 N., 601-982-3035)
Best Wine List
4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-982-8111
While the food at BRAVO! is fabulous, the wine is also wonderful, and I'm persnickety about pairing them. BRAVO!'s extensive wine collection, with hundreds of options from countries all over the globe at all different price levels, leaves no appetizer, entree, or dessert without a perfect mate. BRAVO! offers more than two dozen red and white wines by the glass. Download a full wine list at http://www.bravobuzz.com to decide your vintage ahead of time. And don't forget to get on the e-mail list to hear about the regular wine tastings BRAVO! hosts in order to keep us all educated and introduce us to new varietals.
Second: Julep (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 105, 601-362-1411) / Third: Mint (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 5002, 601-898-6468) / Good showing: Shapley's (868 Centre St., 601-957-3753); Nick's (3000 Old Canton Road, 601- 981-8017)
Broad Street Baking Company
4465 Interstate 55 N., Suite 101, 601-362-2900
From adversity to triumph! Despite foundation and utility problems, the relocation of the commercial bakery and a giant port-o-potty trailer in the parking lot for the better part of four months, Jeff, Dan and the rest of the Broad Street crew managed to come out on top. Whether you are a regular picking up your weekly Farmhouse or Sugarbuster's Loaf, or on your lunch break and just hungry for the best-selling turkey sandwich, you can't go wrong at Broad Street. For those of us with a serious sweet tooth, Pastry chef Mary Beth Addington's creations are top-notch. My life would be incomplete without Gold Rush Bars.
Second: Great Harvest (5006 Parkway Drive, 601-956-4406) / Third: Rainbow Whole Foods (2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1602) / Good Showing: Corner Bakery (108 Market St., Flowood, 601-919-9797); Campbell's Bakery (3013 N. State St., 601-362-4628); Primo's (2323 Lakeland Drive, 601-936-3701 and 515 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-898-3400)
1491 Canton Mart Road,
Back on top again is that Jackson temple of wood smoke, that Valhalla of pork, that place that makes grown men sob in ecstasy and dieters shriek in terror: the one and only Hickory Pit. What they can do with meat and fire is nothing short of artistry. I brought a client in there from Chicago one day, and he ate three sandwiches. Not because he was hungry, but because the flavor was so irresistible that he succumbed, willingly and happily, to the Deadly Sin of Gluttony. He still asks about the beef sandwich every time we have a conference call. Add to that the sweet potato fries, decadent pies and tea so sweet it is secretly sponsored by local dentists, and you have our winner.
Second: E&L Barbecue (1111 Bailey Ave., 601-355-5035) / Third: Chimneyville BBQ Smoke House (970 High St., Jackson, 601-354-4665) / Good Showing: Haute Pig (1856 Main St., Madison, 601-853-8538); Lumpkin's BBQ (182 Raymond Road, 601-373-7707); Pig Shak (1598 W. Government St., Brandon, 601-825-1936, additional locations in Byram and Gluckstadt)
Best Breakfast and Best Plate Lunch
2323 Lakeland Drive, 601-936-3398 and 515 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-898-3400
What better reward for running a 5K than a huge plate of pancakes from Primos? That is exactly how I treated myself after my last race, and it was worth every bite. Primos Cafe serves up big, fluffy flapjacks with just the right amount of bacon on the side. If savory breakfast fare is what you crave, try their biscuits and gravy or an Early Bird Platter, which begs four questions: Scrambled or over easy? Sausage or bacon? Grits or hash browns? Toast or biscuit? Get through that morning pop quiz, and you have earned your breakfast. If you wake up too late for breakfast, don't worryPrimos has a different delectable plate lunch for every weekday. My favorites are country-fried steak and fried catfish. Hey, if it's fried and/or served with a biscuit, it has to be good.
Second: Broad Street Bakery (4465 Interstate 55 N., # 101, 601-362-2900) / Third: Beagle Bagel (898 Avery Blvd. N., 601-956-1773) / Good showing: Julep (1305 E. Northside Drive, 601-362-1141), Scurlock's Donut Shop and Eatery (4157 Robinson St., 601-922-8618 and 125 S. Congress St., 601-326-8520); Joe's Diner (1149 Old Fannin Road, Brandon, 601-919-1944)
Best Plate Lunch
Second: Cherokee Inn (1410 Old Square Road, 601-362-6388) / Third: Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St. 601-982-2633) / Good Showing: Trace Grill (554 Highway 51, Ridgeland, 601-853-1014) and Two Sisters' Kitchen (707 N. Congress St., 601-353-1180)
Cock of the Walk
141 Madison Landing Circle, Ridgeland, 601-856-5500
Jackson Free Press readers regularly select Cock of the Walk in Ridgeland as the metro area's best source of catfish. The restaurant keeps its menu fairly simple, offering a hearty selection of fried southern favorites, including fried pickles. You can't beat the freshly baked cornbread, which the waiter brings out in a cast-iron skillet and flips for you at your table. You don't even get that kind of service from your mamacourse you don't pay her much, either. The helpings are huge, and most patrons end up taking leftovers home with them. The tarter sauce is memorable, and its recipe a guarded secret, apparently. The waiter wouldn't clue me in on it, no matter how much I tipped him.
Second: Penn's Fish House (various locations) / Third: Jerry's Fish (3326 Highway 49 S., Florence, 601-845-8860) / Good Showing: Catfish Haven (Highway 49, Pocahontas, 601-362-0438); Country Fisherman (3110 Highway 80 West, 601-944-9933); Eddie & Ruby's Snack Bar (1268 Valley St., 601-969-2723).
349 Ridge Way, 601-919-8879
Ichiban is definitely not your ordinary Chinese restaurant. Ichiban's buffet offers more than 200 items, which include cuisines of Chinese, Japanese and plenty of American offerings for the kids. Stir in 40 to 50 types of sushi made fresh with seafood from the Coast, and you have the ingredients for JFP readers' choice for Best "Chinese" restaurant. A nightly all-you-can-eat seafood buffet with fresh, never frozen fish, snow-crab legs and shellfish is a big hit with many Jacksonians. "We understand that this is a tough time for many locals, and we appreciate their continued support of our restaurant," said Ichiban manager Fai Kim Ngay when told the restaurant was a finalist for this category.
Second: P.F. Chang's (910 Highland Colony Parkway, 601-605-4282) / Third: Best Wok (225 Meadow Brook Road, 601-368-9555) / Good Showing: China Belle (1855 Lakeland Drive, 601-368-9588); Five Happiness (2931 McDowell Road Ext., 601-371-8765); Wok 2 Go (4329 N. State St., 601-981-2112)
Scurlock's Donuts & Bakery
4157 Robinson Road, Suite D, 601-922-8618 and 125 S. Congress St., 601-326-8520
Tuesday through Saturday, 6 a.m. until noon, the donut shop is filled with happy customers. Now with the new downtown location, you might be able to get a bear claw or a biscuit sandwich before heading into work even if you're not coming from south Jackson. Owner Mark Scurlock has been in the business for 20 years. "It's all about quality; we don't mass produce," he says. Scurlock's has a full assortment of pastries, from cream-cheese danish, eclairs, apple fritters and jelly-filled donuts to muffins to a traditional breakfast menu. My first visit, I ordered a cinnamon roll; Mr. Scurlock warmed it up, and that's all she wrote ... a perfect marriage, me and my cinnamon rolls from Scurlock's!
Second: Donut Palace (5651 Highway 25, Flowood, 601-919-8601) / Third: Donut Barn (1069 Highway 51, Madison, 601-605-8100) / Good showing: Donut Shop & Bakery (718 Highway 49 S., Richland, 601-936-2037); Monroe's Donuts & Bakery (6310 Medgar Evers Blvd., 601-981-3208)
Que Sera Sera
2801 N. State St., 601-981-2520
As my grandfather would have put it, "They sure put a fine scald on that pot of gumbo!" Year after year, Que Sera Sera brings home the hardware when it comes to the best gumbo in Jackson. Is it the roux, the sausage or the seafood that makes it great? I doubt it. That kind of perfection only comes from love and skill. Let's face it, you could hand me a load of bricks and a sack of mortar, and I couldn't build you a cathedral. To take a collection of fine things and come up with a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts takes the hands and soul of an artist.
Second: Hal & Mal's (200 Commerce St., 601-948-0888) / Third: Fat Tuesday's (6923 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-2971) / Good Showing: Char (4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-956-9562); Broad Street Baking Company (4465 Interstate 55 N. Frontage Road, Banner Hall, Suite 101, 601-362-2900)
Best Hangover Food
1410 Old Square Road, 601-362-6388
Light causes searing pain. You pray for just one more hour of sweet, quiet repose. The smell of bourbon and cigarette smoke leaching from your pores is so acute that you wonder for just a moment if you are still at Martin's. Your roommates refuse to turn down the television and the neighbor insists on mowing his lawn at the rude hour of 11 a.m. There is only one thing left for you to dogo to the Cherokee. You choke down a couple of aspirin with the watered-down Pepsi from last night's Taco Bell run, hoping there's not a cigarette butt floating in there, and seek salvation in the form of unapologetic greasiness. Oh excess! Your sting cannot prevail over the redemption found in Cherokee chili-cheeseburgers and onion rings!
Second: Keifer's (705 Poplar Blvd., 601-355-6825) / Third: Que Sera Sera (2501 N. State St., 601-981-2520) / Good showing: Fenian's (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055); Five Guys (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, 601-605-1115)
Best Greek/Mediterranean and Best Outdoor Dining
705 Poplar Blvd., 601-355-6825 and 120 N. Congress St., 601-353-4976
If an all-starch diet suddenly were to become fashionable, I would go to Keifer's every day for an order of cottage fries. For now, I try to balance my potato intake with a delicious gyro or Greek salad (with lots of yummy feta dressing, of course), or a round of appetizers like hummus, dolmas and falafeland wash it all down with an icy cold mug of some of the coldest draft beers in town. Keifer's celebrates 30 years of making Jackson happy in 2010, and the restaurant has been imitated, but never duplicated. It's also the first place voters think of when the weather turns warm, probably because of the plentiful seating, quick service and those ambient string lights on the patiobut more likely for that cold beer and feta dressing.
Second: Aladdin (730 Lakeland Drive, 601-366-6033; 163 Ridge Drive, Flowood, 601-992-7338) / Third: (tie) Wraps (1220 E. Northside Drive, 601-366-2006) and Mediterranean Cafe/Grill (6550 Old Canton Road, 601-956-0082) / Good Showing: Jerusalem Cafe (2741 Old Canton Road, 601-321-8797) and Petra Cafe (104 W. Leake St., Clinton, 601-925-0016)
Best Outdoor Dining
Second: Que Sera Sera (2801 N. State St., 601-981-2520) / Third: Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St. 601-982-2633) / Good Showing: Sal and Mookie's (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919)
Most Innovative Menu
1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 5002, 601-898-6468
Mint's menu is this food-loving, southern girl's culinary heaven. Ingredients with the distinct flavors of the South make appearances in unexpected places, such as Delta Grind Grits paired with Moroccan glaze in the Rare Sea Salt Rubbed Tuna, watermelon mint salsa for the Smoked Chicken Quesadillas, and peanut brittle in the Watercress Salad. This menu is proof that the South isn't lagging behind the rest of the culinary world, but can add its charm to the best of dishes. The selections are creatively sophisticated and modern, while hanging on to that comfortable soul-food feeling. The dessert menu is also wonderful. The Strawberry Shortcake is so good it makes me wiggle in my seat.
Second: Julep (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 105, 601-362-1411) / Third: High Noon Cafe (807 Old Canton Road Jackson, 601-366-1513) / Good showing: Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633); Underground 119 (119 S. President St., 601-352-2322)
Best Italian and Best Pasta
6592 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-977-0563
Coming in first again this year in these two categories is Amerigo. Its Duck and Sausage Pasta alone could carry them to victory. Toss in a helping of lasagna, a plate of tiramisu and a collection of fine Italian wines, and you can see why the JFP readers routinely choose this eaterythat has been pleasing diners since 1987as their favorite Italian restaurant and their favorite for pasta. Just think about that for a second ... Jacksonians have had their palates pleased at Amerigo since Reagan was in the White House. We've watched hair metal fade away and embraced hip-hop; we've put our parachute pants out of their misery and traded them for low-rise jeans; we've cut back our Flock-of-Seagulls hair into something much more mainstream. And yet we have clung to the fine Italian food served up daily at Amerigo.
Second: BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-982-8111) / Third: Biaggi's (970 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, 601-354-6600) / Good showing: Cerami's (5417 Lakeland Drive, Flowood, 601-919-2829); Fratesi's (910 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-956-2929)
Second: BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-982-8111) / Third: Biaggi's (970 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, 601-354-6600) / Good Showing: Sal & Mookie's (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919)
Best Burger, Best Fries and Best Veggie Burger:
4654 McWillie Drive, 601-713-3020
If I were a snake, I could unhinge my jaws and not struggle to eat the massive burgers at Cool Al's. I would also bite people who are mean, but that is the subject of a whole other story.
The burgers are formed by hand, so Al Stamps must have the biggest hands since Andre the Giant. Don't get me wrong: these things would be winners if they were tiny little sliders. The seasoning, the big ole' flat-top griddle, the melted cheese dripping down the side of the burgers, it all comes together to create a winner.
Being the sharp-toothed carnivore that I am, I've never ordered a veggie burger for myself at Cool Al's. I did, however, take a bite from a friend's burger when he got up to refill his tea. (Sorry you had to find out this way, man.) I must admit that my primitive palate was pleased. The flavor (and even the texture) was spot-on. So I guess when my evil cardiologist finally gets his way and forces me to modify my meaty-meaty ways, I'll have at least one outlet for deliciousness. If Doc tries to tell me to give up the Cool Al's fries ... well, then he will have stepped over from advising and "gone to meddlin'," and I'll have to find another saw-bones. Just remember, when you go see Al, be patient and pick up the latest JFP to pass the waiting time. Perfection can't be rushed.
Best Local Burger
Second: Mugshots (4245 Lakeland Drive, 601-713-0383) / Third: Stamps Superburger (1801 Dalton St., 601-352-4555 and 5752 Terry Road, Byram, 601-373-7299) / Good showing: Rooster's (2906 N. State St., 601-982-2001); Five Guys (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, 601-605-1115); Majestic Burger (1491 Canton Mart Road, 601-899-8822)
Best Local Fries
Second: Five Guys (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, 601-605-1115) / Third: Mugshots (4255 Lakeland Drive, 601-713-0383) / Good Showing: Keifer's (705 Poplar Blvd., 601-355-6825)
Best Veggie Burger
Second: High Noon (2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1513) / Third: Majestic Burger (1491 Canton Mart Road, 601-899-8822) / Good Showing: Sal & Mookie's (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919)
Best Place for Dessert, Best Kid's Menu and Best Place for Ice Cream
Sal and Mookie's
565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919
The sweet sponge cake, cool mascarpone, coffee and rum syrup make a symphony in my mouth. I didn't think tiramisu could be improved upon until I tried it at Sal and Mookie's.
For the third year, readers selected the Fondren eatery as their favorite ice-cream spot. Even during cold winter days, the 14 sundaes/treats options -aloneespecially the Strawberry Fields Forever sundaesounds scrumptious. Just bundle up and dig in to perfect ice cream.
And with Sal and Mookie's, there's no fighting with your kids to clean their plates here--if you blink you might miss it. Kids can choose from pasta pizza and PB&J, all yummy choices.
Best Place for Dessert
Second: Char (4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-956-9562) / Third: BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-982-8111) / Good Showing: Amerigo (6592 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-977-0563); Primos Cafe (2323 Lakeland Drive, 601-936-3398 and 515 Lake Harbour Drive, 601-898-3400)
Best Place for Ice Cream
Second: Bop's Frozen Custard (Multiple Locations, 601-952-0661) / Third: Marble Slab Creamery (1059 E. County Line Road, Suite B, 601-899-9060 and 178 Promenade Blvd. F-4, Flowood, 601-992-2772) / Good Showing: Cold Stone Creamery (1888 Main St., Suite B, Madison 601-853-7400)
Best Kid's Menu
Second: Petra Cafe (104 W. Leake St., Clinton, 601-925-0016) / Third: Garfield's (6340 Ridgewood Court Drive, 601-977-9920) / Good Showing: Newk's Express Cafe (Multiple locations, 601-709-4990); O'Charley's (1270 E. County Line Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-6693)
Best Local Fried Chicken and Best Soul Food
Two Sisters Kitchen
707 N. Congress St., 601-353-1180
If you want some fried chicken that tastes just like grandma's, Two Sisters is the place. Two Sisters has offered the city 20 years of superb southern cuisine and has won Jackson's Best Fried Chicken since 2003. I have no idea how you skin the chicken before frying it and get it so crispy! Diann Alford, the owner and manager, won't divulge how it's done. "That's the big secret!" she says.
Two Sisters is also the place if you're looking for an excellent, southern-style lunch for under $12. You can sample angel biscuits that melt in your mouth, cabbage, grits, mustard greens, fried squash, all buffet styleand a different entree every day. Finish up with a sumptuous cup of bread pudding served with chocolate or Jack Daniels whiskey sauce, or peach cobbler, or banana pudding, and head back to work if you can!
Best Local Fried Chicken
Second: Julep (1305 E. Northside Drive, 601-362-1411) / Third: Mama Hamil's (480 Magnolia St., Madison, 601-856-4407) / Good Showing: Primos Cafe (515 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-898-3400 and 2323 Lakeland Drive, 601-936-3398)
Best Soul Food
Second: Peaches (327 N. Farish St., 601-354-9267) / Third: Mama Hamil's (480 Magnolia St., Madison, 601-856-4407) / Good Showing: Collins Dream Kitchen (1439 Terry Road, 601-353-3845); Lumpkin's BBQ (182 Raymond Road, 601-373-7707)
Best Lunch Buffet:
Mama Hamil's Southern Cooking & BBQ
480 Magnolia St., Madison, 601-856-4407
Mama Hamil's, serving masses of meats, various vegetables and delectable desserts to anyone who stops by for lunch, started out in a little log cabin on Highway 51 in Madison. Jackson's favorite lunch buffet (10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Saturday) now occupies a country-church-sized brick building located out back of the cabin. Nothing's changed but the elbow roomthere's more of it. You can still get your fix from among these daily offerings: seven to eight salads, 10 vegetables, four to five meats, five desserts and that perfect sweet tea. If you've got a craving for a particular favorite, just go to http://www.hamils.com to get a look at the daily menu. Got a big event in the planning stages? Hamil's banquet room seats upward of 100, plus they'll cater for you elsewhere.
Second: Two Sisters Kitchen (707 N. Congress St., 601-353-1180) / Third: Ichiban Grill & Sushi (359 Ridgeway St., Flowood, 601-919-8879) / Best Showing: Country Fisherman (3110 Highway 80 W., 601-944-9933); Lumpkin's BBQ (182 Raymond Road, 601-373-7707)
Best Meals Under $10
Newk's Express Cafe
4450 Interstate 55 N., 601-709-4990 and locations in Flowood, Ridgeland and Brandon
From the local minds that forged McAlister's Deli comes the brilliance of Newk's Express Cafe, which provides casual, affordable dining. Newk's serves home-cooked, mouth-watering meals without sacrificing broad selection or superior quality. Newk's combines southern classicslike its generous shrimp po' boys and pimiento-cheese sandwicheswith a European flair, with sundry thin-baked pizzas like the Margherita or the Mediterranean, all of which are reasonably priced. Have your choice of sweet tea or a Pellegrino with your meal, and try a mountainous slice of cake if you feel like splurging. Newk's makes crafting a hearty, modestly priced lunch or dinner simple.
Second: Basil's (2906 N. State St., 601-982-2100; 120 N. Congress St., Suite L1, 601-944-9888; and 904 E. Fortification St., 601-352-2002) / Third: Keifer's (120 N. Congress St., 601-353-4976 and 705 Poplar Blvd., 601-355-6825) / Good showing: Primos Cafe (2323 Lakeland Drive, Suite A, 601-936-3701 and 515 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-898-3400), Lumpkin's BBQ (182 Raymond Road, 601-373-7707), Mama Hamil's (480 Magnolia St., Madison, 601-856-4407)
Best Mexican and Best Margarita
La Cazuela Mexican Grill
1401 E. Fortification St., 601-353-3014
Several years ago, when La Cazuela had just opened its doors, the big sign that we all see now from Fortification Street had yet to be erected. Instead, a hand-painted plywood sign simply read "Mexican." Intrigued by the simple sign and lured by the proximity to my home and office (both in Belhaven then), we gave it a try. From that first night to today, the little restaurant we call "the Mexican" has been our go-to choice when craving south-of-the-border delicacies. The fresh salsa goes fast and is quickly refilled by an attentive, friendly staff. My favorite, the Enchiladas Verdes, is creamy with a great contrast found in the hot green-chili sauce. The Fajitas come out steaming hot on an iron skillet, and one order is enough for at least two hungry diners. The lunch menu is portioned perfectly so you can enjoy the flavors without slipping into a food coma when you return to the office.
Although not for the lunch crowd (unless your name is Keith Richards), the margaritas are clearly deserving of the top award. They are strong, tart and blessed with a generous pour. If you happen to see me at "the Mexican" one day, feel free to send over a round of margaritas. Kitty and I like ours on the rocks, with salt. Tom Ramsey
Second: Margarita's (1625 E. County Line Road, 601-957-7672) / Third: El Potrillo (212 Dogwood Place, Flowood, 601-939-9900 and 123 Grandview Blvd., Suite H., Madison, 601-605-9320) / Good Showing: El Sombrero (249 Ridge Drive, Flowood, 601-919-8921; 5746 Highway 80, Pearl, 601-664-6764; and 12 Airstream Lane, Byram, 601-346-9299); El Charro (2086 Lakeland Drive, 601-362-4447)
Second: Margarita's (1625 E. County Line Road, 601-957-7672) / Third: Cinco de Mayo (880 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-957-1882) / Good Showing: Papito's Mexican Grill (111 Colony Crossing, Madison, 601-605-0275); Cozumel (823 South Wheatley St., Ridgeland, 601-991-0577)
1220 N. State St., 601-352-2001
Pizza Shack was my welcome wagon when I moved to Belhaven recentlywhat better way to say "Welcome" than a hot slice of pizza? Their number is now in my phone, and if I don't feel like cooking, I can have a hot Thai Chicken or Supreme pizza in my hands in no more than 15 minutes or so. See if your typical chain restaurant can top that! Pizza Shack's crust alone is so delicious: It provides a solid, never-too-greasy foundation for whatever toppings you choose, even rare items like gyro meat and smoked Gouda. Dine in and expect cheap beer specials and friendly serviceor do what I do: bring that bad boy home and pig out with your friends in the comfort of your own home.
Second: Sal and Mookie's (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919) / Third: Soulshine (1139 Old Fannin Road, Brandon, 601-919-2000; 1111 Highland Colony, Ridgeland, 601-856-8646) / Good Showing: Mellow Mushroom (275 Dogwood Blvd., Flowood, 601-992-7499); BRAVO!, (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111)
Best Vegetarian Options
High Noon Cafe
2708 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1602
I have a few die-hard carnivore friends who think a meal isn't complete without chicken, pork of beef. Whenever these friends visit, I get a kick out of taking them to High Noon Cafe and watching their faces glow with delight while they eat a High Noon bowl, seaside cakes or a messy High Noon burger. Manager Brad Hooey and chef Bryan Carrero are passionate about serving people, and are forever perfecting the cafe's daily specials. As a recently converted vegetarian, I've been begging Hooey to host a weekly vegetarian cooking class because I find myself craving their food on a daily basis. The fresh ingredients, perfectly cooked tofu and spicy peanut sauce are just a few reasons why High Noon is the best place to get your healthy eating on in Jackson.
Second: Aladdin (730 Lakeland Drive, 601-366-6033 and 163 Ridge Way, Suite E, Flowood, 601-992-7338) / Third: Cool Al's (4654 McWillie Drive, 601-713-3020) / Good Showing: Spice Avenue (4711 Interstate 55 N., 601-982-0890); Petra Cafe (104 W. Leake St., Clinton, 601-925-0016.)
Best Red Beans & Rice
Que Sera Sera
2801 N. State St., 601-981-2520
Que Sera Sera has been dishing up award-winning red beans and rice for 20 years. Out of 26 competitions, the restaurant has won 21, most often for its red beans and rice, followed by its gumbo. Former New Orleans resident and owner Boo Noble knows just the right approach to creating the Cajun-American favorite (and he's keeping it close to his vest).
Second-place winner Hal & Mal's starts with dried beans and no shortcuts, adds prime ingredients, and offers diners a choice between andouille or smoked sausage to create a hearty plate that keeps 'em coming back. Fat Tuesday's signature red beans and rice involve a three-day wash, soak and seasoning process that means real bean businessthe seasoning step alone takes a day and a half.
Second: Hal & Mal's (200 Commerce St., 601-948-0888) / Third: Fat Tuesday's (6923 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-2971) / Good showing: Cherokee Inn (1410 Old Square Road, 601-362-6388); Scrooge's (5829 Ridgewood Road, 601-206-1211)
Best Sandwich and Best Salad
Newk's Express Cafe
Multiple locations, 601-709-4990
The sandwich is the Nicholas Cage movie of foods: It can range from lowbrow but satisfying entertainment to wildly complex works of art. The best sandwiches in Jackson strike a balance between the two (something that Nic Cage, alas, appears unable to do), pushing the envelope just a little bit with ingredients and combinations, while hitting all the familiar pleasure centers. This year's winner, Newk's, does the balancing act especially wellhow many chain restaurants serve a pesto chicken sandwich with goat cheese? But runners-up Broad Street and Basil's also turn out enticing variations on our favorite themes.
It's telling that Newk'salong with many of the runners-upalso picked up Best Salad honors, since the same principle of balance also applies here. All of the honorees in this category understand that a salad isn't a vegetable alibi for a carnivorous crime. Newk's "Favorite" salad deserves special honors: With artichoke hearts, pecans and cranberries to complement its greens, it makes the addition of grilled chicken seem almost unnecessary, like so much of Nic Cage's filmography.
Second: Broad Street Bakery (4465 Interstate 55 N. Suite 101, 601-362-2900) / Third: Basil's (multiple locations, 601-352-2002) / Good Showing: McAllister's Deli (multiple locations, 601-985-9108; Room Service (4107 Northview Drive, 601-362-4617)
Second: Room Service (4107 Northview Drive, 601-362-4617) / Third: Broad Street Bakery (4465 Interstate 55 N. Suite 101, 601-362-2900) / Good Showing: Basil's (multiple locations, 601-985-9108); BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111); High Noon Cafe/Rainbow Co-Op (2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1513)
123 W. Capitol St., 601-355-4122
The Mayflower Cafe is no stranger to the Best of Jackson's Best Seafood slot, and once again the people have voted this Jackson landmark as the best place to enjoy the bounty of the sea. Opened in 1935 by George Kountouris and John Gouras, Kountouris' great-nephew Jerry Kountouris now operates Mayflower, which is located in the heart of downtown Jackson. Currently in season is speckled trout (until about February), but wait around until April to sample the lemonfish. For first-timers, I strongly recommend the succulent soft shell crab, lightly fried and shipped in freshly frozen year-round; palates inclined to even fresher tastes may opt to wait until March. It's no surprise that this southern haven for seafood aficionados trumps all again.
Second: A.J.'s on the Lake (361 Township Ave., Ridgeland, 601-956-2588) / Third: Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633) / Good showing: Nick's (3000 Old Canton Road, Suite 105, 601-981-8017), Sal & Phil's Seafood Restaurant and Grill (6600 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-957-1188); Steam Room Grille (5402 Interstate 55 N., 601-899-8588)
Janis Boersma, Nick's
3000 Old Canton Road, 601-981-8017
An Oriental proverb reads, "In order to lead, one must first learn to serve." If that adage holds true, we should elect Janis Boersma to some high elected office. Her smile is infectious, and her manners are light and airy. She has lingered at the table when I have dined alone at Nick's to make sure that I haven't felt so alone, and she has served business dinners to me and 11 out-of-towners with the efficiency of a train conductor. She possesses a knowledge of the dishes and the wines that allows her easily to guide your decisions. On second thought, let's not elect her to high office ... Nick's just wouldn't be the same without her.
Second: Mandalyn Goode, High Noon Cafe (2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1513) / Third: Emily Bertram, High Noon Cafe (2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1513) / Good Showing: Ann Friday, Hal & Mal's (200 S. Commerce St., 601-948-0888)
Buffalo Wild Wings
808 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-856-0789
Wing fanatics from all over the state scramble to Buffalo Wild Wings each week to chomp on some seriously delicious wings. Whether you choose to douse your wings in mild sauces or singe your gums with their signature Blazin' sauce, Buffalo Wild Wings has a palette of sauces at your disposal. Fan the flames with Wild Drinks: fruity alcoholic beverages destined to numb any pain after your favorite team botches a last-minute field goal. Don't forget Wing Stop (with its new location near downtown). They offer nine mouth-watering flavors, and Troy Aikman says, "Best wings I've ever eaten." Thanks, Troy. And don't forget Hooters. Oh, wait. Nobody can forget Hooters.
Second: Wing Stop (1430 Ellis Ave., 601-969-0606; 952 N. State St., 601-969-6400; and 398 Highway 51, Ridgeland, 601-605-0504) / Third: Hooters (4565 Interstate 55 N., 601-981-0480) / Good Showing: Pizza Shack (1220 N. State St., 601-352-2001); Sal and Mookie's (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919)
6351 Interstate 55 N., 601-977-8881 and 111 Crossing Way, Suite 380, Madison, 601-856-5678
As a professed sushi addict, I must admit the people's choice of Nagoya is nothing but fitting. Nagoya serves traditional, nigiri-style (hand-formed) sushi like tuna, salmon and other raw fish, but also more familiar (and cooked!) Japanese favorites like the California roll and snow crab roll. Nagoya also puts a southern twist on sushi, with its crawfish roll and soft shell crab (fried, of course) roll. For fans of American portion sizes, try a specialty roll or two, like the Rainbow roll, Jackson roll or the Madison roll (a personal favorite), which has salmon, avocado, "crunches" and nectarous slices of mango atop. For fans of sushi everywhere, Nagoya promises an array of dishes all its own.
Second: Sakura Bana (4800 Interstate 55 N., Suite 11, 601-982-3035) / Third: Little Tokyo (876 Avery Blvd., Ridgeland, 601-991-3800) / Good showing: Bonzai Japanese Steakhouse (1925 Lakeland Drive, 601-981-0606); Ichiban Sushi Bar & Grill (153 Ridge Way, Suite 105, Flowood, 601-919-0097)
868 Centre St., Ridgeland, 601-957-3753
Steak. Just the word sends me reeling with culinary bliss. Add a few modifiers like "prime," "marbled," "aged" or "Shapley's," and you really get me going. The Shapley family established this temple of meat in 1985 as the pinnacle of what a steakhouse should be, and owner/chef Scott Koester has adhered to those traditions to keep them on top. I know people rave about the filet maison, but for my money you can't beat their ribeye. Pair that with escargot in puffed pastry or Hudson Valley foie gras and a big, fat, jammy California Cabernet from the 750+ bottle wine list, and you've got a night to remember. I've heard they also have fine desserts, but I've never had the self-restraint to leave enough room.
Second: Tico's (1536 E. County Line Road, 601-956-1030) / Third: Char (4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-956-9562) / Good Showing: Nick's (3000 Old Canton Road, 601-981-8017); Olga's Fine Dining (4760 Interstate 55 N., 601-992-1092)
201 E. Layfair Drive, Flowood, 601-932-3588; 1139 Old Fannin Road, Brandon, 601-992-2988; 655 Lake Harbor Drive, Ridgeland, 601-853-4188; 1069 Highway 51, Suite C, Madison, 601-607-5888
Last January, when several JFP staff members were busy stuffing envelopes for the Best of Jackson 2009 party, our stomachs began to growl, and we needed food ... fast. Some wise woman suggested O.E.C, and we never looked back. It's no shocker that overworked Jacksonians rely on O.E.C. to provide them with dinner in a pinch. O.E.C. is tasty, exceptionally affordable and with four convenient locations, always nearby. Best Wok is not far behind. With chicken that is seriously kickin' and a staff that is all smiles, you can't go wrong with dialing up Best Wok. Wanna trick house guests into believing you can whip up fine Italian cuisine? Call Tim at BRAVO! and order out-of-this-world pastas.
Jackson R. Breland
Second: Best Wok (225 Meadowbrook Road, Suite 600, 601-368-9555) / Third: BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111) / Good Showing: Newk's Express Cafe (4450 Interstate 55 N., 601-709-4990 and locations in Flowood, Ridgeland and Brandon); Wok To Go (4329 N. State St., 601-981-2112)
Best Place for Coffee and Best Place to Hang Out with a Laptop
Cups Espresso Cafe
Multiple Locations, 601-835-2371, http://www.cupsespressocafe.com
A cold and bitter wind permeated our bones in Jackson earlier this month. Respite was not far as we waddled in our many layers toward the only thing that tames a cold winter windhot coffee (or tea). Cups in Fondren was crowded during those cold days, and no surprise, as cold-weather refugees huddled around their laptops with a beverage of choice. Voted Best Place for Coffee, Cups' great menu and knowledgeable staff make this java joint a Jackson favorite. Cups has several flavors available year round, but also offers seasonal treats like "Frosty's Favorite Mocha," a mocha latte with cinnamon sure to take the frostbite out of your fingers.
This keen coffee shop and its dependable wi-fi also took top honors as the Best Place to Hang Out with a Laptop. I highly recommend the red corner chair at their flagship store in Fondren, but you will find them in multiple locations throughout Jackson.
Best Place for Coffee
Second: Sneaky Beans (2914 N. State St., 601-487-6349) / Third: Seattle Drip (Multiple Locations, 601-605-5008) / Good Showing: Broad Street Bakery (4465 Interstate 55 N., Suite 101, 601-362-2900); Fusion Coffeehouse (1111 Highland Colony Parkway., Suite A, Ridgeland, 601-856-6001); Wired Espresso Cafe (115 N. State St., 601-500-7800)
Best Place to Hang Out with a Laptop
Second: Sneaky Beans (2914 N. State St., 601-487-6349) / Third: Broad Street Bakery (4465 Interstate 55 N., Suite 101, 601-362-2900) / Good Showing: Starbucks Coffee (1220 E. Northside Dr., 601-366-5332); Fusion Coffeehouse (1111 Highland Colony Parkway., Suite A, Ridgeland, 601-856-6001)
I love the fact that Starbuck's didn't even make the "good showing" for best places to get coffee. The three things that Jackson has plenty of are great coffee, great pizza, and great people.
Congrats to all the winners. I can't believe I wasn't picked for sompthin. I gotta be the biggest Dallas Cowboys aka COWCHIPS hater. If I don't win next year I'm taking my act to the Clarion Wedger.
Them's fightin' words, Walt!
Baquan, you are _so_ right about the Greek food in this town. And all of them in town have given me the stink eye when I ask where the lamb is. Best Asian - please try Ding How Asian Bistro in Ridgeland (www.dinghowasianbistro.com) 6955 Old Canton Road Ridgeland, MS 39157-1267 (601) 956-1717. The head chef doesn't run it like her father or grandfather's restaurant. No buffet, delicious fresh food and a great staff. Best Mexican - that's some bull there. Take the bull by Carniceria Valdez (6350 Old Canton Rd, Ridgleand) - they'll help dress it out. Yeah, its a butcher shop and grocery store, but they have killer tacos al pastor, agua de orchata, carnitas and fresh chicharron (that's pork rinds) as well. Plus, you can buy a Mexican coke with actual sugar instead of HFCS. Across the street is La Taqueria Guadalupe which has been expanding its menu as well - they've got menudo now!
Inspired by curiousity, I found myself leaning against the bar at Cool Al's Thursday as I waited on my "L" burger, a fiery mix of fresh meat, jalapenos and onions. What a burger (no pun intended)! Next on the list...Frank Jones Corner. Watch out Cool Al, the guys in the blue building on Farish street may be giving you a run for your money, despite their absense from this section of "Best Of." I've been told that, with the bacon and cheese, there isn't a burger in the state to compare. Given some of the burger venues that made this list's attention, I have no fear your burger will at worst, be in the top 3. Afterall, can you really consider a pre-pattied piece of frozen beef to be the best? Even after you hit it with a shake of Tony's, the frozen pattie will never compare to the greasy goodness of a hand-made burger.