Great Food + Great People: The Ben Hon Guide to JXN
Photographer and travel influencer Ben Hon loves everything in the South: the food, the feel and the people.
When Jackson, Mississippi landed on his plate, he began researching and curating a wish list of places to dine with fellow photographer and traveler, Jesse Hsu.
“This is our kind of food,” Ben said, flights booked to the City With Soul!
If you follow @stuffbeneats, you may have already seen his account of a four-day adventure here.
For the unacquainted, check out Ben’s favorites and see some of the soulful dishes and people he encountered along the way!
After a long day of travel, Ben’s number was up at Lou’s
No. 7, that is, the burger of choice at Lou’s Full-Serv in Belhaven. With candied bacon, caramelized red onions, grilled green tomato and smoked tomato-bacon aioli smothering an all-beef patty, topped with provolone on a house-made bun, the burger was a winner.
Going into this trip, Ben said the strategy was to try a bit of everything without the compulsion to eat it all. At Lou’s though, the rules, he explained, “went out the window.”
“I still think about the shrimp and grits, the crispy oysters and that No. 7 burger,” Ben said (the very burger Jesse couldn’t put down).
So Nice, You’ll Eat It Twice at Crazy Cat
Ben called Crazy Cat Eat-Up at Canton Mart Square, “one of the top restaurants we went to.” The tomato pie, quiche and the meatloaf panini. “I could go back once a week,” he said of the dishes.
Ben made good on that promise when he asked his ride share to take him back to Crazy Cat – for another meatloaf panini – on his fourth day here. Besides the food, he said that service from longtime Jackson server, Kila Milner, made it even more special.
“(Crazy Cat) was one of the top three experiences of the trip.”
Give Me Something to Talk About at Elvie’s
Called “maybe top two of the trip,” Elvie’s at Belhaven Town Center stole the show for brunch.
Chef Hunter Evans and General Manager Cody McCain took time to talk with Ben and Jesse and made them feel at home in this cozy “all-day New Orleans café.”
“Being able to talk to Cody and Hunter, meeting the people who sat next to us: those are the kind of vibes I love. The food was phenomenal. The eggs Cochon… we’re still talking about. With the fried chicken sandwich and shrimp and grits, everything was very well-prepared.”
Storytelling, Preparation and Perfection at BRAVO!
A 26-year-old Jackson tradition, BRAVO! Italian Restaurant and Bar gave Ben and Jesse and extended lunch break filled with a tasting menu and personal anecdotes from Executive Chef and Owner, Dan Blumenthal.
“We talked about history, Ben said. “I appreciated the storytelling and Dan’s time. It was great food, tweaked and perfected over the years. That pasta – it feels like he’s nailed it and the salmon pizza was perfection.”
Ben noted the “discreetly attentive” service (very skillful and subtle… so well-trained, yet natural).
Fondren Cool and Flavorful at The Pig & Pint
After a day full of good food, the super stuffed Ben and Jesse made time – and room – for The Pig & Pint, a Memphis in May award-winning barbecue spot. Delicious brisket nachos, Pepsi-Cola glazed ribs and sausage were on the plate.
“The ribs were tender and flavorful, outstanding, really,” Ben said. “We appreciated (Chef and Owner) Grant (Hutcheson) for taking the time to tell us about his background. And it was really good BBQ.”
The People of Brent’s Drugs
Some spots draw you in for the food and others for the ambiance. And then, there are the people. Take Brent’s Drugs, who delivers on all three, especially, for Ben, in the people department.
“Shannon (Johnson), the manager, is awesome,” he said, calling her “the most adorable woman ever. I can’t get over how nice she was. She made us feel welcome.”
The patty melt was a favorite dish and Shannon’s final offering, a banana split, was not to be refused. “I hadn’t had a banana split in years,” Ben said. “It brought back great memories.” Brent’s and all its classic diner nostalgia, he added, is a “photographer’s dream.”
Outdoor Dining + Solid Greek Food from Aplos
“I love fast-casual places,” Ben said upon entering the beautifully-appointed Aplos at Highland Village. The courtyard seating only added to the experience.
Opting for a sampling of many dishes, Ben pointed out several favorites (“the ribeye gyro was outstanding”), noting the flavorful Greek fries, the wings, and others. “It’s a solid joint for dinner. We loved it.”
Deliciousness and Vibes at Urban Foxes
In Belhaven Heights, pie shop Urban Foxes brought Ben and Jesse out of their den for breakfast on the final day in Jackson.
Ben was impressed with the level of hospitality owner Cody Cox and his team showed. “Cody was super helpful and took time to share about himself and the dishes he makes,” Ben said. “The vibe of the place was nice, the pies were delicious, the coffee good, and the sausage rolls – fantastic. I could do that once a week.”
We also sent Ben and Jesse to:
- The Manship in Belhaven (“delicious redfish”)
- Godfrey’s in South Jackson (“the oxtails were outstanding”)
- Johnny T’s Bistro & Blues on Farish Street (“we loved the Cajun pasta and lobster tails”)
- Hal & Mal’s (“an interesting spot with a great old-school, historic vibe”)
- Coffee Prose in Midtown (“a neat, casual place to get work done”)
- The Apothecary in Fondren (“super nice setup, great bartender”)
- The Library Lounge in Belhaven (“great drinks, kind servers”)
When the duo wasn’t eating (or in a food coma!), they took time to explore:
- The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum (“(Associate Director) Rachel (Myers) was awesome and the history was meaningful.”)
- Took a public art walking tour (“the Google art map from Visit Jackson was really helpful”) including a stroll through the Art Garden at the Mississippi Museum of Art (“really photogenic.”)
- Paddled the Pearl with Capital City Kayaks (“(Owner) Chris (Lockhart) was awesome, a great instructor and a casual experience.")
Luxurious Relaxation at The Fairview Inn
At the end of every day, Ben said he was happy to lay his head in the Magnolia Suite at The Fairview Inn, an oversized, well-appointed suite with an extra bedroom and plenty of other amenities that spoiled him and Jesse (not to mention plenty of room to spread out and work).
Jackson’s food scene is one that left Ben, saying, “Not all the greatest food is found in big cities.”
Beyond that, the people – the city’s real soul – made an impact.
“I’m bad with names and I wouldn’t remember names if they didn’t leave a positive impression,” Ben said. “That speaks volumes. When you hear from the owners of places like Godfrey’s, Elvie’s, BRAVO!… you leave with such a nice feeling. I have nothing but great memories of JXN. It was a great experience and everyone I came across was amazing. Those are the memories I’ll leave with.”
Ben and Jesse said they felt very safe in Jackson with a city mask mandate in place, noticing most people were social distancing and being respectful to help deter the spread of COVID-19. Learn more about Safer Travel efforts at VisitJackson.com.
Where to Drink and Dine
Jackson restaurants – from small mom and pop eateries to James Beard award-winning chef-driven concepts – offer some of the best authentic cuisine.
Things to Do
Jackson features more than 30 interactive museums focusing on sports, agriculture, science, history, aviation, art, music, and civil rights.
Where to Stay
Whether visiting for business or pleasure, you’ll find yourself right at home in Jackson. Hospitality is what we do best! Explore our options of where to lay your head.