Welcome to Jackson, Mississippi
Mississippi’s capital prides itself on historic charm and arms-wide-open hospitality. It’s also a city in the midst of a renaissance. In Jackson’s diverse neighborhoods, there’s a resurgence of creative energy, art, and murals. New cocktail bars, restaurants, and shops have opened alongside vintage soul food joints, while a music culture built on blues, jazz, and gospel remains ever present. If you think an old Southern city can’t change, you haven’t hung around the streets and squares of Jackson, where formerly withered buildings are enjoying an exciting new life. To give you an insider’s look at the city, we asked the locals what to do when you visit. Here are a few favorites:
"City with Soul"
Gloria’s Kitchen is an old school meat-and-three spot with a long list of options, from red beans and sausage to a gravy-smothered pork chop. All are served with your choice of bread (crackling, corn or roll) and two vegetable sides, including luscious turnip greens, lima beans, or flavorful fried okra—all heaped on a plate for less than $8. “You know you’ve found soul food,” we’re told, “when it feels like your grandmother cooked it.” For amazing fried chicken, peach cobbler, and a perfectly fried pork chop, not to mention some of the sweetest smiles you’ll ever see, Jacksonians will send you to Bully’s Restaurant, a local institution for over three decades. “You have to order the sweet tea.”
Where the Artists Are
Jackson’s a city in flux. Midtown, where many of the city’s artists and artisans live and work, is home to a wave of inspired new businesses. Local favorite Offbeat is an “alternative culture store” that sells everything from graphic novels to designer toys, records to art books. But Offbeat isn’t just another hip shop, it’s also a gallery and performance space that celebrates the work of Mississippi’s young artists. And if you’re feeling like a cold one, Lucky Town Brewing is making some fine brews in a former Greyhound Bus Station down by the railroad tracks. They’re also a rare brewery to can their beer on-site. So, after you tour and taste, take a six-pack as a souvenir—it sure beats a snow globe!
For a long time, Downtown Jackson didn’t have much going on after dark. But with the renovation and reopening the old King Edward Hotel—a historic Grande Dame with impressive Corinthian columns—there’s more happening in the once-quiet city center. “Everyone hangs out there,” say excited locals of the increasingly lively downtown scene. But Jackson’s downtown isn’t just getting beautified, it’s enthusiastically confronting its past and paving a fresh path for its future. Opened just last year, the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is ambitious and unflinching in its portrayal of the brutal struggle for equality in the state. For a very different type of history in the making, head to Cathead Distillery, the first distillery in Mississippi since Prohibition. Try their Southern-inspired Honeysuckle Vodka, Cathead Pecan Flavored Vodka and Hoodoo Chicory Liqueur.
Fun(ky) in Fondren
Fondren was an unlikely candidate for Jackson’s hippest neighborhood. Once known as 'Sylum Heights, for the local insane asylum that was formerly housed there, it’s now a safe and beautiful national historic district where art, culture, and food meet. During the monthly “Fondren After 5”—held every first Thursday—the neighborhood throws an open house. Drop into Swell-o-Phonic, a boutique, art incubator, and microgallery started by hometown hero and Jackson booster Ron Chane, who everyone around town knows as Chane. For a southern take on the gastropub trend, head to Barrelhouse, which locals like for its “modern, edgy, and sleek” look, impressive burger (try it with pimento cheese!), and eclectic menu, which includes an Asian style salad with Mississippi fried chicken. For small plates inspired by Mexico, Spain and beyond, try the tapas and tacos-centric Babalu, where you’ll find Gulf Shrimp and Jackson’s famous Comeback sauce tucked into a corn tortilla. Now that’s not something you’re likely to see outside of Mississippi.
Jackson’s past mingles with its increasingly stylish present at two retro eateries that look like they’ve been preserved in a time capsule: Campbell’s Bakery is a classic dessert shop—the oldest in town—selling iced teacakes, petit fours, cupcakes, and cheesecake (including classic Southern, Praline, and Mississippi Mud) to all-comers. Around the corner, Brent’s Drugs has been a neighborhood diner and soda fountain in Fondren since 1946. It retains its Formica table tops, vinyl booths and stools, and neon signage while adding some contemporary menu items like organic granola breakfast tacos to the menu alongside classics like buttermilk biscuits and Texas toast breakfast melt. But perhaps the biggest sign of changing times at Brent’s is The Apothecary, a beautiful new cocktail bar tucked away behind the soda fountain and serving barrel-aged cocktails with fitting names like “Southern Prohibition.”