Top-Rated New Tastes in Jackson

Stop in Mississippi's capital for some new surprises at these hip restaurants.

Top-Rated: Schimmel's Fine Dining & Cocktails
I admit it: I harbor an addiction to this restaurant's homemade potato chips. Months after eating here, visions of crisp slivers soaked in vinegar and covered with sea salt linger in my memory. Sometimes you can judge a restaurant by the small extras. In this case, Schimmel's doesn't stop with the perfect vinegar-and-salt potato chip--instead, they serve the $4.95 appetizer with a warm blue cheese dipping sauce at lunch. And indeed, just about every part of this restaurant, from the super-attentive staff to the dining room's huge banquettes, delivers more than you expect. Take the lunch menu, for example. Feeling adventurous? Go for the seared Asian tuna served with a ginger-soy slaw and wasabi cream; it's just $10.50. If you're looking for classic Southern cuisine with a twist, try the stuffed fried chicken Florentine, a marinated masterpiece packed with spinach and cheese then deep fried to perfection ($9.95). Though lunch here remains a good choice, dinner entices with a more robust menu and live jazz many nights. 2615 North State Street; (601) 981-7077. Lunch entrées: $8.95-$15.95; dinner entrées: $16.95-$39.95.

Elixir Restaurant and Bar
Devilishly hard to find, this trendy new eatery hides beside a Piccadilly Cafeteria. It's worth searching out (take Exit 100 off I-55; it's on the northbound Frontage Road, about a quarter-mile from the exit). Elixir's fondue--rich, hot cheese and chunks of French bread crostini ($10)--would please any palate on a spring night. The bar is popular with Jackson's chic set, and the menu has a nice selection of appetizers. Don't miss my favorite: the succulent crawfish won tons ($7). 4800 I-55 North, Suite 6-B; (601) 981-7896. Entrées: $18-$28.

Bravo! Italian Restaurant & Bar
Bite into Bravo's tangy garlic-tomato-and-basil bruschetta ($6.25), and you'll expect to see views of a Tuscan olive orchard. A trip through the parking lot will say ciao to that fantasy though. Bravo's menu is a true taste of Italy plunked rather awkwardly into a mall built during the Carter administration. Have no fear--the inside is charming, packed with more than 400 wine selections (28 by the glass), and awash in dishes such as the heavenly risotto. 4500 I-55 North, Highland Village, Suite 244; (601) 982-8111. Lunch entrées: $8-$15; dinner entrées: $13-$30.

The Parker House Restaurant
Begin your dinner here with the smoked duck quesadilla ($6.95), which resembles a duck salad between two pancakes, garnished with sweet peppers and a smoky Gouda cheese. Order a glass of wine from the 200-bottle list, and dive into an entrée such as the sushi-grade tuna fillet served with ginger rice and a Thai barbecue sauce ($25.95) or one of the Parker House's spectacular salads. I enjoyed the Black and Bleu, a medley of mixed greens, blackened beef tenderloin, and homemade blue cheese dressing ($12.95). The setting is a modest, faux-Tudor ranch-style building bedecked in many startling hues from the era of Falcon Crest. Just go with it. 104 Southeast Madison Drive, Ridgeland, MS 39157; (601) 856-0043. Entrées: $16.95-$38.95.

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This article is from the April 2005 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.

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