Best of Jackson 2016: Food & Drink | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Best of Jackson 2016: Food & Drink

Trip Burns/File Photo

Trip Burns/File Photo

Best Happy Hour; Best Place for Cocktails; Best Margarita; Best Mexican/Latin; Best Outdoor Dining; Best Place for a First Date: Babalu Tacos & Tapas

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Babalu Babarita Trip Burns/File Photo

622 Duling Ave., 601-366-5757, babalutacos.com

If you've ever been in Babalu on a Friday night, Saturday night or any night really, you know the place is abuzz with a weird sort of energy: the kind that makes you want to be a part of it—even if it's a 45-minute wait. The thing is, from cocktails to tacos, there's a lot worth waiting for. On Mondays, you actually don't have to wait to enjoy discounted cocktails. Babalu has mastered the alliteration that boosted margaritas to more than special-occasion cocktails: Margarita Monday. The restaurant serves $5 margaritas all day long on Mondays, and if that isn't enough to get you through the door, Tuesdays are Taco Tuesdays at Babalu, which translates to $2 per taco.

The restaurant prides itself on fresh ingredients in drinks and entrees alike. The bar doesn't have soda guns; the bartenders use canned soda, organic tonic water and in-house fruit-infused tequila. For tacos, Babalu offers blue-corn tortillas, fresh pico de gallo and your choice of seven to eight meats. The Baba Burger is one of the most popular menu options.

Community coordinator and events manager Lindsey Miller says Babalu stands out because customers are encouraged to order different items and share around the table. At Babalu, the food comes out when it's ready—not all at once, so sharing is a good idea anyway if you're hungry.

Another favorite feature at Babalu is the coveted patio tables, which provide a change of pace from the sometimes-loud dining room. Lounge sofas are perfect areas for meet-ups, and long tables enable larger groups to all sit together. The patio is often full in the summer, but Miller says it's still a popular choice in wintertime. Babalu's high energy largely comes from the great team that works there, she says. At Babalu, she says, "you know what to expect: for it to be busy but to get taken care of. ... Consistency is key." As a staple and multi-category winner, Babalu has proved its consistency and presence as a reliable staple in the Jacktown restaurant rotation for Jackson Free Press readers once again.—Arielle Dreher

Best Happy Hour Finalists: Capitol Grill (5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845, capitolgrillofjackson.com) / CAET Wine Bar (3100 N. State St., Suite 102, 601-321-9169, caetwinebar.com) / Saltine Oyster Bar (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899 / The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen (1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562)

Best Place for Cocktails Finalists: BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / CAET Wine Bar (3100 N. State St., Suite 102, 601-321-9169, caetwinebar.com) / Library Lounge (Fairview Inn, 734 Fairview St., 601-948-3429, fairviewinn.com) / The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs (655 Dulng Ave., 769-257-3517, apothecaryjackson.com) / The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen (1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562)

Best Margarita Finalists: Jaco's Tacos (318 S. State St., 601-961-7001, jacostacos.net) / La Cazuela (1401 E. Fortification St., 601-353-3014) / Las Margaritas (1625 E. County Line Road, Suite 120, 601-957-7672) / Papitos Mexican Restaurant and Grill (173 Promenade Blvd., Flowood, 601-919-0448; 6376 Ridgewood Court Drive, 601-665-4632) / Sombra Mexican Kitchen (140 Township Ave., Suite 100, Ridgeland, 601-707-7950, sombramexicankitchen.com)

Best Mexican/Latin Finalists: Cafe Ole (2752 N. State St., 769-
524-3627) / El Sombrero (multiple locations) / Jaco's Tacos (318 S. State St., 601-961-7001) / Papitos Mexican Restaurant and Grill (173 Promenade Blvd., Flowood, 601-919-0448; 6376 Ridgewood Court Drive, 601-665-4632) / Sombra Mexican Kitchen (140 Township Ave., Suite 100, Ridgeland, 601-707-7950, sombramexicankitchen.com)

Best Outdoor Dining Finalists: Burgers & Blues (1060 E. County Line Road, Suite 22, Ridgeland, 601-899-0038, burgersblues.com) / Keifer's (120 N. Congress St., 601-353-49756; 710 Poplar Blvd., 601-355-6825, keifers.net) / The Pig & Pint (3139 N. State St., 601-326-6070, pigandpint.com) / Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633, walkersdrivein.com)

Best Place for a First Date Finalists: BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / CAET Wine Bar (3100 N. State St., Suite 102, 601-321-9169, caetwinebar.com) / Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633, walkersdrivein.com) / Saltine Oyster Bar (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899) / Table 100 (100 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-420-4202, 
tableonehundred.com)

Best Hangover Food; Place for Gyro; Place for Hummus: Keifer's

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Keifers Exterior Trip Burns/File Photo

120 N. Congress St., 601-353-49756; 710 Poplar Blvd., 601-355-6825, keifers.net

Like Icarus of Greek mythology, who despite his father's warnings couldn't resist flying too close to the sun, most mortals traveling near Keifer's are unable to resist the restaurant's tantalizing lure. In the first year for Best of Jackson categories recognizing achievement in gyro and hummus greatness, perhaps it's not surprising that Keifer's would come out victorious, despite some tough competition around the metro.

And with science instructing us that filling one's belly is the best way to stave off the effects of a night spent chugging spirits, Keifer's could have just as easily won honors for best hangover-prevention food. The restaurant offers substantial portions of just about everything on its menu, including the aforementioned gyro (both the beef-lamb mixture and chicken varieties, and many more), which are also conveniently wrapped for pre-gaming on the go. Another good menu item for fighting the hangover blues are Keifer's sliced-whole-potato cottage fries.—R.L. Nave

Best Hangover Food Finalists: Brent's Drugs (655 Duling Ave., 601-366-3427) / Rooster's (2906 N. State St., 601-982-2001, glennfoods.com) / Soulshine Pizza Factory (1111 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 1, Ridgeland, 601-856-8646, 5352 Highway 25, Suite 1100, Flowood, 601-919-2000) / The Pizza Shack (925 E. Fortification St., 601-352-2001; 114 Byram Business Center Drive, 769-233-8875; 219 Garden Park Drive, 601-856-8600; thepizzashackjackson.com)

Best Place for Hummus Finalists: Aladdin Mediterranean Grill (730 Lakeland Drive, 601-366-6033) / Babalu Tacos & Tapas (622 Duling Ave., 601-366-5757) / Kristos Amerigreek Dining (971 Madison Ave., Madison, 601-605-2266) / Mediterranean Fish and Grill (6550 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-0082) / Zeek'z House of Gyros (132 Lakeland Heights, Suite P, Flowood, 601-992-9498)

Best Place for a Gyro Finalists: Aladdin Mediterranean Grill (730 Lakeland Drive, 601-366-6033, aladdininjackson.com) / Krilakis (207 W. Jackson St., Suite D, Ridgeland, 601-790-9463; krilakis.com) / Kristos Amerigreek Dining (971 Madison Ave., Madison, 601-605-2266) / Zeek'z House of Gyros (132 Lakeland Heights, Suite P, Flowood, 601-992-9498, zeekzhouseofgyros.com)

Best Brunch; Best Wine List/Selection: Table 100

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Photo courtesy Table 100

100 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-420-4202

It can be tricky to do music and food. Sometimes, if the acoustics aren't just right, the music can be so loud that you have to shout just to have a conversation with the person seated next to you at the table.

Table 100 has figured out how to do that well with its piano bar and Sunday jazz brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. At brunch, the restaurant serves dishes such as Gulf shrimp and grits; Gulf blue-crab claws; buttermilk fried chicken; Angus prime rib; Table 100's signature eggs Benedict, which comes with a buttermilk biscuit, pulled pork, smoked eggs and a smoked tomato barbecue Hollandaise sauce; traditional eggs Benedict; and Gulf crab-cake Florentine. Table 100 boasts many red and white wines, such as a Riff pinot grigio and Pennywise cabernet. Wines by the glass range from $6 to $13.50. White and red wine flights are also available for $10 and $12, respectively.—R.L. Nave

Best Brunch Finalists: BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111) / Char Restaurant (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 142, 601-956-9562) / Fairview Inn/1908 Provisions (734 Fairview St., 601-948-3429, fairviewinn.com) / Saltine Oyster Bar (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899) / Seafood R'evolution (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 9015, 601-853-3474, seafoodrevolution.com)

Best Wine List/Selection Finalists: BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / CAET Wine Bar (3100 N. State St., Suite 102, 601-321-9169, caetwinebar.com) / Seafood R'evolution (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 9015, 601-853-3474, seafoodrevolution.com) / The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen (1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562)

Best Bakery; Best Sandwich Place: Broad Street Baking Company

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Photo courtesy Broad Street

4465 Interstate 55 N., Suite 101, 601-362-2900, broadstbakery.com

Broad Street Baking Company, winner for Best Bakery and Best Sandwich Place, is gearing up for what it hopes to be a banner year for its award-winning king cakes, with a goal of selling 3,500 during this year's season, which runs from Jan. 6 to Fat Tuesday on Feb. 9.

The bakery also plans to celebrate Mardi Gras this year with specials such as almond cream cheese and jalapeno cheddar crawfish king cakes; sugar cookies; and gluten-sensitive mini king cakes.

Sandwich lovers have plenty of other options at Broad Street, as well, including the signature turkey sandwich with basil mayonnaise and its tomato basil grilled cheese.

"Really, any sandwich on focaccia bread is the best sandwich, that's what we tell any customer that asks," Broad Street Manager Michael Thomas says.—Dustin Cardon

Best Bakery Finalists: Campbell's Bakery (3013 N. State St., 601-362-4628, campbellsbakery.ms) / La Brioche (2906 N. State St., 601-988-2299, labriochems.com) / Meme's Brick Street Bakery (104 W. Leake St., Clinton, 601-278-0635) / Primos Cafe (515 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-898-3600; 2323 Lakeland Drive, Flowood, 601-936-3398; primoscafe.com) / Sugar Magnolia Takery (5417 Highway 25, Flowood, 601-992-8110)

Best Sandwich Place Finalists: Basil's (2906 N. State St., Suite 104, 601-982-2100; 120 N. Congress St., Suite L1, 601-944-9888) / Beagle Bagel (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 145, 769-251-1892; 898 Avery Blvd. N., Ridgeland, 601-956-1773; 100 Mannsdale Park Drive, Madison, 601-856-4377) / Room Service (4659 McWillie Drive, 601-362-4617; 1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 104, 601-707-3600) / Signa's Grille (680 Highway 51, Suite E., Ridgeland, 601-853-0266)

Best Breakfast; Best Place for Dessert: Primos Cafe

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Primos Cafe Exterior Trip Burns/File Photo

515 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-898-3600; 
2323 Lakeland Drive, Flowood, 601-936-3398; primoscafe.com

Primos Cafe nabbed a second year as Jackson's Best Breakfast and Best Place for Dessert despite the stiff competition in both categories. The classic diner-style eatery has been one of Mississippi's best stops for both baked goods and a balanced breakfast since Greece-born baker Angelo "Pops" Primos opened the business in the 1920s.

Primos' Ridgeland and Flowood locations offer all-day breakfast items, including buttermilk pancakes, made-to-order omelets, oatmeal and English muffins, which can be paired with a cup of French vanilla coffee. Then, once diners have downed their biscuits, eggs and bacon, they can step over to the bakery counter and see what sweets Primos has to offer. The restaurant has plenty of dessert options, whether you're just grabbing a gingerbread man or pecan crunch cookie for the road or picking up a three-layer caramel cake to go.—Micah Smith

Best Breakfast Finalists: Beagle Bagel (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 145, 769-251-1892; 898 Avery Blvd. N., Ridgeland, 601-956-1773; 100 Mannsdale Park Drive, Madison, 601-856-4377; thebeaglebagelcafe.com) / Brent's Drugs (655 Duling Ave., 601-366-3427) / Broad Street Baking Company (4465 Interstate 55 N., Suite 101, 601-362-2900, broadstbakery.com) / The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen (1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562)

Best Place for Dessert Finalists: Amerigo Italian Restaurant (6592 Old Canton Road, 601-977-0563; 155 Market St., Flowood, 601-992-1550; amerigo.net) / BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / Deep South Pops (1800 N. State St., 601-398-2174, deepsouthpops.com) / La Brioche (2906 N. State St., 601-988-2299, labriochems.com) / Lou's Full-Serv (904B E. Fortification St., 601-487-6359, lousfullserv.com)

Best College Student Hangout; Best Place to Get Coffee: Cups Espresso Cafe

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multiple locations; cupsespressocafe.com

Cody Cox, the general manager of Cups Espresso Cafe's Fondren location, who has been with the company for almost a decade, believes the business owes its continuing success to Jackson.

"If the city hadn't supported us, we wouldn't be here—we wouldn't have survived Starbucks and Seattle Drip and all of that throughout the years," he says. "I don't ever want anybody to lose sight of the fact that if the city hadn't supported us, we wouldn't still be here."

Since its opening in 1993, the company has expanded both in the number of company stores and in the number of franchise stores. Cox believes Cups' coffee sourcing, the fact that it roasts the beans in house and the multiple locations are what sets the business apart from other coffee shops.—Adria Walker

Best College Student Hangout Finalists: Deep South Pops (1800 N. State St., 601-398-2174, deepsouthpops.com) / Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, fenianspub.com) / Fondren Public (2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589) / Sneaky Beans (2914 N. State St., 601-487-6349)

Place to Get Coffee Finalists: Deep South Pops (1800 N. State St., 601-398-2174) / Fusion Coffeehouse (1111 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, 601-856-6001) / Mocha Mugs (multiple locations, mochamugs.com) / Sneaky Beans (2914 N. State St., 601-487-6349)

Best Place to Watch the Game; Best Local Burger; Best Local French Fries: Burgers & Blues

1060 E. County Line Road, Suite 22, Ridgeland, 601-899-0038, burgersblues.com

Once again, Burgers & Blues has taken home top honors for its burgers and game-watching experience in Best of Jackson, although it also brought home the gold for its fries this year. Owner and operator Steven Sahler promises his customers that, going into 2016, the restaurant is just getting started, with plenty of contests, menu items and more on the way in the coming months.

"We've been open almost six years and have been nominated for best burger for most of those years, and we appreciate all of the support our guests have given us," Sahler says.

The staff at Burgers & Blues hand-patties the restaurant's burgers every day, and all the ingredients, down to the special seasoning that goes on them, is always fresh as well.

Those looking to watch the game can do so on any of the restaurant's 22 50-inch televisions, even on the large outdoor patio. "We're not a bar; we're a restaurant with a bar, so you don't have to be ashamed to bring your kids here," Sahler says. "Bring your family or bring your friends, have a beer, have a burger, watch the game or listen to some music in a fun and relaxed atmosphere."—Dustin Cardon

Best Place to Watch the Game Finalists: 4th & Goal Sports Cafe (5100 Interstate 55 N., 769-208-8283) / Capitol Grill (5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845, capitolgrillofjackson.com) / Fondren Public (2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589) / The Alumni House (110 Bass Pro Drive, Pearl, 601-939-5238, alumnihouse
pearl.com) / The Bulldog (6111 Ridgewood Road, 601-978-3502, bulldog-jackson.draftfreak.com)

Best Local Burger Finalists: Babalu Tacos & Tapas (622 Duling Ave., 601-366-5757, babalutacos.com) / Cool Al's (4654 McWillie Drive, 601-713-3020) / Mugshots Grill & Bar (4245 Lakeland Drive, Flowood, 601-932-4031; 879 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-978-1972; mugshotsgrill
andbar.com) / Rooster's (2906 N. State St., 601-982-2001, glennfoods.com) / Stamps Super Burgers (1801 Dalton St., 601-352-4555)

Best Local French Fries Finalists: CAET Wine Bar (3100 N. State St., Suite 102, 601-321-9169) / Cool Al's (4654 McWillie Drive, 601-713-3020) / The Feathered Cow (4760 Interstate 55 N., 769-233-8366) / Rooster's (2906 N. State St., 601-982-2001) / Saltine Oyster Bar (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899)

Best Place for Healthy Food; Best Vegetarian Options: Rainbow Co-Op

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Rainbow Interior Trip Burns/File Photo

2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1602, rainbowcoop.org

Being a vegetarian or even just eating healthy isn't always easy. You have to deal with a culture that, for many years, has led a convenience-food lifestyle, and as a vegetarian, sometimes you don't have many options. Either way, it helps to have somewhere that understands.

Whether you've decided to take animal products out of your diet or are just looking for a healthier place to shop locally, Rainbow Co-Op is a good option. It has been a staple in the community for many years, and it stocks everything from organic spices and teas to pour-your-own flours, beans and more to produce to healthy snack foods. Along with groceries, Rainbow also has organic beauty products such as moisturizers and shampoos and conditioners. If you just want a healthy restaurant to eat at, vegetarian and vegan restaurant High Noon Cafe is located inside Rainbow Plaza. While it has many options, some of its specials include nacho salad, High Noon burgers, pizza and its famed seaside cakes. Over the years, Jackson Free Press readers have voted for both Rainbow Co-op and High Noon for Best of Jackson categories such as best place for healthy food and best vegetarian options. With their variety of healthy products, it's no wonder they continue to win year after year.—Amber Helsel

Best Place for Healthy Food Finalists: Aladdin Mediterranean Grill (730 Lakeland Drive, 601-366-6033, aladdininjackson.com) / High Noon Cafe (2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1602, rainbowcoop.org) / Beagle Bagel (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 145, 769-251-1892; 898 Avery Blvd. N., Ridgeland, 601-956-1773; 100 Mannsdale Park Drive, Madison, 601-856-4377; thebeaglebagelcafe.com) / Mediterranean Fish and Grill (6550 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-0082)

Best Vegetarian Options Finalists: Aladdin Mediterranean Grill (730 Lakeland Drive, 601-366-6033, aladdininjackson.com) / BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / High Noon Cafe (2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1602, rainbowcoop.org) / Thai Tasty (5050 Parkway Drive, Suite 7, 601-540-2534)

Best Soul Food; Best Lunch Buffet: Mama Hamil's Southern Cookin' & BBQ

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Trip Burns/File Photo

751 Highway 51, Madison, 601-856-4407, hamils.com

Starting in a small cabin only big enough for 60 people in 1977, Mama Hamil's grew into a Jackson staple that has come to be a representation of soul food for many local diners. Owner Bob Hamil, who is part of the fourth generation of Hamils to own the restaurant, expanded the locale in 2007 with seating for 300 and the addition of a lunch buffet. With a menu that includes turnip greens, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, pulled pork, fried catfish, smoked chicken, and more, it's not hard to see why the restaurant has taken home awards and mentions in Best of Jackson for years. And for dessert, you can't miss out on southern favorites such as bread pudding and peach cobbler.

Mama Hamil's is open for lunch Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and for dinner Thursday through Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.—Dustin Cardon

Best Soul Food Finalists: Bully's Restaurant (3118 Livingston Road, 601-362-0484) / Gloria's Carryout (972 Mayes St., 601-362-0009) / Georgia Blue (111 Colony Way, Suite 130, Madison, 601-898-3330; 223 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-919-1900; georgiablue.net) / Two Sisters' Kitchen (707 N. Congress St., 601-353-1180)

Best Lunch Buffet Finalists: Ichiban Hibachi & Sushi (153 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-919-8879; 433 Riverwind Drive, Pearl, 601-706-2833; 359 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-919-8879) / Spice Avenue (4711 Interstate 55 N., 601-982-0890) / Thai House (1405 Old Square Road, 601-982-9991) / Two Sisters' Kitchen (707 N. Congress St., 601-353-1180)

Best New Restaurant; Best Seafood: Half Shell Oyster House

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Photo courtesy Half Shell Oyster House

115 Laurel Park Cove, Suite 105, Flowood, 769-257-7586, halfshelloysterhouse.com

This year, the awards for Best New Restaurant and Best Seafood go to a new player on the scene: Half Shell Oyster House. With its murals and jazz music, the restaurant transports guests to a night in the French Quarter.

"We want people feeling right at home when they walk in here," Jordan Carlson, a manager at Half Shell, says.

For a customer's first time dining there, Carlson recommends the Big Easy surf and turf, a 6-ounce steak served on a homemade crab cake with a drizzle of Bearnaise sauce and a crumble of lump crab meat.

With eight locations occupying Mississippi, Alabama and even one Florida, Half Shelf is making its mark on southern seafood. "We are happy with our success," Carlson says, "and we look forward to sharing our food with more people."—Zachary Oren Smith

Best New Restaurant Finalists: Drago's Seafood Restaurant (Hilton Jackson, 1005 East County Line Road, 601-957-1515) / Johnny T's Bistro & Bar (538 N. Farish St., 601-954-1323) / Seafood R'evolution (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 9015, 601-853-3474) / Surin of Thailand (3000 Old Canton Road, Suite 105, 601-981-3205) / Zeek'z House of Gyros (132 Lakeland Heights, Suite P, Flowood, 601-992-9498, zeekzhouseofgyros.com)

Best Seafood Finalists: Drago's Seafood Restaurant (Hilton Jackson, 1005 East County Line Road, 601-957-1515, dragosrestaurant.com) / Saltine Oyster Bar (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899) / Seafood R'evolution (1000 Highland Colony Parkway., Suite 9015, 601-853-3474) / Sal & Phil's Po'Boy (6600 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-957-1188) / Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633, walkersdrivein.com)

Best Barbecue: The Pig & Pint

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Trip Burns/File Photo

3139 N. State St., 601-326-6070, pigandpint.com

If you think about it, barbecue is an international language. St. Louis, Mo. has its dry rub. Memphis has its sauce. Countries such as South Korea have their own styles all together.

Mississippi barbecue tends to blend many of the southern types, so it's no surprise that the food style is fairly easy to come by anywhere in the state. But new names in barbecue are adding modern twists on Mississippi barbecue.

The Pig & Pint has only been open for a couple of years, but it's managed to win Best of Jackson categories for the last two years. Since it opened in 2014, the restaurant has set itself apart from many barbecue places. While it has classics such as ribs and barbecue plates, it also has dishes such as barbecue nachos, tacos and fries. The restaurant also added Memphis-style wings to the menu late last year.

Other dishes include pork-belly corn dogs, which come with a seasonal beer mustard and smoked tomato-ginger jam, and fried boudin balls, which come with house B&B pickles in addition to the condiments.—Amber Helsel

Best Barbecue Finalists: Chimneyville Smokehouse (970 High St., 601-354-4665, chimneyville.com) / E&L Barbeque (1111 Bailey Ave., 601-355-5035) / Hickory Pit (1491 Canton Mart Road, 601-956-7079) / Sylvester's MS Style BBQ (9143 Highway 18, Raymond, 601-346-8000) / Tay's Barbecue (119 Colony Crossing Way, Suite 860, Madison, 601-853-0706)

Best Local Fried Chicken: Two Sisters' Kitchen

707 N. Congress St., 601-353-1180

While consistently making its appearance in Best of Jackson each year, it's important to remember that the fried chicken at Two Sisters' Kitchen has also made appearances nationally on Travel Channel's "Man v. Food Nation" and on blogs such as foodandwine.com.

To make the chicken, the restaurant's owner and founder, Diann Irving Alford, begins by removing the skin from fresh cuts of chicken. Without the skin, Two Sisters' chicken is less greasy and is able to better absorb their secret spices. After about 12 minutes in the fryer, it comes right out to the buffet, golden brown and ready to soothe the soul.

When people ask her about changing up her chicken, she responds, "If people can't count on Two Sisters', who can they count on?"—Zachary Oren Smith

Best Local Fried Chicken Finalists: Primos Cafe (515 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-898-3600; 2323 Lakeland Drive, Flowood, 601-936-3398; primoscafe.com) / Rooster's (2906 N. State St., 601-982-2001, glennfoods.com) / Mama Hamil's Southern Cookin' & BBQ (751 Highway 51, Madison, 601-856-4407; hamils.com) / McDade's Markets (Multiple locations, mcdadesmarkets.com)

Best Beer Selection: The Bulldog

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6111 Ridgewood Road, 601-978-3502, bulldog-jackson.draftfreak.com

The tap lineup at The Bulldog can be a tad intimidating for non-beer drinkers, and heavenly magic for beer connoisseurs—but whichever end of the beer spectrum you find yourself on, rest assured that the bar has you covered.

Since opening in 2007, The Bulldog in Jackson wanted one thing: to be one of the beer experts in Jacktown. Mission accomplished.

General Manager Valerie Alexander is meticulous in her upkeep of 62 beer taps, checking them on a day-to-day basis, cleaning the lines weekly and, most importantly, rotating the beer selection regularly. If you aren't into anything on tap (unlikely, but let's pretend), you could try one of the 60 bottled beers available. Not sure you'll like your adventurous choice? The staff at the Bulldog let you try a beer before you commit to a full glass. So what's the secret to keeping their beer selection so fresh? "I'm OCD with my tap wall," Alexander says. Beer lovers rejoice.—Arielle Dreher

Best Beer Selection Finalists: Fondren Public (2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589) / Hops & 
Habanas (2771 Old Canton Road, 769-572-4631; 123 Grandview Blvd., Suite N, Madison, 
601-853-7449) / Saltine Oyster Bar (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899) / 
The Pig & Pint (3139 N. State St., 601-326-6070)

Best Sushi/Japanese: Ichiban Hibachi & Sushi

153 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-919-8879; 433 Riverwind Drive, Pearl, 601-706-2833; 359 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-919-8879; ichibangrillms.com

Most people can't afford to travel 6,758 miles to Japan to enjoy the innovative and interesting cuisine. Luckily, Ichiban Hibachi & Sushi in Flowood offers an easier and more affordable way to try unique Japanese dishes such as yellowtail with jalapenos or an eel roll with avocado. For the non-sushi eaters, Ichiban has hibachi, which traditionally means "fire bowl," where chefs fry up noodles or rice, vegetables and meat of your choosing. If you're lucky, you might get a show.

Ichiban is open for lunch with specials starting at $9 or an evening out with a full bar of fine wines and spirits. For more information, visit ichibangrillms.com.—Maya Miller

Best Sushi/Japanese Finalists: Crazy Ninja Rock-N-Roll Sushi & Hibachi (2560 Lakeland Drive, Flowood, 601-420-4058) / Edo Japanese Cuisine (5834 Ridgewood Road, Suite C, 601-899-8518) / Little Tokyo (876 Avery Blvd., Ridgeland, 601-991-3800) / Nagoya (6351 Interstate 55 N., Suite 131, 601-977-8881; 111 Colony Crossing, Suite 380, Madison, 601-856-5678) / Sakura Bana (4800 Interstate 55 N., Suite 11, 601-982-3035, sakurabanajackson.com)

Best Local Doughnuts: Donut Palace

multiple locations

Like barbecue, doughnuts may seem like a universal language. Many people probably remember the times when someone would bring a dozen of the desserts in, whether they were glazed, chocolate-covered or ones such as bear claws.

Donut Palace is one of those shops you can find pretty easily in the metro area. Most cities around here have at least one. The shops' menus include items such as glazed doughnuts in vanilla, maple or chocolate flavors (you can even get them with sprinkles), eclairs such as chocolate Bavarian or a plain long John; jelly-filled doughnuts such as Bavarian creme, raspberry or Boston creme; or pastries such as apple turnovers or cinnamon rolls. Donut Palace sells out pretty quickly, so if you want donuts, you have to act fast.—Amber Helsel

Best Local Doughnuts Finalists: Daylight Donuts (5036 Parkway Drive, 767-572-7733, daylightdonuts.com) / Monroe's Donuts and Bakery (multiple locations, monroesdonutsandbakery.com) / Pillow Donuts (1679 Old Fannin Road, Flowood, 601-992-6040; 707 Beau Pre Drive, Ridgeland, 601-790-9697)

Best Gumbo: Que Sera Sera

photo

Trip Burns/File Photo

2801 N. State St., 601-981-2520

Some people may say that if you get gumbo from any place than the French Quarter in New Orleans, it can't be amazing. This is not true for Jackson. Local restaurant Que Sera Sera has mastered Cajun cuisine, and Jacksonians have yet again named its gumbo as a winner in this year's Best of Jackson competition.

Boo Noble opened Que Sera Sera 22 years ago in Fondren. To create the restaurant's signature dish, Noble altered a recipe from the Duggan family of the Duggan Seafood Company.

The gumbo is made from scratch with various seasonings, and shrimp, crab, crawfish, oysters, sausage, celery and okra. You can find comfort that it is at an affordable price, as are other selections on the menu.

Whether customers want to sit inside, on the patio or order their gumbo for takeout, they can enjoy the famous Louisiana dish right here in Jackson.—Guy King

Best Gumbo Finalists: Char Restaurant (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 142, 601-956-9562, charrestaurant.com) / Hal & Mal's (200 S. Commerce St., 601-948-0888, halandmals.com) / Seafood R'evolution (1000 Highland Colony Pkwy., Suite 9015, 601-853-3474, seafoodrevolution.com) / 
T'Beaux's Crawfish and Catering (941 Highway 80 E., Clinton, 601-831-7778; 5252-B Terry Road, Byram, 769-230-3855; 5649-C Highway 25, Flowood, 601-326-2723; tbeauxs.com)

Best Italian: Amerigo Italian Restaurant

6592 Old Canton Road, 601-977-0563; 155 Market St., 601-992-1550; amerigo.net

Service and quality are at the heart of long-time Best of Jackson contender Amerigo, with both traditional and modern favorites such as the restaurant's most popular dish, chicken margarite, which is an angel-hair pasta with flame-grilled chicken breast, mozzarella, basil and an Italian cream sauce. Staples such as hand-tossed pizzas, three-cheese tortellini and a large wine list also keep the customers coming back.

The restaurant opened a new location in Flowood on Jan. 18, which features a private dining room with space for 60 people. Starting in March, Amerigo will also start catering to businesses, corporate events and weddings soon.—Dustin Cardon

Best Italian Finalists: BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / Cerami's Italian Restaurant (5417 Lakeland Drive, Suite I, Flowood, 601-919-2829, ceramis.net) / Fratesi's Italian Cuisine (910 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-956-2929) / Rossini (207 W. Jackson St., Suite A, Ridgeland, 601-856-9696, rossiniridgeland.com)

Best Meal Under $10: Aladdin Mediterranean Grill

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Trip Burns/File Photo

730 Lakeland Drive, 601-366-6033, aladdininjackson.com

If you're looking for a great meal under $10, Jackson has a few options. One is Aladdin Mediterranean Grill. A Best of Jackson favorite for many years, Aladdin has been around since 2004. Owner Yoseph Ali decided to start the business when he saw the need for more restaurant options in the city.

The menu includes appetizers such as fried kibby, which is two loaves of spiced ground beef and pine nuts encrusted in a sirloin cracked-wheat shell and deep-fried and served with a tzeki sauce, for $4.50; the chicken shawarma, which is marinated strips of chicken with tzeki sauce, romaine lettuce and tomatoes, for $5.99; and a Greek salad with feta cheese, black olives and Italian dressing for $5.49. Of course, if you want something a little pricier, the restaurant has dishes such as the chicken tecka and lamb kebab plates. Aladdin also has desserts including baklava and Aladdin's chicken nuggets for children. If you're looking for Mediterranean ingredients, the restaurant has a grocery store behind the restaurant.—Amber Helsel

Best Meal Under $10 Finalists: Basil's (2906 N. State St., Suite 104, 601-982-2100; 120 N. Congress St., Suite L1, 601-944-9888) / Cafe Ole (2752 N. State St., 769-
524-3627) / Picante's Mexican Grill (960 N. State St., 601-398-1344) / Surin of Thailand (3000 Old Canton Road, Suite 105, 601-981-3205) / Zeek'z House of Gyros (132 Lakeland Heights, Suite P, Flowood, 601-992-9498, zeekzhouseofgyros.com)

Best Local Pizza: The Pizza Shack

925 E. Fortification St., 601-352-2001; 114 Byram Business Center Drive, 769-233-8875; 219 Garden Park Drive, 601-856-8600; thepizzashackjackson.com

The Pizza Shack has been taking home top honors for its pizza for many years, and with new developments on the way, such as a weekly kids' night, pizza by the slice, and new menu items such as calzones, the pizzeria shows no signs of slowing down.

"I'd say the key to all our success is training people the right way, to really be up to the customers' standards," Tony Hollins, the general manager at The Pizza Shack on Fortification Street, says.

"We reached into Madison and Byram in 2015, and I want to see the company grow even more this year. I want to be able to provide more jobs as we grow and to provide even more product and payback to all the customers who have supported us."—Dustin Cardon

Best Local Pizza Finalists: Lost Pizza Co. (1220 E. Northside Drive, Suite 230, 769-243-7478; 500 
Highway 51, Ridgeland, 769-300-3116; 1392 W. Government St., Brandon, 601-824-5515; lostpizza.com) / Miller's Uptown (810 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-957-1377) / Sal & Mookie's New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919, salandmookies.com) / Soulshine Pizza Factory (1111 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 1, Ridgeland, 601-856-8646, 5352 Highway 25, Suite 1100, Flowood, 601-919-2000) / 
The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen (1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562)

Best Plate Lunch: Georgia Blue

111 Colony Way, Suite 130, Madison, 601-898-3330; 
223 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-919-1900; georgiablue.net

With the closing of the Cherokee Inn last year, other restaurants had to fill in for its classic blue-plate lunch. In this year's Best of Jackson contest, Georgia Blue has edged out the competition.

In the tradition of the blue-plate lunch, Georgia Blue serves a different special each day. They include meatloaf, pot roast, chicken and dumplings, hamburger steak, and fried catfish. But all these pale in the presence of the restaurant's Sunday prime rib. Make sure you come early because the lunch rush tends to leave them nothing but drippings.—Zachary Oren Smith

Best Plate Lunch Finalists: McDade's Markets (multiple locations, mcdadesmarkets.com) / Primos Cafe (515 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-898-3600; 2323 Lakeland Drive, Flowood, 601-936-3398; primoscafe.com) / The Trace Grill (574 Highway 51, Suite F, Ridgeland, 601-853-1014, thetracegrill.com) / Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633, walkersdrivein.com)

Best Restaurant: Walker's Drive-In

3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633, walkersdrivein.com

Back in 1948, Walker's Drive-In operated as an actual drive-in establishment, serving food in a casual atmosphere. Seventy years later, the restaurant, which has grown over the years, continues to serve from the original location, albeit with a different menu and customer base. The menu includes dishes such as fried green tomatoes with spicy crawfish and a charred tomato-lemon butter; Walker's tamales, which have a sweet-corn sauce, black-eyed-pea hoppin' John, pico de gallo and chipotle sour cream; and grilled redfish, which has basil aioli, Applewood smoked bacon, red onions, cheddar, lettuce and tomatoes

Like the changing times, Walker's tries to adapt with current trends but still maintaining the reasons the restaurant has stayed so successful for so long. "To hear we are nominated for a Best of Jackson award does not go unnoticed here," says Effie Hubanks, Walker's general manager. "We pride ourselves on purchasing seasonal produce from across Mississippi, which totals anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of our total produce volume. We like to think we're a Fondren staple and intend to keep it that way for many years to come."—Mike McDonald

Best Restaurant Finalists: Babalu Tacos & Tapas (622 Duling Ave., 601-366-5757, babalutacos.com) / BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / Lou's Full-Serv (904B E. Fortification St., 601-487-6359, lousfull
serv.com) / The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen (1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562) / Saltine Oyster Bar (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899)

Best Steak: Shapley's

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Trip Burns/File Photo

868 Centre St., Ridgeland, 601-957-3753, shapleysrestaurant.com

For 30 years, Shapley's has been a fine-dining institution for the Jackson foodie crowd. Though the restaurant has managed to rack up accolades for their wine and a reputation for table service, Jacksonians voted Shapley's as Best Steaks in this year's Best of Jackson contest.

Whether you're looking for a deeply marbled rib eye or prefer a leaner filet mignon, the chefs at Shapley's prepare each cut with the attention required of beef masterpiece. And as if they couldn't stand on their own, customers can request bacon-wrapped shrimp, sauteed mushrooms, scallops, jumbo lump crab meat and baby artichoke hearts.

Whether you are a steak-lover looking for a primo-plate or an omnivore looking to treat yourself, Shapley's provides a tender, juicy hunk of heaven.—Zachary Oren Smith

Best Steak Finalists: Char Restaurant (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 142, 601-956-9562) / Ely's Restaurant & Bar (115 W. Jackson St., Suite 2E, Ridgeland, 601-605-6359) / Kathryn's Steakhouse (6800 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-2803) / Tico's Steak House (1536 E. County Line Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-1030, ticossteakhouse.com)

Best Thai Restaurant: Thai House

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Photo courtesy Thai House

1405 Old Square Road, 601-982-9991

With new restaurant options opening everywhere, it can be hard for the old guard to keep their hold. But the laid-back and full-flavored Thai House has kept its place as a Jackson favorite for Thai-style curries, noodles and fried rice.

Though not the cheapest one out there, customers keep coming back to the Thai House because of the variety and quality of food that people have come to expect. In fact, the only real problem that can be associated with the Thai House is how you decide on a plate when each menu entry reads as tasty as the last.

To help with this problem, the restaurant's beef larb is not to be missed. Order it double Thai hot if you think you have what it takes.—Zachary Oren Smith

Best Thai Restaurant Finalists: Fusion Japanese & Thai Cuisine (1002 Treetops Boulevard, Flowood, 601-664-7588) / Surin of Thailand (3000 Old Canton Road, Suite 105, 601-981-3205) / Thai Tasty (5050 Parkway Drive, Suite 7, 601-540-2534)

Best Take-out: OEC Japanese Express

Multiple locations

While the metro area still doesn't have many places that do takeout for delivery, we have the next best thing: restaurants such as OEC Japanese Express.

It's one of those places in the area that you can find almost anywhere, and it's cheap and easy. The menu has items such as sushi rolls that include California and shrimp tempura. You can also get hibachi orders including shrimp, scallops, or vegetables, which come with fried rice, carrots and a salad during dinner hours. OEC also has dishes such as edamame, Japanese egg rolls, squid salad and miso soup.

And of course, you can't forget the familiar pink sauce bottle that every table gets.

For more information, find OEC Japanese Express on Facebook. —Amber Helsel

Best Take-out Finalists: Aladdin Mediterranean Grill (730 Lakeland Drive, 601-366-6033, 
aladdininjackson.com) / Best Wok Chinese Restaurant (225 Meadowbrook Road, 601-368-9555) / Mr. Chen's Restaurant (5465 Interstate 55 N., 601-978-1865) / 
Wok 2 Go (1030 E. Peace St., Canton)

Best Veggie Burger: Majestic Burger

1067 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite B, Ridgeland, 601-707-0093

A good veggie burger should have more than a little bit of that healthy element to let you know that you're eating what you ordered. But it should also be good enough that it's almost better than eating the real thing. If you're looking for a good veggie burger, places such as Majestic Kitchen are a good choice.

The restaurant has a full menu that includes items such as fish tacos, salads and sandwiches, but it also has a vegan and veggie burger. Both have mushrooms, onion, red bell peppers, corn and black beans. The veggie burger contains milk and cheese, while the vegan burger has a wheat-flour base. The restaurant has the option to build your own burger, with white, wheat and sweet sourdough bread; American, mozzarella, provolone or pepper jack cheese; and toppings including lettuce and spinach, and premium toppings such as avocado, jalapenos or sauteed mushrooms.

Whether you're staying away from animal products or just trying to eat a little healthier, Majestic Kitchen is a good option.—Amber Helsel

Best Veggie Burger Finalists: Babalu Tacos & Tapas (622 Duling Ave., 601-366-5757, babalutacos.com) / Burgers & Blues (1060 E. County Line Road, Suite 22, Ridgeland, 601-899-0038, 
burgersblues.com) / Cool Al's (4654 McWillie Drive, 601-713-3020) / High Noon Cafe (2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1602, rainbowcoop.org) / Local 463 Urban Kitchen (121 Colony Crossing Way, Suite A, Madison, 601-707-7684, local463.com)

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