This state capital is beginning a creative renaissance.
In Mississippi, it’s not uncommon to find a group of tourists from Tokyo snapping pictures on a desolate dirt road in the Delta, people from Berlin meandering around the grounds of William Faulkner’s home in Oxford, or New Yorkers standing in awe outside the two room house Elvis Presley grew up in Tupelo. As for Jackson, not so much.
Now, with a new wave of restaurants and a creative revitalization, the state capital has the special sauce (not just the Comeback version they’re known for) to become a new and exciting city.
Yes while you're there, you should definitely visit the home and gardens of one of our favorite authors, Eudora Welty. Take the time to visit some of the state’s civil rights landmarks including the home of Medgar Evars. There are also must-visit spots like the classic Mayflower Café, Bill’s Greek Tavern (both delicious ways to see the Greek influence on Southern cooking), and Brent’s Drugs, a refreshed 1940s soda fountain and diner. And of course, a boiled pig ear sandwich at Big Apple Inn is pretty much mandatory.
Then, check out these five spots that are helping to reinvent Jackson, Mississippi.
The new hub of arts and small businesses in Jackson, the walkable Fondren District has a mix of cafes, bakeries, boutiques, galleries, and performance spaces mixed with practical establishments like Rainbow Co-Op, a natural grocery store, complete with Instagram-worthy murals. Make sure to visit: Saltine, a seafood-focused spot with a renown raw bar (You might even run into local author Richard Grant with a fried chicken po’boy.); Lo Lady Jewelry owned by Lauren Miltner who creates vintage looking pieces with modern edge; Sneaky Beans Coffee, a community staple for coffee and camaraderie; and the Apothecary, one of the South’s best cocktail bars inside of Brent’s Drugs.
Cathead Distillery and Lucky Town Brewing Company
Mississippi was the last state to repeal prohibition in 1966, but Austin Evans and Richard Patrick have made up for lost time opening their Southern-made spirits powerhouse in 2010. Since then, their vodka (including their honeysuckle and pecan versions) and gin have become baseline bottles for any cocktail bars across the South. Take one of their daily distillery tours, or visit their tasting room from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday. If you’re more of a beer person, head over to Lucky Town Brewing Company, the first and only craft brewery in the city, housed in what used to be a former Greyhound Bus service station. Make sure to bring home a six-pack of their easy drinking Pub Ale.
Mississippi may be known for Oxford’s historic Square Books, but Jackson’s sprawling bookstore counterpoint is just as impressive with rooms filled with first and signed editions and a massive collection of Mississippi and Southern authors. Although it’s been around for more than 40 years, Lemuria continues to be an important center for the entire state’s rich literary culture. Another place to check out: Offbeat, an alternative bookstore selling comics, records, and art books. It also doubles as a gallery showcasing work from young minority artists.
Mississippi Museum of Art
While some museums sit as quiet monuments, Jackson’s art museum has become a cultural center bringing in touring national exhibitions while also serving as a space for Mississippi artists. You can find Jacksonians hanging out in front of food trucks in the museum gardens on Third Thursday, a monthly event where the galleries are open after hours and visitors can see pop up exhibits and live music. Don't miss The Palette Cafe, the museum's restaurant helmed by Chef Nick Wallace. Wallace grew up on a farm in nearby Edwards, Mississippi, and uses fresh, locally grown ingredients any chance he gets. So much so that he even created an urban farm on the museum’s grounds where students can learn about food production and ingredient seasonality.
The Wonder Lab
After creating boutique Swell-o-Phonic and a locally minded t-shirt line, Jackson celebrity Ron Chane (known around town as Chane) created The Wonder Lab, an art incubator that gives creative entrepreneurs not just a space to make their work, but the structure and support to create a successful business plan around it. Walk through their microgallery during the Fondren District’s First Thursday events to check out the latest work from resident artists.