BEST APPETIZERS • MOST INNOVATIVE MENU BEST CHAMPAGNE BRUNCH • BEST MARTINI BEST LATE-NIGHT DINING
JULEP (1305 E. Northside Drive, Suite 105, 601-362-1411)
Few things are more southern than a mint julep, and for a truly authentic-yet-creative dining experience, Julep does it right. I don't know where else in Jackson you can find pimiento cheese frittersfried balls of "miner cheese" with a spicy comeback dipping sauce. We do love our dipping sauces down here! The most popular and addictive item on the menu is Julep's slightly non-traditional honey-rosemary fried chicken. You can also get it grilled, but why ever would you do that? The shrimp and grits are available every day, but the dish is a special favorite for the champagne brunch goers. The burgers are unique, tooyou can even get a tuna burger if you wish. If you aren't a mint julep drinker, don't worry. The martini list is full of tasty libations for every palate, and the wine list is impressive yet affordable. And if you partied all night but forgot to eat, Julep serves until 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday to satisfy those late-night munchies.
Second: (tie) Bonefish Grill (201 Colony Way, Madison, 601-607-3334); Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633) / Third: BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111) / Good showing: Sal & Mookie's (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919); Amerigo (6592 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-977-0563); Keifer's (705 Poplar Blvd., 601- 355-6825)
Second: Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633) / Third: Pan Asia (720 Harbour Pointe Crossing., Ridgeland, 601-956-2958) / Good Showing: BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111); High Noon (2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1513); Sal & Mookie's (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919)
Second: Que Será Será (2801 N. State St. 601-981-2520) / Third: Char (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 142, 601-956-9562) / Good Showing: Sophia's at Fairview Inn (734 Fairview St., 601-948-3429); Wellington's at Hilton Jackson (1001 E. County Line Road, 601-957-2800)
Second: Elixir (4800 Interstate 55 N., Suite 6B, 601-981-7896) / Third: Char (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 142, 601-956-9562) / Good Showing: Bravo! (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111); Pan Asia (720 Harbour Pointe Crossing, Ridgeland, 601-956-2958)
Second: Fenian's (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055) / Third: Bulldog (6111 Ridgewood Road, 601-978-3502) / Good showing: Sal & Mookies/Pi(e) Lounge (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919); Sportsman's Lodge (1120 E. Northside Drive, 601-366-5441)
BEST BURGER • BEST FRENCH FRIES
BEST VEGGIE BURGER
4654 McWillie Drive, 601-713-3020
If you haven't been to Al Stamps' burger joint, there are two things you should know: 1) Call in your order at least 30 minutes ahead, because it'll take a minimum half-hour to prepare it; and 2) once you pick up that unbelievably heavy burger and bite into that rich, savory meat, you'll completely forget the wait. Each burger comes in 5 oz., 8 oz., or for those of you with corporate-subsidized health insurance, 15 oz.
Vegetarians can also cut loose at Cool Al's, enjoying several original veggie-burger recipes. Reading the description for the Jamaican veggie burger is enough for me to consider giving up meat for an entire meal, and vegetarians I know swear I wouldn't know the difference.
Never leave without sampling the potatoes, freshly sliced into fries or chips. Once you taste the seasoned sweet-potato fries, you'll wonder why all other fries suddenly taste bland. Flavor is king at Cool Al's; take a moment to appreciate the secret-recipe chili, fresh vegetable toppings and lemon-pepper seasoning.
For the meat-only Stamps family burger experience, hit up Stamps Superburger. For something leaner and certified hormone-free, try a Majestic Burger on sliced sourdough. Majestic's contemporary, stylish interior coupled with a burger that won't leave me in a food coma make it one of my favorite Northeast Jackson lunch spots.
Second: Stamps Superburger (1801 Dalton St., 601-352-4555; 5752 Terry Road, Byram, 601-373-7300) / Third: Majestic Burger (1491 Canton Mart Road, 601-899-8822) / Good showing: Rooster's (2906 N. State St., 601-982-2001); Cherokee Inn (1410 Old Square Road, 601-362-6388)
Second: Rooster's (2906 N. State St., 601-982-2001) / Third: Stamps Superburger (1801 Dalton St., 601-352-4555; 5752 Terry Road, Byram, 601-373-7300 / Good showing: Que Será Será (2801 N. State St., 601-981-2520); Majestic Burger (1491 Canton Mart Road, 601-899-8822); Sal & Mookie's (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919)
Second: High Noon Cafe (2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1513) / Third: Majestic Burger (1491 Canton Mart Road, 601-899-8822) / Good showing: Backyard Burger (various locations); Fenian's (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055); Sal & Mookie's (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919)
BEST PLACE FOR COFFEE
CUPS ESPRESSO CAFE
Multiple locations, 601-362-7422
Frequent the company's flagship store in Fondren on Fridays for your free double shot of locally roasted espresso, and you'll also enjoy an eclectic mix of fine art, ample seating, plenty of outlets to juice your laptop, free Wi-Fi and a rockin' music selection. But let's not forget about the coffee, and the specialists who painstakingly brew it at each of Cups' 12 Jackson-area locations. Baristas may be a dime-a-dozen, but these guys know how to do it right. Properly trained to know the difference between a true macchiato and a Starbucks imposter, they can whip up any number of specialty beverages in a flash with personality to spare. Where else can you get a high-five alongside your London Fog latte?
Brandi Herrera Phrem
Second: Sneaky Beans (2914 N. State St., 601-487-6349) / Third: Seattle Drip (6057 Old Canton Road, 601-957-6474) / Good showing: Koinonia (136 S. Adams St., 601-973-3600), Barista Coffeehouse (971 Madison Ave., Madison, 601-957-6474), Broad Street Bakery (4465 Interstate N., Suite 101, 601-362-2900), Fusion Coffeehouse, 1111 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite A, Ridgeland, 601-856-6001
1220 N. State St., 601-352-2001
Pizza Shack's unique and flavorful tomato sauce makes toppings beyond basic cheese unnecessary, in my opinionalthough they offer a number of special delightful combinations such as chicken curry delight, double cheeseburger and Cajun Joe. The vibe at this small Belhaven spot is fun, and the deck is often filled with young Jacksonians and families. And it's hard to find a more dedicated and hard-working staff.
At Sal & Mookie's, have fun designing your own pizza with not only different toppings, but a diverse choice of sauces and cheeses as well. And don't forget Soulshine, where you can even choose your own crust.
Kelly Bryan Smith
Second: Sal & Mookie's (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919) / Third: Soulshine (1139 Old Fannin Road, Flowood, 601-919-2000) / Good showing: BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111); Mellow Mushroom (275 Dogwood Blvd., 601-992-7499); Newk's (4450 Interstate 55 N., 601-709-4990); Old Venice (1428 Old Square Road, 601-366-6872)
Best Vegetarian, Best Produce, Best Salad Bar, Best Alternative to Wal-Mart:
High Noon Café/Rainbow Co-op
2807 Old Canton Road,
I first visited Rainbow Co-op in 1992 at its tiny location behind the Dutch Bar on Northview Drive. A true Mississippi girl, I'd never experienced anything like it (Natural? Organic?). After having lunch at the High Noon Café inside, I proudly purchased my very first bag of Blue Chips and my first bottle of patchouli oil. Today, the much larger community cooperative sits on Old Canton Road in the heart of Fondren but is still dedicated to providing natural products and services for everyone in your family (including pets). Along with its plethora of organic pastas, fruit, grains, spices, ice creams and more, you'll find real customer service.
Favorites at High Noon include the roasted vegetable sandwich and the black bean and spinach burrito, both featuring Jackson's best produce. For even more diverse choices, pop into Rainbow to visit the award-winning soup and salad bar, or for their take-out options if you are on the run. But whatever you do, no meal from High Noon or Rainbow is complete without a slice of their carrot cake.
Candy Manning Hagwood
Best Vegetarian Options
Second: Aladdin (730 Lakeland Drive, 601-366-6033; 163 Ridge Way, Suite E, Flowood, 601-992-7338) / Third: Petra Café (6955-C Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-4044) / Good showing: BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111); Crazy Cat Bakers (4500 Interstate 55 N., , Suite 173, 601-362-7448)
Second: Fresh Market Café (1877 Spillway Road, Brandon, 601-919-8636) / Third: Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633)
Best Salad Bar
Second: Newk's (multiple locations); McDade's at Maywood Mart (1200 E. Northside Drive, 601-366-8486) / Third: Wellington's Restaurant at the Hilton (1001 E. County Line Road, 601-957-2800)
Best Alternative to Wal-Mart
Second: McDade's (multiple locations, 601-366-5676) / Third: Fred's Discount (multiple locations, 601-362-9791) / Good Showing: Montgomery Hardware (2801 Old Canton Road, 601-366-94div55); Dollar General (multiple locations, 601-362-5084)
Best Sushi: Nagoya
6351 Interstate 55 N., 601-977-8931; 111 Colony Crossing Way, Suite 380, Madison 601-856-5678
It is difficult to go to Nagoya without wanting to order one of everything on the sushi menu. Besides the traditional sashimi, nigiri and maki rolls, Nagoya has some pretty creative offerings, some of which border on totally sinful. The Nagoya roll contains crab, vegetables and a mayo-based sauce, all rolled up and fried. It feels wrong even calling that sushi, but it is so good. Try the Jackson, Madison or Mississippi Roll for a taste of something specially crafted to suit your southern palate. At lunch, grab a sushi box or a combo of teriyaki or tempura and sushi. The end of a meal at Nagoya means a "happy plate" (an empty one) and an even happier, full belly.
Second: Sakura Bana (4800 Interstate 55 N., 601-982-3035) / Third: Little Tokyo (876 Avery Blvd. N., Ridgeland, 601-991-3800) / Good showing: Haru (5834 Ridgewood Road, 601-899-8518), Bonsai Japanese Steak House (1925 Lakeland Drive, 601-981-0606), Ichiban Sushi Bar (153 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-919-0097)
Best Chef: Dan Blumenthal, Mangia Bene restaurants (BRAVO!, Sal & Mookie's, Broad Street Bakery)
3317 N. State St., 601-982-4443
Dan Blumenthal and Derek Emerson have been battling it out for the Best Chef spot for years now, but in 2009, the top prize goes to Blumenthal, the executive chef of and partner in the popular Mangia Bene restaurants. The Murrah High School grad left the state to attend the University of California Santa Cruz and then the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. After returning to Jackson, he helped launch a local restaurant empire that now employees more than 200 people in the city. He knows how to cook, too. With entrees that sound almost as good as they taste, Blumenthal has a flair for making every meal an aromatic and taste-bud adventure. For lunch, try a gorgeous salad (like spinach with goat cheese, mushrooms, and candied walnuts drizzled with pancetta-laced balsamic) or one of Blumenthal's fabulous wood-fired pizzas. For dinner, how about grilled duck breast with truffled polenta or the pan-roasted sea bass with lobster? "The ability to create something daily that is both wholesome and special, keeps me going," Blumenthal says of his work. "I'm not just talking about the actual food we prepare, but I'm also referring to the people we touch. Being able to lead a dedicated group of chefs who really want to do the right thing each day keeps me motivated, and keeps our business growing."
Second: Derek Emerson (Walker's Drive-In, 3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633) / Third: Luis Bruno (cookbook on brunoseclectic.com ) / Good showing: Nick Apostle (Nick's, 1501 Lakeland Drive, 601-981-8017), Josh Toensfeldt (High Noon Café, 2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1513)
Best Place for Dessert: Char
4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-956-9562
I felt underdressed but far from underfed as I sat under a flickering gas lamp in a booth at Char. Our desserts were wonderful. The one that was truly beyond delicious for me was the pecan-caramel Butter Crunch Cake topped with vanilla ice cream, a creative confection that melts in your mouth and makes you glad that you don't have to count calories on date night. Now I understand what the readers were thinking. They also called out the crumble cake, the tiramisu and the cheesecake.
Kelly Bryan Smith
Second: Amerigo (6592 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-977-0563) / Third: Nick's (1501 Lakeland Drive, Suite 101, 601-981-8017) / Good showing: BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-982-8111); Sal & Mookie's (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919); Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633)
Best Greek/Mediterranean (tie): Aladdin
730 Lakeland Drive, 601-366-6033; 163 Ridge Way, Suite E, Flowood, 601-992-7338
705 Poplar Blvd., 601-355-6825; 120 N. Congress St., 601-353-4976)
Greek and Mediterranean food has had a presence in Jackson for many years thanks to Keifer's. Their fast service, delicious gyros, hummus and dolmas are best enjoyed on the porch along with a frosty pitcher of beer. But in recent years, Keifer's has been rivaled by Aladdin, Jerusalem Café and others. Studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet is a healthy one, so hooray for more healthy options in the Capital City. Aladdin offers authentic Mediterranean dishes like chicken or lamb shawarma, baba ganoush and tabbouleh. With its second location in Flowood, Aladdin is reaching a whole new audience as Dogwood shoppers stop in for a quick lunch. And second place Jerusalem Café has my vote for tastiest salad dressing. (Can we make that a new category next year?)
Second: Jerusalem Café (2741 Old Canton Road, 601-321-8797) / Third: Mediterranean Café (6550 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-0082) / Good Showing: Petra Café (6955-C Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-4044); Wraps (1220 E. Northside Drive, 601-366-2006)
Best Kids' Menu, Best Place for Ice Cream: Sal & Mookies
565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919
Why do kid's love Sal & Mookies? I tell you, it ain't rocket science here. Kid's love Sal & Mookie's for the same reasons grown-ups love Sal & Mookie's: It's the service, hands down. Treshika, Tara Lyn, Andrew and Matt are always, and I mean always, serving kid's favorites with not only a smile, but with genuine dedication to the customer, especially Jackson's mini-patrons.
The kid's menu offers Italian staples such as panini and chicken parmesan as well as pb&j, fried chicken tenders and cheese pizza for the more traditional palates. My sixth-grader loves the alfredo. (Ask for the kid's portion when said kid is out of earshot, lest the child go eating alfredo for the next week! The kid's size will be plenty, with leftovers to boot.)
Ice cream choices are listed daily on the chalkboard, but we always go for the classic banana split. The best part? You and the kids get to enjoy the excellent food and atmosphere in a smoke-free environment because there is nothing worse than taking a child out for a night and then sending him to school the next day smelling like a bar, although the "mocktails" are also a kid favorite.
Emily Braden Knight
Best Place For Ice Cream
Second: Deville Grille (5056 Interstate 55 N., 601-956-6442) / Third: Barista Coffee House (971 Madison Ave., Madison, 601-707-7839) / Good showing: Koinonia Coffeehouse (1365 S. Adams St., 601-960-3008), High Noon Café/Rainbow Co-op (2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1513)
Best Kid's Menu
Second: O'Charley's (multiple locations) / Third: Petra Café (6955-C Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-4044) / Good showing: Broad Street Bakery (4465 Interstate 55 N., 601-362-2900), Garfield's (6340 Ridgewood Court, 601-977-9920), Hooter's (4565 Interstate 55 N., 601-981-0480)
Meal Under $10: Newk's
Five locations: 4450 Interstate 55 N., 601-709-4990; 379 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-919-8303; 733 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-707-0700; 455 Highway 80 E., Clinton, 601-925-5200; 120 Stribling Lane, Brandon, 601-709-3133
Arriving in various spots around the metropolitan area, Newk's Express Café has become a popular spot for quick and easy lunches. My personal recommendations include the Turkey Cranberry Sandwich or The Debra pizza. In comparison to a new face in town, the familiar Basil's rolls in at second. Operating now in three locations (Fondren, Belhaven and downtown), the Basil's staff delivers delicious panini sandwiches with the freshest of ingredients and offers dinner at the Belhaven location. In third is Keifer's. With spacious patio seating readied for all possible weather and a quick grill, stop by for a gyro or that delectable, addictive pita mozz.
Second: Basil's (Multiple locations, 601-944-9888) / Third: Keifer's (705 Poplar Blvd., 601-355-6825) / Good showing: Pizza Shack (1220 N. State St., 601-352-2001); Rooster's (2906 N. State St., 601-982-2001) / Petra Café (6955-C Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-4044)
Best Sandwich: Broad Street Bakery
4465 Interstate 55 N. Suite 101, 601-362-2900/
(As told to Scott Albert Johnson by the Cookie Monster, on a recent visit from Sesame Street.)
Me love cookie. Little-known fact, but me love sandwich, too. (Me painted unfairly with all-cookie brush.) Broad Street sandwiches yummy. Roasted pork loin sandwich very unique. Me like honey-smoked turkey with avocado (sorry, Big Bird!) and catfish po-boy, too. Me love them all, in fact. Broad Street staff not seem to mind Cookie Monster eating habits; atmosphere very nice and welcoming. Me not take Oscar there yet because of past history but may soon.
Me like too panini at Basil's. Great variety, which (methinks) spice of life. Me crazy about Crazy Cat Bakers, too, and subs at Newk's and Lenny's also make Cookie Monster giddy. Me always impressed with food in Jackson. Me interested in moving here but concerned about Mayor Melton's monster policy.
Scott Albert Johnson
Second: Basil's (multiple locations, 601-352-2002) / Third: Newk's (multiple locations, 601-709-4990) / McAlister's Deli (multiple locations, 601-985-9108); Lenny's Subs (multiple locations); Crazy Cat Bakers (4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-362-7448)
Best Server: Janis Boersma, Nick's
1501 Lakeland Drive, 601-981-8017
You can't mention the best server in Jackson without bringing up Janis Boersma. This veteran to the category has been a staple in the serving scene for almost 20 years. She brings you savory meals at Nick's, always served with a side of hospitality and efficiency. We asked her what she thought about being a finalist for the third year in a rowshe won the last two years, tooand she enthusiastically said, "You have to believe in the person you work for and the product you sell." She knows her success lies with the support of her customers. In second place is Mandolin Goode from the High Noon Café. Her sweet style is just like the vegetarian menu she servesuncomplicatedand you always feel good when you leave.
Second: Mandolin Goode (High Noon Café, 2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1513) / Third: Ayman Al-Bataineh, (Petra Café, 6955-C Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-4044) / Good Showing: Ann Friday (Hal & Mal's, 200 Commerce St., 601-948-0888); Jay Brandon (Sakura Bana, 4800 Interstate 55 N., 601-982-3035); Josh Stokes (Aladdin, 730 Lakeland Drive, 601-366-6033)
Best Place to Go Off Your Diet, Best Plate Lunch: Walker's Drive-In
3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633
Here's how to blow it, and in a way that may pack 5 pounds in one night, but will linger in your memory for the rest of your life. Order the following: Portobello fries, a Castle Rock Merlot, a wedge salad, the tuna with cheese grits and tomato relish, and a Walker's Big Bear Brownie. Refresh merlot as needed. If you personally had this dining experience, you might recall you were wearing your cutest pair of heels on a beautiful State Street evening when your hair was perfectly blown and styled. You will also recall eating half of your date's meal, rabbit, believe it or not, and you may have a foggy recollection that he never called again. But you don't care because the meal was totally worth it. Maybe.
Or maybe you went at lunch on smothered pork chop day (Wednesday) and had the macaroni and cheese with butter beans. After that, you remembered to ALWAYS get to Walker's before noon for lunch because being punctual is always polite, and it will ensure seating.
Emily Braden Knight
Place to Go Off Your Diet:
Second: Sal & Mookies (565 Taylor St.) 601-368-1919 / Third: Mama Hamil's (480 Magnolia St., Madison, 601-856-4407) / Good showing: Crazy Cat Bakers (4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-362-7448); Nick's (1501 Lakeland Drive, Suite 101, 601-981-8017)
Second: Primo's (2323 Lakeland Drive, 601-936-3398; 515 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-898-3400) / Third: Cherokee Inn (1410 Old Square Road, 601-362-6388) / Good showing: Mama Hamil's (751 Highway 51, Ridgeland, 601-856-4407), McDade's (Multiple Locations, 601-366-5676), Two Sisters (707 North Congress St., 601-353-1180), Trace Grill (558 Highway 51, Suite 5548, Ridgeland, 601-853-1014)
Best Place to Eat When Someone Else Pays, Best Happy Hour: Nick's
1501 Lakeland Drive, Suite 101, 601-981-8017
When dinner's on someone else, make them take you to the BancorpSouth building on Lakeland Drive. Not only can your date withdraw some funds to cover the meal, but Nick's just happens to be nestled in the back corner. Always consistent, and by that I mean consistently good, Nick's delivers well-thought-out dishes that are the perfect complement to a romantic night out or a special occasion. Not caught up in the hype of haute cuisine, Nick's offers classic steaks, superb fish, duck, pork and irresistible salads. The brie and crab bisque is a must-order every time. In my experience, the service is always stellar, and the longevity of the staff demonstrates that Nick treats his people as well as he does his customers. And if you're planning a girls' night out, Happy Hour at Nick's is always a sure bet. Their wine list is hard to beat, and the experienced bartenders can pour just about any concoction you desire. Who knowsyou might meet someone at the bar who will buy your dinner, too.
Place to Eat When Someone Else Pays:
Second: Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633) / Third: Char (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 142, 601-956-9562) / Good Showing: Shapley's (868 Centre St., Ridgeland), BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111), Tico's (1536 E. County Line Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-1030), Schimmel's (2615 N. State St., 601-981-7077)
Best Happy Hour:
Second: Pi(e) Lounge (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919) / Third: Fenian's (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055) / Good Showing: Julep (1305 E. Northside Drive, Suite 105, 601-362-1411), Margaritas (1625 E. County Line Road, Suite 120, 601-957-7672)
Best Italian, Best Pasta: Amerigo Restaurant
6592 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-977-0563
For special occasions, from birthday dinners to girls' night out, it is hard to beat Amerigo, this year's winner of both Jackson's best Italian and best pasta. Start with cheese fritters, mozzarella and tomato basilico, or the artichoke cheese dip. Jackson's best pasta choices range from the basics of spaghetti and lasagna to such specialties as duck and sausage pasta, and black and white lobster ravioli. My personal pasta favorite is the three-cheese tortellini sans lump crab. Don't forget to end the evening with your favorite Italian dessert. Amerigo is in my heart for its tiramisu with a decaf cappuccino.
Kelly Bryan Smith
Second: BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-982-8111) / Third: Fratesi's (910 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-956-2929) / Good showing: Cerami's (5417 Lakeland Drive, Flowood, 601-919-2829)
Second: BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., 601-982-8111) / Third: Sal & Mookie's (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919) / Good showing: Fratesi's (910 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-956-2929); Macaroni Grill (6376 Ridgewood Court Drive, 601-957-3999); Old Venice Pizza Company (1428 Old Square Road, 601-366-6872); Newk's (multiple locations)
Best New Restaurant: Mint
1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 5002, 601-898-6468
The sequel to Jackson's popular southern-fusion spot, Julep, Mint comes in first as your favorite new restaurant. With an impressive menu and a spot in the new $230 million development, Renaissance at Colony Park, Mint is poised to become a popular place to grab drinks or bring your date on Saturday nights. When you first walk in to Mint, you notice a little of a New Orleans vibe with something else, slightly sexy and definitely hip. The staff is delightful and knows just what to suggest for your dinner, whether it's chicken & waffles or salmon preceded by she-crab soup. Perhaps you'd like a round of mini-burgers for the table to accompany your mint julep. If you're in the mood for more seafood, try the oysters: Mint serves them raw, grilled, fried or Rockefeller style. Remember that the upscale look and feel comes with upscale prices; dinner entrees at Mint will run you anywhere from $21 to $35.
Second: Petra Café (6955-C Old Canton Road, 601- 956-4044) / Third: Tye's (120 N. Congress St., Suite L3, 601-949-3434) / Good showing: Newk's (Multiple locations, 601-709-4990)
Best Soul Food, Best Fried Chicken: Two Sisters' Kitchen
707 N. Congress St., 601-353-1180
Tear apart crisp juicy southern fried chicken with your fingers. Sop up chicken pot pie with a homemade yeast roll. Eyes closed: It's Grandma's soul food. Eyes open: You're rubbing elbowsliterallywith elected state officials in a two-story cottage or, weather permitting, on the patio overlooking the new Supreme Court building in downtown Jackson. Appease your conscience with healthily cooked vegetables and the salad bar, but leave room for fruit cobbler. Arrive early enough to rock a bit on the front porch and get in front of the fray: interesting people, energy, soul food and seconds.
Jackie Warren Tatum
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); Gloria's Kitchen (2855-A Bailey Ave., 601-362-0009); Sugar's Place (168 W. Griffith St., 601-352-2364)
Best Fried Chicken
Second: Julep (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 105, 601-362-1411) / Third: Mama Hamil's (480 Magnolia St., Madison, 601-856-4407) / Good showing: Fannin Mart Restaurant (5419 Lakeland Drive, Suite M, 601-992-0411); George's Museum Café (1150 Lakeland Drive, 601-981-1465)
Best Catfish: Cock of the Walk
141 Madison Landing Circle, Ridgeland, 601-856-5500
Crisp, light catfish, hush puppies, fries, turnip greens, sliced onions and coleslaw? Yes, of course. But it's so much more. It's a throng of laughing and talking-too-loud diners screaming to be heard in the big, rustic rooms. It's stretching again and again for all-you-can-eat platters, while the circus of waiters flips corn pone for kids of all ages. Warning: The serene reservoir outside might as well be a million miles away for any calming influence it has on these hungry diners.
Jackie Warren Tatum
Second: Penn's Fish House (multiple locations, 601-982-9004 and pennsrestaurant.com) / Third: Jerry's Catfish House (3326 Highway 49 S., Florence, 601-845-8860) / Good showing: Eddie & Ruby's Snack Bar (1268 Valley St., 601-969-2723)
Best Gumbo, Best Outdoor Dining, Best Red Beans & Rice: Que Será Será
2801 N. State St., 601-981-2520
If Que Será Será only had gumbo and red beans & rice on their menu, they wouldn't hear a complaint from me. In fact, I don't expect they'd hear much from most of Jackson, based on their votes for these categories every year. Perennial favorites of Jacksonians for years, the dishes have just enough spices to please my less than iron-clad palette, but they don't mind a bit if you add jalapeños, onions or hot sauce to your heart's content. The gumbo is loaded with crab, and the red beans are creamy and luscious. Carnivores will appreciate the whackin' big hunk of andouille sausage, too. Personally, I always opt for sitting on the patio unless there's a deluge on hand. For non-smokers, especially, the roomy outdoor space with its huge green and white umbrellas provides respite from years of smokers crowding into the main dining room and bar, plus, it gives you a grand spot on State Street to watch folks pass by, or to say hello to the regulars coming in and out.
Second: Hal & Mal's (200 Commerce St., 601-948-0888) / Third: Fat Tuesday's (6923 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-2971) / Good Showing: Nick's (1501 Lakeland Drive, 601-981-8017)
Best Red Beans & Rice
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); Time Out Sports Café (6270 Old Canton Road, 601-978-1839); Rooster's (2906 N. State St., 601-982-2001)
Best Outdoor Dining
Second: Keifer's (705 Poplar Blvd., 601-355-6825) / Third: Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633) / Good showing: Sal & Mookie's (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919); Pizza Shack (1220 N. State St., 601-352-2001); La Cazuela Mexican Grill (1401 E. Fortification St., 601-353-3014)
Best Asian Restaurant: Pan Asia
720 Harbour Point Crossing, Ridgeland, 601-956-2958
Now in a new, larger location off Old Canton Road in Ridgeland, Pan Asia's menu has grown as well. Pan Asia lives up to its name by offering tastes from all over the region. Sushi lovers will find distinctive rolls not found anywhere else. I could dine off the appetizer menu alonetwo kinds of spring rolls, blue crab ceviche, delectable Hawaiian tuna tataki and a dozen more items to start the meal off right. The stir-fry bar is still going strong: fill your bowl, choose meat, seafood or tofu, and pick from six different sauces, and the chefs will cook it up for you right away. Whether you like Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai or Indian food, there is something for everyone at Pan Asia.
Second: Thai House (1405 Old Square Road, 601-982-9991) / Third: Little Tokyo (876 Avery Blvd. N., Ridgeland; 601-991-3800) / Good Showing: Bonsai Japanese Steak House (1925 Lakeland Drive, 601-981-0606); Nagoya (6351 Interstate 55 N., 601-977-8931; 111 Colony Crossing Way Suite 380, Madison 601-856-5678); Sakura Bana (4800 Interstate 55 N., 601-982-3035)
Huntington's Grille at the Hilton
1001 E. County Line Road, 601-957-1515
Huntington's Grille is a fine-dining experience. I use the word "experience" because this Hilton restaurant goes the extra mile to transform a meal into an event that stimulates more than just the sense of tastethough it has that down, too. Go for dinner and hear local musicians sing the standards while you eat bites of a delicious rack of lamb or steak. While I do enjoy the sweet cleansing taste of the sorbet between courses, nothing hits the sweet tooth like Huntington's bananas foster, which is arguably the best in town.
Second: Roberts-Walthall (225 E. Capitol St., 601-948-6161) / Third: Sophia's at Fairview Inn (734 Fairview St., 601-948-3429) / Good Showing: Alumni House at Holiday Inn (110 Bass Pro Drive, Pearl, 601-896-0253)
Best Steak: Tico's Steak House
1536 E. County Line Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-1030
Tico's has this masculine mystique about it. It serves steaksreal, juicy, big steaksusing high-quality cuts of meat, and has a popular bar where more than a little good Scotch is poured every week. Dedicated customer (and restaurateur) Brian O'Shea loves to share the extra-large custom-cut filet with several friends, and round out the meal with Tico's excellent appetizers and sides. "They got some real juice to them," he says of Tico's steaks. "It tastes like real steak, not some factory version." He also likes the service; Tico's treats staffers well, and they stay a long time. That means they remember their customers, and pass along the good treatment.
Second: Shapley's (868 Centre St., Ridgeland, 601-957-3753) / Third: Char (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 142, 601-956-9562) / Good showing: Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633); Olga's (4760 Interstate 55-N., 601-366-1366); BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111)
Best Barbecue: Hickory Pit
1491 Canton Mart Rd. 601-956-7079
Hickory Pit sits as Jackson's proud anathema to responsible dieting. The restaurant's menu contains the usual pulled pork and beef plates, as well as chopped chicken. The fact that it offers a pulled-beef plate is notable, since the menu item appears to be increasingly hard to find. Hickory Pit also offers a host of sandwiches, including a hamburger plate that would kick the tail off any clown or king that even tries to enter the contest. Lest we forget, the place also offers a fine selection of rib plates (pork only) as well as a collection of tasty side items including potato salad, barbecue beans, fries anda happy delightsweet potato fries. The employees take particular pride in the sweet tea. Make plans to hop on the treadmill later because you need to kick your guilt out of the car before you even enter the parking lot.
Second: Chimneyville BBQ Smokehouse (970 High St., 601-354-4665) / Third: E&L Barbecue (1111 Bailey Ave., 601-355-5035) / Good showing: Haute Pig (1856 Main St., Madison, 601-853-8538); Pig Out Inn (6547 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-957-6467).
Best Chinese Restaurant: Best Wok
225 Meadowbrook Road, Suite 600, 601-368-9555
Up to six can "eat in" here, but it's not likely, unless they are so starved they are oblivious to the complete lack of ambience. So, it's "take out," after you salivate at the aroma drifting over from the big woks a few feet away. Expect smiling, efficient staff heaping delicious Chinese into lidded Styrofoam plates. Expect lunch specials that leave a jingle in your pocket from a $5 bill. My favorite: lick-the-sauce-off-your-fingers-good General Tso's Chicken. Oh, my. It's delicious. No wonder Best Wok has won this award so often.
Jackie Warren Tatum
Second: P.F. Chang's China Bistro (910 Highland Colony Parkway, Ridgeland, 601-605-4282) Third: China Belle (1855 Lakeland Drive, 601-368-9588)/ Good showing: Five Happiness Chinese Restaurant (2931 McDowell Road Ext., 601-371-8765)
Best Mexican Food, Best Margaritas: La Cazuela
1401 E. Fortification St., 601-353-3014
Any given night of the week, you will find a group of girls sitting around a table on the porch of La Cazuela, drinking margaritas and laughing their butts off. Depending on the time of year, they may choose to order cheese dip and giant burritos, or around this time of the year you might hear them say, "I'll just have water and a salad. I'm sticking to my resolutions this year!" More often than not, that group of girls includes me and some of my closest friends. We chose La Cazuela years ago for the daily 2-for-1 specials, always tasty food and friendly service. Many of "my girls" have moved away, but when they come home to visit, we always go back to that porch to catch up and laugh some more.
Best Mexican Food
Second: Las Margaritas (1625 E. County Line Road, Suite 120, 601-957-7672) / Third: El Sombrero (640 Highway 80 E., Clinton, 601-925-8282) / Good Showing: El Potrillo (6036 Interstate 55 N., 601-899-8819); El Charro (2086 Lakeland Drive, 601-362-4447); Cozumel (823 S. Wheatley St., Ridgeland, 601-991-0577), Papito's (111 Colony Crossing Way, Suite 1200, Madison, 601-605-0275)
Second: Las Margaritas (1625 E. County Line Road, Suite 120, 601-957-7672) / Third: Cozumel (823 S Wheatley St., Ridgeland 601-991-0577) / Good Showing: Cinco de Mayo (880 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-957-1882)
Best Donuts: Scurlock's Donuts & Bakery
4157-D Robinson Road, 601-922-8618
In a strip center across from MetroCenter Mall, you'll find Scurlock's Donut Shop. It doesn't have a sign out front telling you when the donuts are fresh. It doesn't need tothey're fresh all the time. "My secret ingredient is quality," owner Mark Scurlock says. "I only cook for my customers. You can only get the donuts here." Regulars and first-timers flock to the shop, Tuesday through Saturday, 6 a.m. until noon. There is always a line, but customers will tell you it's worth the wait. You have the choice of glazed, buttermilk cake, blueberry cake and chocolate-covered donuts. If you can't decide, sometimes he'll give you a little taste, and then, you'll realize you need one of each.
Dawn R. Dugle
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)
Best Barista: Eamonn Cottrell, Cups Fondren
2757 Old Canton Road, 601-362-7422
If you've ever been to Cups Fondren in the mornings, chances are you've encountered the curious and tinkering mind of Eamonn Cottrellorchestrator of opinion and barista extraordinaire. He'll wax philosophical on the nature of ninja golf-ball spins, human-squirrel dynamics (don't ask) or Rachmaninoff's brilliance if called upon to do so, but he'd just as happily steam your tall skinny chai, too. Subscribe to The FNA Show (www.fnashow.com), his podcast, if you fancy more than just a muffin with your latte. Viewer beware: You might very well get lost in the site's infinite spirals, which bear an uncanny resemblance to Cottrell's own latte art creations. Propaganda? You decide. More will be revealed. More is being revealed.
Brandi Herrera Phrem
Second: Joey Tannehill at Cups Espresso Cafe (1855 Lakeland Drive, 601-981-9088) / Third: Byron Knight at Sneaky Beans (2914 N. State Street, 601-487-6349)
Best Take Out: OEC Japanese
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
The day I got an OEC menu in my mailbox, I made plans to stop by the next night on the way home. I'd heard good things about OEC from several folks at the JFP who frequently grab lunch there, but until a store opened in my neighborhood, I didn't know what I was missing. As a single person disinclined to cook, I'm always on the lookout for good, fresh, healthy and fast carryout food that won't break my budget (i.e., not burger chains). OEC delivers on all counts. For my money, it's the sushi rolls every time, but I hear the hibachi entrees are excellent, too. Menus vary with locations.
Second: Best Wok (225 Meadowbrook Road, 601-368-9555) / Third: (tie) BRAVO! (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111); Newk's Express Cafe (Multiple locations, 601-709-4990) / Good showing: Petra Café (6955-C Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-4044)
Best Hole In The Wall, Best Hangover Food: Cherokee Inn
1410 Old Square Road, 601-362-6388
Now in a spiffier area, Cherokee Inn is the same, just bigger: dusty college pennants above the horseshoe-shaped bar and red fake Tiffany lamps above horse heads lighting booths around the wall. Go left into a wide room with pool tables and game machines and red-and-white checkered oilcloth-covered tables. If your night before can stand the light of day, eat in the sunroom with boxes stacked up against the wall and neon signs dangling in the sunlight. Dig into a plate lunch or a juicy burger. Beer soothes. Fries aren't bad, either.
Jackie Warren Tatum
Best Hole In The Wall:
Second: CS's (1359-1/2 N. West St., 601-969-9482) / Third: Crechale's (3107 Highway 80 W., 601-355-1840) / Good showing: Cool Al's (4654 McWillie Drive, 601-713-3020); Peaches (327 N. Farish St., 601-354-9267); Pizza Shack (1220 N. State St., 601-352-2001)
Best Hangover Food:
Second: Cool Al's (4654 McWillie Drive, 601-713-3020) / Third: Keifer's (120 N. Congress St., 601-353-4976) / Good showing: Pizza Shack (1220 N. State St., 601-352-2001); Que Será Será (2501 N. State St., 601-981-2520)
Best Buffet: Mama Hamil's
480 Magnolia St., Madison, 601-856-4407
I first heard about Mama Hamil's (or Hamil's as many call it) while getting my toes done at Fondren Nails. Every woman in the place raved about the Madison spot where you can stuff yourself with delicious southern food. Hamil's packs locals in Monday through Friday at lunch (from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.), and Saturday and Sunday for dinner (caution: 5 to 8 p.m. only!), with different specialties each night (fried chicken every day; fried catfish just on the weekends; see http://www.hamils.com for schedule). Of course, for don't-ask-don't-tell vegetarians such as myself, it's those sides that are magical at a joint like this (if I don't ask if it's cooked in meat broth, and I see no floating hunks of meat, we're good; just don't tell me). The sides are aplenty: from rutabagas to pole beans and cabbage; broccoli salad to tomato basil salad. Fresh and delicious, Mama Hamil's has been going strong since 1977.
Second: Two Sisters' Kitchen (707 N. Congress St., 601-353-1180) / Third: Ichiban Sushi Bar (153 Ridge Way, Flowood 601-919-0097) / Good showing: Wellington's at Hilton Jackson (1001 E. County Line Road, 601-957-2800)
Best Breakfast, Best Biscuits: Primos Café
2323 Lakeland Drive, Flowood, 601-936-3398 and 515 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland 601-898-3400
When JFP music writer Rob Hamilton and his friends needed a place to crash after evacuating New Orleans because of Hurricane Gustav, I was happy to oblige. The next morning, as they headed back home to assess the situation, they asked if I could recommend a good place for breakfast. I would not have been a good hostess if I had recommended anywhere but Primos. And since it's right down the street from my home and easy to locate, the out-of-towners had no trouble finding the place. I was jealous that they got to savor the buttery, flaky biscuits, eggs and bacon, pancakes and sausage, as I chewed my cereal bar on the way to work. There is nothing like Primos' breakfast. The rest of the menu is wonderful, too, but they have breakfast down pat.
No matter which location you choose, you will find the same friendly service and delectable menu.
Second: Broad Street Bakery (4465 Interstate 55 N., Suite 101, 601-362-2900) / Third: Julep (1305 E. Northside Drive, Suite 105, 601-362-1411) / Good Showing: High Noon Café (2807 Old Canton Road, 601-366-1513), Wellington's at Hilton Jackson (1001 E. County Line Road, 601-957-2800), Joe's Diner (1149 Old Fannin Road, Brandon, 601-919-1944)
Second: Julep (1305 E. Northside Drive, Suite 105, 601-362-1411) / Third: Broad Street Bakery (4465 Interstate 55 N. Suite 101, 601-362-2900) / Good Showing: Frank's Biscuits (RIP), Mississippi State Fair
Best Wings: Buffalo Wild Wings
808 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-856-0789
If you're tired of plain ol' spicy, medium or mild chicken wings, Buffalo Wild Wings is one of the few places in the metro where you have choiceslots of them. Choose from flavors like teriyaki, Asian zing, Caribbean jerk, parmesan garlic, mango habanero and a host of others. Personally, give me a plate of sweet BBQ wings with a pint glass of Newcastle, and I'm set. If you like, play along with the trivia games on the big-screen TVs, or watch the big-name games of the night. Even if you're not a wing fan, Buffalo Wild Wings also sells mouth-watering burgers, wraps, sandwiches, appetizers and more.
Second: Wing Stop (multiple locations) / Third: Hooter's (4565 Interstate 55 N., 601-981-0480) / Good Showing: Cherokee Inn (1410 Old Square Road, 601-362-6388); Sal & Mookies (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919); Sportsman's Lodge (1220 E. Northside Drive, Suite 100, 601-366-5441)
Best Seafood: The Mayflower, 123 W. Capitol St., 601-355-4122
The Mayflower is more than a restaurant; it's an institution. People yell across the room at each other, and spend so much time visiting each other's tables, it's a wonder they ever get around to the food at all. (I went there once with Bill and Gloria Minor and JoAnne Prichard Morris and came damn near as close to an aerobic, room-wide conversation as one possibly could.) But people still swear they go there for the food, especially the seafood. The Mayflower is renown for its redfish and its broiled oysters, especially; regulars say its seafood is always fresh, and they always, always mention the comeback dressing (which, as a vegetarian, I could actually sample: delicious, indeed). The best part of The Mayflower to me, though? It's downtown, and has never left. May it enjoy all the riches of downtown's impending renaissance. The old girl deserves it.
Second: AJ's Seafood Grille (900 E. County Line Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-2588) /
Third: Walker's Drive-In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633) / Good showing: Sal & Phil's (6600 Old Canton Rd, #B, Ridgeland, 601-957-1188); Bonefish Grill (201 Colony Way, Madison, 601-607-3334)
All, there's a place on Jackpedia to add suggested categories for future Best-of contests!
BTW, we've added the full information for Best Seafood winners. Again, that was my fault: I wrote it before and somehow I lost it during cut-and-paste and didn't catch it in time.
Way to go Pizza Shack! I was worried Sal and Mookie's might take it but Pizza Shack is the one that deserved the win. :P I'm in England for the next 4 1/2 months, and you bet there's pretty much nothing I wouldn't do for a nice slice of Thai chicken pizza! Yum!
I love the Pizza Shack! Too bad it took me until last summer to discover them for the first time. Sure, it may cost a little more than the chains, but I don't mind paying more for better quality. Just be careful with the hot cheese. I've had many a burnt tongue from it.
- golden eagle
Skimmed rapidly and maybe I missed it, but why no love anywhere for lunch counter at brent's (formerly Drugs) and now notions and limeades?!!? You can't get a good pimento cheese just anywhere these days. Hell you can't get one anywhere basically anymore.
Well, readers didn't vote for it. BTW, Crazy Cat BAkers in a Highland Village has a pimento-jalapeno sandwich that is to die for.
I'll have to try that!
Ole Tavern on George Street has a delicious pimento sandwich made with hoop cheese. It also makes for the best fried cheese in town also.
Go Pizza Shack!! Go Ole Tavern!! Go Sam's Lounge!! Go Mike, Larry, and Jason. Ya'll are great!!
- saint H
Just as I did in February, I'll vouch for Pizza Shack again. Very good! I also like Keifer's. A friend took me out there a couple of months ago and I'm kicking myself for not going there before.
- golden eagle
I agree baquan. Keifer's has a great porch and the pita mozz is delicious. But the gyros are just OK. The crazy greek guy at Wraps is awesome.
I think the gyros at Keifer's are outstanding. I could eat one every day.
Baquan- I agree with you on the Pizza Shack. I go there because it's in Jackson, and it's the right thing to do, but Soulshine is my FAVORITE pizza in this area. I really wish they would have kept a place in Jackson!
I wish we had a Chicago-styled pizza place. I'll take Chicago pizza over NY any day (although I love the thin crust at Soulshine).
- News Junkie
Basil's of Belhaven actually makes a pretty good pizza too. I do like the Pizza Shack, but it's a heavy pie. Basil's is much lighter.
You are right about Wraps. Very tasty. And you get alot for your money.
Also, I thought you might want to know that some of my friends are turned on to the chinese-sub shop that you wrote about a few weeks ago. Good eye (or stomach).
- saint H
Watch out BEST WOK...there's a new kid in town. 1 SUM on old canton road in the shopping center by Veritas is serving up some awesome chinese food. The quality is outstanding, the prices are great, and the quantity is amazing. We are talking multiple meals off a plate. Not to mention, it is very clean on the inside as well. You can dine in here.
Speaking of sandwiches and Pizza Shack, I made the mistake of ordering their roast beef au jus (or whatever it is called) the first time I went there. It was a mistake because I had to order it the next 5 or 6 times that I went there, so I never even got to try their pizza until last week! Awesome sandwich...
Well, 1 Sum AND Best Wok need to look out! There's another new one, Wok To Go, and from what I understand, it's the former owner of Best Wok. He moved across the road (behind Burger King and Super D off State Street.) A friend ate there today and said better food, cleaner, and much better price.
I had another excellent lunch at Saigon, the Vietnamese place on Lakeland, yesterday. For someone new to vietnamese food, I recommend the char-grilled pork over vermicelli noodles, or the chicken pho (vietnamese soup). The bowl of Pho is humongous and all the prices are very reasonable.
Hey, all: Remember to visit the JFP online restuarant guide and rate local restaurants and post your comments!