Portrait of A Place: Bully’s Restaurant in Jackson, MS

Bully's Family
Tyrone and Greta Bully with their daughter, Tyrea. Photo by Kimber Thomas.

“We set out to do a good job, and we take it in the spirit of Dr. King when he said to do a good job and do that job so well that the living, dead, or the unborn couldn’t do it any better. So that’s where I get my motivation every day.” ~Ballery Tyrone Bully

Last week, we introduced you to our latest oral history project that documents iconic restaurants in Jackson, Mississippi. One of them inspired us to dig a little deeper, so we set out to explore the place from owner to cook, server to customer. This week, we invite you to meet all of the wonderful people associated with Bully’s Restaurant.

Bully’s Restaurant opened its doors on Livingston Avenue in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1982. This beloved soul food kitchen has served its community for over 30 years at the same location: a brick building built by Tyrone Bully and his father, both former masons. The family had long owned a corner store in the neighborhood when the senior Mr. Bully suggested opening a restaurant to serve hot food. Factory workers across the street guaranteed a steady clientele.

Originally planned as short-order lunch spot, the restaurant quickly transformed itself into a dine-in soul food establishment and a full menu with daily specials. Ma Pearl, a neighbor and the restaurant’s first cook, worked in the kitchen for over 18 years. She taught Tyrone Bully all of her recipes, insisting that he follow them exactly, and today the staff still cooks the food the way she taught. The menu advertises chitterlings, oxtails, neckbones, turkey wings, meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, rice and gravy, tomatoes and okra, yams, and greens—collards, turnips, and mustards. And these choices are only a small sample of the offerings, which also include desserts: fresh fruit cobblers, banana pudding, and made-from-scratch cakes.

Bully’s doors open 11:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and the parking lot stays full until Tyrone Bully locks up at 6:30 each night. The clientele is varied. There are long-time members of the neighborhood who are regulars and eat at Bully’s several times a month. Though the factories across the street have long ago closed down, nearby city employees and construction workers stop by for to-go orders. Jackson police officers and Hinds County deputies are familiar guests, as are politicos: city council members, state legislators, and even national leaders. Jesse Jackson dined at Bully’s when he was campaigning for president. Local civil rights leaders and members of the NAACP have lunch meetings there; Freedom Riders visited when they marked the fiftieth anniversary of their efforts. Bully’s also has a long history of serving musicians who are recording at nearby Malaco Records.

Tyrone Bully is mindful of the community’s support for his business, and he’s appreciative. He works hard to offer good food at an affordable price in a welcoming atmosphere. He arrives to his kitchen every morning at 6:00 a.m. and stays at the restaurant every hour until he locks the doors at night. His staff shares his work ethic and commitment to customers. Jacqueline Tard has worked as a prep cook and waitress at Bully’s for over 30 years. Remi Oladipo, a Nigerian immigrant, has been a part of the kitchen staff ever since meeting the Bullys at church 11 years ago. There is very little employee turnover. Staff members know customers by name and shout greetings when regulars walk through the door. The atmosphere is inviting, and the reputation of Bully’s scratch-made food draws new guests every day.

Collected here are stories from customers, family members, and longtime employees. This is Bully’s Restaurant.