Jackson’s Iconic Restaurants

In her essay “Finding a Voice,” Eudora Welty described the capitol city of Jackson as a “region to itself.” So it remains. Rich with soul food buffets and catfish houses, and with upper-crust dining rooms and humble Green-American tavernas, too, Jackson is a crossroads of Mississippi multicultural history.

Take Farish Street, the city’s once-bustling African American business district. During Freedom Summer in 1964, at the height of Civil Rights Movement, Willora Ephram—nicknamed “Peaches,” because she is so sweet—opened Peaches restaurant in the 300 block of that street. From that summer forward, her restaurant served activists as a meeting spot. Down the street at the 1930s era Big Apple Inn, you can still request a smoke and an ear and eat exactly what you ordered.

In the early 1900s, Greek immigrants came to Jackson looking for opportunity. Many began new lives in the restaurant industry. George Kountouris and John Gouras, friends from the island of Patmos, opened the Mayflower Café in 1935. Twelve years later, the Zouboukos brothers, Peter and Jimmy, established the Elite Restaurant. In the 1950s, Paul Crechale opened his eponymous restaurant. Bill Matheos of Bill’s Greek Tavern followed suit. Their restaurants serve broiled Gulf fish, Greek salads, and a thousand island-meets-remoulade dressing and dipping sauce called Comeback.

A region to itself with a rich culinary history, this is Jackson.


Funding for this project provided by Visit Mississippi.

Interviews

Ballery Tyrone Bully

Ballery Tyrone Bully opened Bully’s Restaurant in 1982, with the help of his father. Now, over 30 years later, he serves some of Jackson’s best soul food to hundreds of customers each day.

Beatty Street Grocery

Mary Harden remembers, at a young age, working alongside her grandfather at the family’s small, neighborhood grocery, helping Mack Baldwin grind meat into hamburgers.

Big Apple Inn

Geno Lee is the fourth-generation owner of the Big Apple Inn. His great-grandfather, Juan “Big John” Mora, who was born in Mexico City, arrived in Jackson in the 1930s

Bill’s Greek Tavern

After serving as a cook in the Greek Navy, Bill Matheos migrated to the United States in 1968.

Brent’s Drugs

Dr. Alvin Brent opened his pharmacy in late 1946 in the Fondren neighborhood, which at that time was just outside the Jackson city limits.

Campbell’s Bakery

Mitchell Moore never thought he’d dedicate his life to baking tea cakes. But Mississippians had been coming for Louis Campbell’s original tea cakes since 1962, when he opened his bakery in Jackson’s Fondren neighborhood.

Cherokee Drive Inn

The Cherokee Drive Inn is so old that — with its numerous locations, owners, and iterations — no one knows for sure who, when, or where it was founded.

Collins Dream Kitchen

Sylvester Collins had a dream. After countless years cooking in several Jackson-area restaurant kitchens, the mother of four saved enough to finance her own establishment, a small takeout joint.

Crechale’s

Paul Crechale opened his eponymous restaurant off Highway 80 outside downtown Jackson in 1956. A native of the Greek island of Skopelos, Paul was a veteran restaurateur.

Eddie’s Snack Bar

Eddie and Rubye Bennett opened their eponymous Snack Bar in 1981. Today, it is run by their daughter, Pat—you can find her manning the fryer five days a week.

Elite Restaurant

Peter Zouboukos, born Panagiotis Constantine Zouboukos but known throughout Jackson as Mr. Pete, came to America from the Peloponnesian shores of southeastern Greece.

John’s Restaurant

John Rucker was born in segregated Yazoo City, Mississippi, in 1954. His father was killed in a hunting accident when John was a young boy, so much of his time at home was spent hanging around the kitchen and watching his mother cook.

Mayflower Café

The Mayflower began as a hamburger stand, started by a pair of Greek immigrants and friends from the deeply-Orthodox island of Patmos.

Peaches Restaurant

Willora “Peaches” Ephram was born in Utica, Mississippi, in 1924 to sharecropper parents. Unable to work in the fields, Willora stayed inside, learning to cook from her mother and grandmother.