Best of Jackson 2017: Food & Drink | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Best of Jackson 2017: Food & Drink

Photo courtesy Amerigo

Photo courtesy Amerigo

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

622 Duling Ave., Suite 106, 601-366-5757, eatbabalu.com)

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Photo courtesy Babalu

Multiple award winner Babalu offers something for everyone, whether you're going on a date, needing a place to hang out, or you're just looking for a relaxing night out.

The restaurant's drink menu has plenty of original creations, such as the Champarita, which has sparkling wine, agave nectar, sour mix and triple sec. On Mondays, Babalu has $5 margaritas all day. The restaurant also has Happy Hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Babalu's food menu offers dishes in a wide variety of styles, but it's perhaps best known for its tapas (small plates) items such as fierce shrimp, which has fried Gulf shrimp, Fresno-pepper cole slaw, chipotle chili sauce and cilantro. The restaurant also has atun, carnitas and camarones tacos, and Mexican street corn. If you're a vegetarian, don't worry. Babalu has you covered with dishes such as guacamole, chips and salsa, and its black-bean burger, which is a homemade black-bean cake, red chimichurri, grilled red onion, arugula and avocado on a sourdough bun. —Amber Helsel

Best Place for First Date finalists: Deep South Pops (1800 N. State St., 601-398-2174; 4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 173, 601-398-0623; deepsouthpops.com) / BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / Saltine Oyster Bar (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899, saltinerestaurant.com) / Table 100 (100 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-420-4202, tableonehundred.com) / Walker's Drive In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633, walkersdrivein.com)

Best Place for Cocktails finalists: The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs (655 Duling Ave., 769-257-3517, apothecaryjackson.com) / 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 Manship Wood Fired Kitchen (1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562, themanshipjackson.com)

Best Happy Hour 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) / Capitol Grill (5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845, capitolgrillofjackson.com) / The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen (1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562, themanshipjackson.com) / Saltine Oyster Bar (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899, saltinerestaurant.com)

Best Margarita finalists: Cinco De Mayo (880 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-957-1882, cinco-de-mayo-ms.com) / El Sombrero (multiple locations, elsombrero.co) / Jaco's Tacos (318 S. State St., 601-961-7001, jacostacos.net) / La Cazuela Mexican Grill (1401 E. Fortification St., 601-353-3014) / Sombra Mexican Kitchen (140 Township Ave., Suite 100, Ridgeland, 601-707-7950; 111 Market St., Flowood, 215-5445, sombramexicankitchen.com)

Best Mexican/Latin finalists: Cinco De Mayo (880 Lake Harbour Drive, 601-957-1882) / El Sombrero (multiple locations, elsombrero.co) / Green Ghost Tacos (1290 E. County Line Road, Ridgeland, 601-957-7436; 2801 N. State St., 601-203-2144; greenghosttacos.com) / Jaco's Tacos (318 S. State St., 601-961-7001, jacostacos.net; Jaco's TacosFast N Fresh, 5657 Highway 25, Flowood, 601-961-7001, jacosfastnfresh.com) / Sombra Mexican Kitchen (140 Township Ave., Suite 100, Ridgeland, 601-707-7950; 111 Market St., Flowood, 601-215-5445, sombramexicankitchen.com)

Best Veggie Burger finalists: 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 (1000 Highland Colony Pkwy., Suite 5002, Ridgeland, 601-707-7684, local463.com) / Majestic Burger (1067 Highland Colony Pkwy., Suite B, Ridgeland, 601-707-0093)

Best New Restaurant; Food Truck or Mobile Vendor: Green Ghost Tacos

2801 N. State St., 601-203-2144; 1290 E. County Line Road, Ridgeland, 601-957-7436; greenghosttacos.com

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Photo courtesy Green Ghost Tacos

Green Ghost Tacos has had a location in Ridgeland since late 2015, but last year, it opened a second location in Jackson.

The Fondren restaurant experienced delays in opening, but the owners, Cesar Torres and Oswaldo Sanchez, already had a plan in place to give Jacksonians their tacos and other dishes: a food truck. You could spot it at almost every Fondren's First Thursday before the restaurant's opening in fall 2016, and the restaurant also participated in a few of the Food Truck Fridays last summer and fall, among other events.

Now, Green Ghost has two locations and a food truck, so Jacksonians and metro residents will always be somewhat close to tacos. The beauty of Green Ghost is its menu. Instead of having a complex array of dishes, the customer gets to choose the type of food such as burritos or quesadillas, and the filling, which is good (and bad, if you're indecisive) thing.

The menu also has desserts such as a flan and pastel tres leches. If you have to get in and out of the restaurant fast, Green Ghost also has online ordering at green ghosttacos.com. —Amber Helsel

Best New Restaurant finalists: Crazy Cat Eat Up (1491 Canton Mart Road, Suite 12, 601-957-1441, crazycatbakers.com) / freshii (748 MacKenzie Lane, Flowood, 601-718-0020, freshii.com/us) / Gumbo Girl (5681 Highway 18 W., 601-790-0486, gumbogirl.com) / Hong Kong Tea House (4924 Interstate 55 N., 601-368-8623) / Taste Bistro & Desserts (5419 Highway 25, Suite L, Flowood, 769-235-6232, tastebistroanddesserts.com)

Best Food Truck/Mobile Vendor finalists: 2 for 7 Kitchen (601-837-1794) / LurnyD's Grille (601-906-9480, lurnydsgrille.com) / One Guy Steak and Chicken (601-503-5908)

Best Beer Selection: The Bulldog

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

The wall of beer taps is one of the first things you may notice when you enter The Bulldog. The pub boasts more than 60 beers on tap, including Abita Brewing Company Mardi Gras Bock, Lagunitas Brewing Co. Brown Shugga Ale and Southern Prohibition Brewing Milk Stout, and has another 70-plus options in bottles. It's like taking an extended road trip to local and regional breweries without leaving your barstool. If you don't know what you want, the bartenders and wait staff can provide a suggestion.

For Pint Nights on Wednesdays, each customer gets to take home his or her glass. And when the weather cooperates, you can get there early to secure a spot on the patio to try a few different brews with friends. —Dawn R. Dugle

Finalists: Fondren Public (2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589) / Hops & Habanas (2771 Old Canton Road, 769-572-4631; 123 Grandview Blvd., Madison, Suite N, 601-853-7449) / LD's Beer Run (5006 Parkway Drive, 769-208-8686) / The Pig & Pint (3139 N. State St., 601-326-6070) / Saltine Oyster Bar (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899)

Best Bakery; Best Breakfast: Primos Cafe

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

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File Photo

Breakfast isn't a food group, but it should be, and local restaurants like this year's winner for Best Bakery and Best Breakfast, Primos Cafe, treats it as such.

Primos serves its breakfast menu, which includes staples such as buttermilk pancakes, omelets, bacon, sausage and cheese grits, all day. The biscuits are pretty large, which means you probably won't go hungry. For those who prefer the lighter side, Primos also has dishes such as granola, oatmeal or muffins. The restaurant also has breakfast catering, and knowing that breakfast awaits should make your morning commute to work less dreadful.

If you're in the mood for something sweeter, the bakery has three-layer cakes in a variety of flavors, including caramel, Italian cream and strawberry; oatmeal, chocolate chip and iced cookies; and treats such as cupcakes and fudge squares. —Amber Helsel

Best Bakery finalists: Broad Street Baking Company (4465 Interstate 55 N., Suite 101, 601-362-2900, broadstbakery.com) / Campbell's Bakery (3013 N. State St., 601-362-4628; 123 Jones St., Madison, 769-300-2790; campbellsbakery.ms) / La Brioche Patisserie (2906 N. State St., 601-988-2299, labriochems.com) / Meme's Brick Street Bakery (104 W. Leake St., Clinton, 601-278-0635)

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

Best Barbecue; Best Pub Quiz/Trivia Night: The Pig & Pint

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

If you drive by The Pig & Pint on a Monday night, odds are you'll see no open tables anywhere in sight. With music blasting and beer flowing, it's pub-quiz night at the Fondren barbecue joint, and it's popular. P&P's pub quiz, which won the award for Best Pub Quiz/Trivia Night, is free to enter, and teams can have limitless members—plus the prizes include gift cards worth $50, $25 and $10.

If you win first, that's enough money (usually) to wipe your tab clean. P&P has more than just good quiz questions, though.

Its barbecue took the crown again this year for Best Barbecue, and head chef Grant Hutcheson says it's due to the competition-style methods they use. The restaurant only uses charcoal and wood-burning smokers to cook their meat, which includes ribs, pulled pork or chicken. Pork nachos, tacos and pulled pork are the top three sellers at P&P, Hutcheson says. Nachos are an easy thing to eat sitting around, and because there are no TVs, pub-quiz night makes for good conversations, eating and drinking. —Arielle Dreher

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, hickorypitms.com) / Smokehouse BBQ (2227 Highway 471, Brandon, 601-829-0520) / Tay's Barbeque (119 Colony Crossing Way, Suite 860, Madison, 601-853-0706, taysbbq.com)

Best Pub Quiz/Trivia Night finalists: Capitol Grill (5050 Interstate 55 N., Suite F, 601-899-8845) / Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055) / Hal & Mal's (200 S. Commerce St., 601-948-0888) / Library Lounge (Fairview Inn, 734 Fairview St., 601-948-3429) / Ole Tavern on George Street (416 George St., 601-960-2700)

Best Doughnuts: Shipley Do-Nuts

213 Promenade Blvd., 601-706-9236; 103 Highway 80 E., Clinton, 601-925-0020; shipleydonut.ws

About 20 years ago, Jacksonians got their first taste of Shipley when it opened in Clinton. In 2016, the business opened a second location in Flowood, so now people all over the metro area can try Shipley's treats. The shop has 63 varieties on donuts. The yeast ones can come in the traditional glazed, or you can get them sprinkled or iced and topped with nuts, coconut, and sugar or cinnamon. For those who like filled doughnuts, try the apple-filled one or Bavarian. For those who don't want doughnuts, Shipley also has treats such as beignets, cinnamon rolls and fruit pastries. —Amber Helsel and Dustin Cardon

Finalists: Donut Palace (multiple locations) / Monroe's Donuts and Bakery (multiple locations) / Pillow Donuts (1679 Old Fannin Road, Suite, D, Flowood, 601-992-6040; 707 Beau Pre Drive, Ridgeland, 601-790-9697)

Best Local French Fries: Rooster's Restaurant

2906 N. State St., 601-982-2001, roostersfondren.com

The best fries come in many forms: curly, wedge, steak frites and more. Rooster's has often taken home the title of Best Local French Fries in Best of Jackson. On first glance, they may look pretty simple, but they pack a punch. The housemade fries are spiral cut in-house and then fried and seasoned with salt and pepper. They go great with many of the menu items, including the jalapeno cheese burger, and a fairly new dish, the Nashville hot chicken sliders. If you don't want to just dip yours in ketchup, Rooster's has sauces that go great with the fries such as the ranch or the restaurant's famous comeback dressing. —Amber Helsel

Finalists: Babalu Tapas & Tacos (622 Duling Ave., Suite 106, 601-366-5757, eatbabalu.com) / CAET Wine Bar (3100 N. State St., Suite 102, 601-321-9169, caetwinebar.com) / The Feathered Cow (4760 Interstate 55 N., 769-233-8366) / Keifer's (120 N. Congress St., 601-353-49756; 710 Poplar Blvd., 601-355-6825, keifers.net) / Saltine Oyster Bar (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899, saltinerestaurant.com)

Best Hangover Food; Outdoor Dining: Keifer's

120 N. Congress St., 601-353-4976; 710 Poplar Blvd., 601-355-6825, keifers.net

Hangovers are life's way of reminding you that you may have made one too many bad decisions the previous day or night. And what do most people tend to crave in a hangover? Greasy food.

This year's Best Hangover Food and Outdoor Dining winner, Keifer's, has plenty of dishes to choose from. The menu includes as felafel, which are garbanzo beans and cracked wheat ground down with spices and then deep fried, the grilled pita mozzarella or pita feta, and of course, the Keifer's favorite, cottage fried potatoes, which are slices of potatoes deep fried and served with the restaurant's feta dressing. The restaurants also have specials such as a mushroom burger or a bacon cheeseburger. Both locations have great outdoor dining, so you could recover from your night of debauchery while soaking in the sunshine. Make sure you wear sunglasses, though.

Keifer's in Belhaven is open Sunday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Keifer's downtown is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. —Amber Helsel

Best Hangover Food finalists: Babalu Tapas & Tacos (622 Duling Ave., Suite 106, 601-366-5757, eatbabalu.com) / Brent's Drugs (655 Duling Ave., 601-366-3427) / The Feathered Cow (4760 Interstate 55 N., 769-233-8366) / Rooster's Restaurant (2906 N. State St., 601-982-2001, roostersfondren.com)

Best Outdoor Dining finalists: Anjou Restaurant (361 Township Ave., 601-707-0587) / Babalu Tapas & Tacos (622 Duling Ave., 601-366-5757) / Burgers & Blues (1060 E. County Line Road, Suite 22, Ridgeland, 601-899-0038) / Green Ghost Tacos (1290 E. County Line Road, Ridgeland, 601-957-7436; 2801 N. State St., 601-203-2144) / The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen (1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562) / Walker's Drive In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633)

Best Italian; Place for Dessert: Amerigo

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

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Photo courtesy Amerigo

When you think of Italian food in the metro, Amerigo probably pops into your head. And these days, whether you're in Ridgeland or Flowood, or as far away as Nashville, you can find the restaurant and its popular menu items.

The menu features traditional Italian dishes and pastas, along with wine, beer and cocktails. While the tiramisu is the Amerigo's most popular dessert, it has a secret weapon on the menu: the pecan butter crunch cake. It's like a warm deconstructed apple pie with Granny Smith apples and vanilla ice cream on top. You can taste the real butter inside, and it's delicious.

If you're not keen on a traditional desserts, try the tiramisu martini. It comes out in a chocolate-rimmed martini glass with the cocktail chilled in a separate glass on the side.

Don't want to commit to dinner? Amerigo has an early-bird happy-hour menu from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at both locations. —Dawn Dugle

Best Italian Restaurant finalists: BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / Cerami's Italian Restaurant (5417 Lakeland Drive, 601-919-2829, ceramisitalian.com) / Fratesi's Authentic Italian Cuisine (910 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-956-2929, fratesis.com) / Sal & Mookie's New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919, salandmookies.com)

Best Place for Dessert finalists: Char Restaurant (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 142, 601-956-9562, charrestaurant.com) / Deep South Pops (1800 N. State St., 601-398-2174; 4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 173, 601-398-0623; deepsouthpops.com) / La Brioche Patisserie (2906 N. State St., 601-988-2299, labriochems.com) / Lou's Full-Serv (904B E. Fortification St., 601-487-6359, lousfullserv.com) / Taste Bistro & Desserts (5419 Highway 25, Suite L, Flowood, 769-235-6232, tastebistroanddesserts.com)

Best Restaurant; Best Local Fine Dining: Walker's Drive In

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

While a lot has changed physically since Walker's start as a drive-in restaurant in 1948, it still remains as one of the longest-standing restaurants in Jackson, and it still operates in its original location in Fondren. Over the years, Walker's has won many Best of Jackson awards, now including one of this year's new ones, Best Place for Local Fine Dining.

The menu can infuse a little fanciness into your life with dishes such as the mile-high verde pork belly with roasted green chili, a soft poached egg and cornbread; barbecue fried oysters with warm brie cheese and an apple slaw; and a Wagyu hanger steak with bleu cheese fried fignerlings, shallot spinach and a red wine sauce.

The restaurant's lunch menu is smaller, but its dishes still pack a punch with the Walker's Cobb Caesar with romaine lettuce, shaved turkey, bacon, feta, avocado, onions, tomatoes and croutons; and tamales with a sweet corn sauce, black-eyed pea hoppin' John, pico de gallo and chipotle sour cream. —Amber Helsel

Best Restaurant finalists: Babalu Tapas & Tacos (622 Duling Ave., Suite 106, 601-366-5757, eatbabalu.com) / BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen (1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562) / Parlor Market (115 W. Capitol St., 601-360-0090, parlormarket.com) / Saltine Oyster Bar (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899, saltinerestaurant.com)

Best Local Fine Dining finalists: Char Restaurant (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 142, 601-956-9562, charrestaurant.com) / The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen (1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562, themanshipjackson.com) / Parlor Market (115 W. Capitol St., 601-360-0090, parlormarket.com) / Shapley's (868 Centre St., Ridgeland, 601-957-3753, shapleysrestaurant.com) / Table 100 (100 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-420-4202, tableonehundred.com)

Best Chinese Food: Ichiban Chinese Buffet

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

Ichiban stands as one of the Jackson metro area staples. It's been around for years and never seems to slow down, as brother-sister duo Kam and Ling Ngai have honed their craft. Both the buffet and Ichiban Hibachi & Sushi now have locations in Flowood and Pearl.

The buffet has every kind of Asian food (and other food) imaginable, including barbecue meatballs, snow-crab legs, black-pepper chicken, General Tso's chicken, chicken tacos and Korean noodles—and a line dedicated to Blue Bell ice cream. For those who want sushi with their buffet, Ichiban also has a sushi bar near the back. The layout of the buffet flows nicely, so you're never stuck in one place for too long.

Ichiban Chinese Buffet in Flowood is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The restaurant is also open for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. —Amber Helsel

Finalists: China Belle (1855 Lakeland Drive, 601-368-9588) / Hong Kong Tea House (4924 Interstate 55 N., 601-368-8623) / Hunan Wok Carry Out (6556 Old Canton Road, 601-956-8988) / Mr. Chen's Restaurant (5465 Interstate 55 N., 601-978-1865) / Wok 2 Go (1030 E. Peace St., Canton, 601-859-0076)

Best Local Burger: Mugshots Grill & Bar

4245 Lakeland Drive, Flowood, 601-932-4031; 879 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-978-1972; mugshotsgrillandbar.com

While Mugshots Bar and Grill has a selection of nearly two dozen burgers, Cliff Russum, who owns the Flowood location, says his personal favorite is the comeback burger.

"It's a burger with its own housemade comeback sauce prepared fresh daily with a different sort of kick to it," Russum says. The burger also has pepperjack cheese, bacon and an onion ring.

His other picks include the McDonald burger, Anthony's peanut butter burger, and the new macaroni and cheese burger, which is a patty between two grilled-cheese sandwiches topped with bacon and macaroni and cheese. —Dustin Cardon

Finalists: Babalu Tapas & Tacos (622 Duling Ave., Suite 106, 601-366-5757, eatbabalu.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) / Rooster's Restaurant (2906 N. State St., 601-982-2001, roostersfondren.com) / Stamps Super Burgers (1801 Dalton St., 601-352-4555)

Best Brunch: Table 100

100 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-420-4202, tableonehundred.com

Over the last couple of years, brunch has taken a strong foothold in Jackson, with restaurants working to make the mid-meal an experience unto itself. This year, voters chose Table 100 for Best Brunch.

The restaurant offers two different types of brunch on the weekend. On Saturdays is the Shoppers Brunch, which starts at 11 a.m., and on Sundays beginning at 10:30 a.m., guests can attend the Jazz Brunch, during which the musicians move throughout the restaurant playing.

Dishes include the Table 100 breakfast, which features grits, farm greens, a ham-hock jus, applewood-smoked bacon, two fried eggs and buttermilk biscuits. Table 100 also has a build-your-own bloody Mary or bubbly bar. —Dawn Dugle

Finalists: Babalu Tapas & Tacos (622 Duling Ave., Suite 106, 601-366-5757) / BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111) / Char Restaurant (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 142, 601-956-9562) / 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 Lunch Counter or Buffet; Soul Food: Mama Hamil's Southern Cookin' & BBQ

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

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Photo courtesy Mama Hamils

From its quaint start in a small cabin in 1977, Mama Hamil's has grown into something not-to-miss in the Jackson metro area. At the restaurant, you can get dishes such as fried chicken, smoked chicken, barbecue ribs, chicken and dumplings, fried livers and meat loaf, though the specials depend on the day.

To go with the main course, Mama Hamil's also has dishes such as barbecue beans, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes with gravy, and dressing on Fridays. For dessert, try Mama Hamil's take on southern staples such as the bread pudding, pecan pie, and even vanilla soft-serve ice cream. For an adult, the lunch price is $9.34 and only goes up a few dollars for dinner.

Mama Hamil's is open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. —Amber Helsel

Best Lunch Counter or Buffet finalists: Ichiban Chinese Buffet (359 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-919-8879; 433 Riverwind Drive, Pearl, 601-706-2833; ichibanbuffetms.com) / McDade's Markets (Multiple locations, mcdadesmarkets.com) / Primos Cafe (515 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-898-3600; 2323 Lakeland Drive, Suite A, Flowood, 601-936-3398; primoscafe.com) / Spice Avenue (4711 Interstate 55 N., 601-982-0890) / Two Sisters' Kitchen (707 N. Congress St., 601-353-1180)

Best Soul Food finalists: Bully's Restaurant (3118 Livingston Road, 601-362-0484) / Gloria's Carryout (972 Mayes St., 601-362-0009) / Pearl's Southern Cooking (3505 Terry Road, 601-372-2100) / Two Sisters' Kitchen (707 N. Congress St., 601-353-1180)

Best Vegetarian Options; Place for Healthy Food: High Noon Cafe, Rainbow Natural Grocery Cooperative

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

In this day and age, it can be hard to eat healthy, whether you're an omnivore or an herbivore. Luckily, local places such as Rainbow Co-Op have many options.

The aisles of the grocery store have everything from local produce and products such as Sweet & Sauer's kombucha and sauerkraut to buy-by-weight products such as flour and beans to healthy frozen foods. And memberships to Rainbow are now free. 
 Just inside Rainbow Plaza is High Noon Cafe, Jackson's premier vegetarian restaurant. Each day, it has specials such as High Noon curry, pizza and the restaurant's famous seaside cakes on Fridays, which are seaweed, tofu and onion patties breaded with panko crumbs and then baked. The restaurant also has a Plant-Based Potluck every second Saturday of the month, so you can join others in eating a little healthier.

Rainbow is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. High Noon is open Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. —Amber Helsel

Best Vegetarian Food finalists: Aladdin Mediterranean Grill (730 Lakeland Drive, 601-366-6033, aladdininjackson.com) / Babalu Tapas & Tacos (622 Duling Ave., 601-366-5757, eatbabalu.com) / BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / freshii (748 MacKenzie Lane, Flowood, 601-718-0020, freshii.com/us)

Best Place for Healthy Food finalists: Aladdin Mediterranean Grill (730 Lakeland Drive, 601-366-6033, aladdininjackson.com) / Babalu Tapas & Tacos (622 Duling Ave., Suite 106, 601-366-5757, eatbabalu.com) / Crossroads Cafe (398 Highway 51, Ridgeland, 601-790-7141) freshii (748 MacKenzie Lane, Flowood, 601-718-0020, freshii.com/us)

Best Crawfish: T'Beaux's Crawfish and Catering

941 Highway 80 E., Clinton, 601-831-7778; 5252-B Terry Road, Byram, 769-230-3855; tbeauxs.com

It's officially crawfish season, which means people are starting to have crawfish boils. This year's winner, T'Beaux's Crawfish and Catering, is a family-owned restaurant and caterer with three locations in the metro area.

Clinton, which is a take-out only location, serves boiled crawfish and seafood, along with gumbo and tamales. The Byram location, which is also take-out only, adds fried seafood, po'boys and burgers to its menu.

If you find yourself in Pocahontas, the location there has appetizers such as 'gator bites get and Hereford steaks on Friday and Saturday evenings. The Pocahontas location has live music on Friday and Saturday.

Beer is available, though patrons must bring their own wine and spirits (there is a $5 corking fee). —Jan M. Richardson

Finalists: The Crawdad Hole (1150 Lakeland Drive, 601-982-9299) / The Crawfish Hut (6956 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-3474) / Mudbugs (1299 Old Fannin Road, Brandon, 601-992-5225; 151 W. Government St., Suite D, Brandon, 601-706-4751; mudbugscrawfish.com) / Sal & Phil's Seafood & Lounge (6600 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-957-1188)

Best Thai: Surin of Thailand

3000 Old Canton Road, Suite 105, 601-981-3205

Surin boasts many locations across the southeast, but since it opened in the old Nick's restaurant location a couple of summers ago, it has become Fondren's premier destination for Asian cuisine and readers' choice in many contests for Thai food in Jackson.

The restaurant features traditional Thai mainstays such as rice noodle dishes, coconut soup and an array of curries. However, Surin also boasts a sushi bar for a little taste of Japan for good measure.

The restaurant also has an extensive drink menu, which features a well-rounded wine list and some adventurous martinis (try the Mississippi sipper, which has St. Germaine and grapefruit, or the wedding cake martini to sate your sweet tooth). Affordable lunch options mean that you don't have to break the bank to spice things up, either. —Alex Thiel

Finalists: Fusion Japanese & Thai Cuisine (1002 Treetops Boulevard, Flowood, 601-664-7588; 1030 Highway 51, Madison, 601-790-7999; fusionjackson.com) / Thai Tasty (5050 Parkway Drive, Suite 7, 601-540-2534) / Thai House (closed)

Best Sandwich Place: Room Service

4659 McWillie Drive, 601-362-4617; 1020 Highland Colony Pkwy., Suite 104, 601-707-3600; roomservicejackson.com

Hays Thompson, who owns Jackson staple Room Service, got his start in 1986, preparing family recipes from scratch daily and personally selling them door-to-door on foot. Since then, Room Service has grown into a catering service that features more than 30 sandwiches and salads, and more than 20 types of dressing.

"We've been here so long (that) our regulars just can't eat anything else," Thompson says. "People can taste the freshness here. We've got a guy here who just boils and peels eggs fresh every day, another who cuts lettuce and so on. ... Anything that goes in our food is as fresh as possible and prepared entirely here."

Of all the sandwiches Room Service offers, Thompson says the Uptown sandwich is his favorite. "I love it because it's just so different," Thompson says. "Where else are you going to find blue cheese, candied pecans and dried cranberries on a sandwich?" —Dustin Cardon

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; 100 Mannsdale Park Drive, Madison, 601-856-4377; thebeaglebagelcafe.com) / Broad Street Baking Company (4465 Interstate 55 N., Suite 101, 601-362-2900, broadstbakery.com) / Newk's Eatery (multiple locations, newks.com) / Signa's Grille (680 Highway 51, Suite E., Ridgeland, 601-853-0266)

Best Plate Lunch: Georgia Blue

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

Few staples of southern cuisine are as revered as the "blue plate special," and few places in Jackson do it justice like Georgia Blue. The classic "meat and three" is served at lunch Sunday through Friday, and at dinner Monday through Thursday. The specials are made fresh daily and are in constant rotation, in traditional blue-plate fashion. The restaurant has blue-plate specials such as boneless fried porkchops with gravy on Wednesdays and fried catfish on Fridays. Sides such as grits, fried green tomatoes and sweet potato fries are available every day, and are welcome sights to the picky southern palate.

With metro area locations in Madison and Flowood, there's no excuse not to put Georgia Blue to the test. And if, for some reason, blue plates aren't your thing, live music and funky twists on southern dishes (deep-fried shrimp and grits balls, anyone?) might tantalize you. —Alex Thiel

Finalists: Char Restaurant (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 142, 601-956-9562, charrestaurant.com) / McDade's Markets (Multiple locations, mcdadesmarkets.com) / Primos Cafe (515 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-898-3600; 2323 Lakeland Drive, Suite A, Flowood, 601-936-3398; primoscafe.com) / The Trace Grill (574 Highway 51 N., Suite F, Ridgeland, 601-853-1014, thetracegrill.com) / Walker's Drive In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633, walkersdrivein.com)

Best Gumbo: Gumbo Girl

5681 Highway 18 W., 601-790-0486, gumbogirl.com

photo

Photo courtesy Gumbogirl

James Kithuka will tell you that his wife Marilyn's gumbo recipe has a unique secret ingredient: her passion.

"She is definitely, definitely passionate," Kithuka says of his wife, adding that she only started selling her dish after those around her encouraged her. "It's something that was definitely pushed by family and friends."

In November 2016, Marilyn and her husband celebrated their two-year anniversary at their Gumbo Girl location. More than anything, Kithuka said that the best way to find out why Jackson voted their gumbo the best in town is to grab a bowl for yourself. Their house version of the dish, surf and turf, includes Gulf shrimp, blue crab, crawfish, sausage, chicken and okra. —Tim Summers Jr.

Finalists: Char Restaurant (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 142, 601-956-9562, charrestaurant.com) / Hal & Mal's (200 Commerce St., 601-948-0888, halandmals.com) / Saltine Oyster Bar (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899, saltinerestaurant.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; tbeauxs.com)

Best Wine List: CAET Wine Bar

3100 N. State St., Suite 102, 601-321-9169, caetwinebar.com

Having only been open for a little more than two years, this year's winner for Best Wine Selection, CAET Wine Bar, has become a staple for drinks and dining in the Fondren area.

The bar uses a wine preservation system called Napa Technology, which uses argon gas to plug and preserve wine, which lets CAET keep an open bottle good for up to 60 days.

"This allows us to have both different varietal that people aren't used to drinking and more expensive wines for sale by the glass," General Manager Elise Grenley says.

Part of what makes CAET so popular, Grenley says, is the variety it offers.

"The fact that someone can come in who wants a Budweiser, and the person with them can get a $40 glass of wine is really great," she says. —Tyler Edwards

Finalists: BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / Char Restaurant (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 142, 601-956-9562, charrestaurant.com) / The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen (1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562, themanshipjackson.com) / Seafood R'evolution (1000 Highland Colony Pkwy., Suite 9015, 601-853-3474, seafoodrevolution.com) / Table 100 (100 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-420-4202, tableonehundred.com)

Best Local Pizza: Pizza Shack

925 E. Fortification St., 601-352-2001; 219 Garden Park Drive, Madison, 601-856-8600; thepizzashackjackson.com

Pizza Shack brought its pies to the table for the first time in 2005, and ever since, it has been one of the finest expressions of self-proclaimed "Mississippi-style" pizzas in Jackson. This year, it won the title of Best Local Pizza.

The restaurant has in-house recipes for sauces and dough, which add to the experience. Stop by the Fortification or Madison locations to enjoy classics such as the Margarita pizza with fresh roma tomatoes, garlic and basil. For the meat eaters, there's the carnivore, which has pepperoni, sausage, beef and two types of bacon. The restaurant also has some unconventional pizzas worth trying, such as the double cheeseburger, which has cheddar sauce, beef, American cheese, shredded cheddar, pickles and onion, and the Thai chicken pizza, which has a Thai peanut sauce, carrots, onions and green onion. —Brynn Corbello

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) / The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen (1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562, themanshipjackson.com) / 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)

Best Place to Get Coffee: Cups Espresso Cafe

Multiple locations; cupsespressocafe.com

Jacksonians love their coffee. That's old news to anyone who lived in the capital city when Janice and Dennis Cameron opened the first Cups Espresso Cafe location in Fondren in 1993, and watched the small coffee shop grow into the local franchise it is today. Now, the metro area alone has about 11 Cups coffeehouses.

One of the reasons that the franchise is a perennial winner for Best Place to Get Coffee is that many customers have embraced a specific location as "their Cups"—the one they'll even go out of their way to visit in order to get a signature drink, such as a Blondie or Brunette, or just a drip coffee. And like all the best local coffee shops, every Cups has a personality and uniqueness that the big chains just can't capture. —Micah Smith

Finalists: Deep South Pops (1800 N. State St., 601-398-2174; 4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 173, 601-398-0623; deepsouthpops.com) / Fusion Coffeehouse (1111 Highland Colony Pkwy., Ridgeland, 601-856-6001, fusioncoffeehouse.com) M7 Coffee House (111 N. Wheatley St., Ridgeland, 601-790-7971) / Mocha Mugs (multiple locations, mochamugs.com) / Sneaky Beans (2914 N. State St., 601-487-6349, sneakybeans.com)

Best Place for Oysters: Saltine Oyster Bar

622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899, saltinerestaurant.com

Saltine Oyster Bar prides itself not only on its oyster selection, but on its friendly service and atmosphere.

"When people come to eat oysters they love to sit at the bar and talk to the oyster shuckers, and we have quite a few regulars," Executive Chef Nicole Medrano says.

This year's winner for Best Place for Oysters likes to keep a variety on-hand, with Gulf oysters and a selection from both the east and west coast always available in the restaurant. In addition, Saltine offers Blue Point oysters, for $1 each, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every day for happy hour. On the other side of the bar is the oyster-shucking area, so you can watch people shuck oysters as you enjoy a drink.

"We always want to give our guests the best variety we can," Medrano says. —Tyler Edwards

Finalists: Drago's Seafood Restaurant (1005 E. County Line Road, 601-957-1515, dragosrestaurant.com) / Half Shell Oyster House (115 Laurel Park Cove, Suite 105, Flowood, 769-257-7586, halfshelloysterhouse.com) / Seafood R'evolution (1000 Highland Colony Pkwy., Suite 9015, 601-853-3474, seafoodrevolution.com) / Shucker's Oyster Bar (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105, shuckersontherez.com)

Best Local Fried Chicken: Two Sisters' Kitchen

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

At Two Sisters' Kitchen, customers can enjoy the Mississippi sunshine, sitting in the rockers outside while the cooks create a dish that regularly nabs Two Sisters' a Best of Jackson award. This year, the restaurant has once again taken the title of 2017's Best Fried Chicken.

To make the restaurant's take on the classic southern dish, co-owner Diann Irving Alford removes the skin from fresh chicken, frying it for 12 minutes before it goes out to the buffet for customers to enjoy.

The restaurant has been serving up fried chicken on its buffet since 1989. The dish even earned Two Sisters' national media attention, featured on Travel Channel's "Man v. Food Nation" and on blogs such as FoodAndWine.com. If you're hoping to enjoy a southern staple like fried chicken, Two Sisters' Congress Street location, built in 1909 in Victorian style, is a nice setting for it. —Brynn Corbello

Finalists: Char Restaurant (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 142, 601-956-9562, charrestaurant.com) / Mama Hamil's Southern Cookin' & BBQ (751 Highway 51, Madison, 601-856-4407; hamils.com) / Primos Cafe (515 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-898-3600; 2323 Lakeland Drive, Suite A, Flowood, 601-936-3398; primoscafe.com) / Rooster's Restaurant (2906 N. State St., 601-982-2001, roostersfondren.com) / Table 100 (100 Ridge Way, Flowood, 420-4202, tableonehundred.com)

Best Sushi/Japanese: Nagoya Japanese Sushi Bar

6351 Interstate 55 N., Suite 131, 601-977-8881; 111 Colony Crossing, Suite 380, Madison, 601-856-5678

photo

File Photo

The metro area isn't short on sushi options, but this year's winner for Best Sushi/Japanese, Nagoya Japanese Sushi Bar, has been at it for a while.

The restaurant, which has locations in Jackson and Madison, offers a variety of great Japanese dishes, specialty cocktails, beer and wine, but its raw and cooked sushi rolls are Nagoya's biggest draw.

While customers can certainly order their favorites from the long list of classics that the restaurant serves up, Nagoya dedicated two pages of its menu to specialty rolls. One of the most popular sushi dishes is the Nagoya roll, which has tuna, crabmeat, cream cheese and avocado. It's then encased in seaweed wrap and deep-fried. —Dawn Dugle

Finalists: Bonsai Japanese Steakhouse (1925 Lakeland Drive, 601-981-0606; 102 Clinton Center Drive, Clinton, 601-924-4448, bonsaijxn.com) / Edo Japanese Restaurant (5834 Ridgewood Road, Suite C, 601-899-8518) / Ichiban Hibachi & Sushi (153 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-919-0097, ichibangrillms.com) / Little Tokyo (876 Avery Blvd. N., Ridgeland, 601-991-3800) / Sakura Bana (4800 Interstate 55 N., Suite 11, 601-982-3035, sakurabanajackson.com)

Best Steak: Shapley's

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

Over the last 19 years, husband-and-wife duo Julie and Scott Koestler, owners of Shapley's, have remained committed to providing a great dining experience that goes beyond their steaks, which voters selected as this year's Best Steak.

"We are a well-oiled machine, so everyone really knows their role," Julie says of the restaurant. "We have a hands-on approach as owners, but we have an amazing staff, with some employees being there for over 20 years. ... We have very little turnover and a great family atmosphere, and we are committed to consistency in our guests' dining experience while always trying to improve."

The Ridgeland restaurant's steak selection features a variety of cuts such as filet, ribeye, New York strip and Porterhouse. Julie says that the secret to Shapley's steak isn't much of a secret: "(It's) a combination of seasoning, cooking and getting great quality meat." Shapley's also features seafood, chicken, salads, appetizers and side orders such as potatoes, peas, asparagus and garlic toast to complement every entree option.

She also says customers can expect some new additions to the menu soon, such as side orders of onion rings, Brussels sprouts, sauteed spinach and steamed vegetables. —Greg Pigott

Finalists: Char Restaurant (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 142, 601-956-9562, charrestaurant.com) / ELY's Restaurant & Bar (115 W. Jackson St., Suite 2E, Ridgeland, 601-605-6359, elysrestaurant.com) / Kathryn's Steakhouse (6800 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-2803, kathrynssteaks.com) / Tico's Steak House (1536 E. County Line Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-1030, ticossteakhouse.com) / Walker's Drive In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633, walkersdrivein.com)

Best Seafood: Half Shell Oyster House

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

The first Half Shell Oyster House opened in Gulfport in 2009, with a Biloxi location following two years later. Within the last couple of years, Half Shell opened its first location in the metro area.

"We bring the New Orleans out of New Orleans," boasts Jordan Carlson, manager of that location. "There are a lot of places in the area that do oysters, but we're so proud of our oysters. We do a lot of competitions, in other states, even."

The menu includes a wide selection of Gulf oysters; appetizers such as fried green tomatoes and crabcakes with a lemon aioli and crab ravigotte; lobster quesadillas with white American cheese, peppers, pico de gallo, avocado; avocado lime ranch and served with sour cream; and dishes such as herb-encrusted grouper over a bed of sauteed spinach and topped with lemon-butter cream and jumbo lumb crab meat. —Alex Thiel

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

Best Meal Under $10: Newk's Eatery

Multiple locations, newks.com

If your stomach is growling, and you've got $10, you can go to Newk's Eatery.

Don Newcomb, Debra Bryson and Chris Newcomb founded the business in Oxford in 2004 with a desire to share their own tried-and-true Newcomb family recipes. The business expanded to the metro area with its Flowood store in 2006 and has continued to add locations throughout Mississippi and now the South.

For carry-out, visit the grab-n-go counter or dine in to enjoy the atmosphere of this fast-casual restaurant, which has everything from soups to salads to sandwiches to pizzas and more. The menu has dishes under $10 such as the "Newk's Favorite," which has ingredients such as grilled chicken, croutons, dried cranberries and sherry vinaigrette at $9.25, or soup and sandwich pairings at $8.59. —Brynn Corbello

Finalists: Aladdin Mediterranean Grill (730 Lakeland Drive, 601-366-6033, aladdininjackson.com) / Basil's (2906 N. State St., Suite 104, 601-982-2100; 120 N. Congress St., Suite L1, 601-944-9888) / Bully's Restaurant (3118 Livingston Road, 601-362-0484) / McDade's Markets (Multiple locations, mcdadesmarkets.com) / Primos Cafe (515 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-898-3600; 2323 Lakeland Drive, Suite A, Flowood, 601-936-3398; primoscafe.com)

Best Place for Hummus: Aladdin Mediterranean Grill

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

Good hummus can be many things: appetizer, side dish, condiment or even a whole meal. But lately, let's be frank, there are so many variations, additions and riffs on it that it can be hard to recognize sometimes.

At Aladdin Mediterranean Grill, though, it's classic. The only choice to make is between white or wheat pita bread, which arrives so warm, thick and soft that it's a comfort. If you get takeout, it stays equally warm and soft rolled cozily in its aluminum foil blanket until you're home.

And the hummus itself? Smooth and creamy, garlicky, neither too thick or thin, and topped with a pool of olive oil and a dusting of herbs. Whether you're enjoying the new enclosed patio or taking some home, friendly staff serves it up quickly. Just don't forget to get a reward card; you'll be back for more, earning credit toward future purchases each time you dine. —Dustin Cardon

Finalists: Keifer's (120 N. Congress St., 601-353-49756; 710 Poplar Blvd., 601-355-6825, keifers.net) / Babalu Tapas & Tacos (622 Duling Ave., Suite 106, 601-366-5757, eatbabalu.com) / Krilakis (207 W. Jackson St., Suite D, Ridgeland, 601-790-9463; krilakis.com)

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