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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

< Back to Oral History project: Jackson’s Iconic Restaurants


Mayflower Café

The Mayflower. A story of beginnings. An iconic American symbol of voyage, striving, and survival. It is befitting that George Kountouris and John Gouras chose the name the Mayflower Café for the small eatery they opened in down Jackson in 1935. The Mayflower began as a hamburger stand, started by a pair of Greek immigrants and friends from the deeply-Orthodox island of Patmos.

Some years later — the history is cloudy — the Mayflower expanded into the neighboring beer garden to become a full-service restaurant. The original menu showcased the diversity of American foodways. There were sandwiches, some Greek items, Chinese dishes (including chop suey), and plates of soul food. But gradually, over time, and especially with the help of George’s grandson Jerry Kountouris, who took over ownership in 1990, the menu was streamlined to spotlight the now classic standards: broiled redfish, stuffed flounder, and the Mayflower Greek Salad (with fresh lump crabmeat). As the Mayflower nears its 80th year, it has become a part of the fabric of the American story.

Date of interview:

Rien Fertel

Rien Fertel

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


Alex Raij Txikito

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