Staples: Jackson’s Historic Restaurants

As we all know, Jackson is rich in history; from monuments to landmarks and even restaurants, there is so much history in our city. Many restaurants have stood the test of time and have been Jackson staples for as long as anyone can recall. Check out some of our favorite historic spots to grab a bite in Jackson.

Iron Horse Grill
Built as the Armour Company Smoke House and Distribution Plant in 1906, this Jackson landmark is an icon of Mississippi’s rich heritage. The smokehouse closed in 1977 and was purchased by John D. McWilliams to convert it into a restaurant. The original Iron Horse opened in 1986, and for 10 years, the Iron Horse was a popular downtown staple until two fires mysteriously burned through the interior, the first in 1998 and another in 1999. Half of the building was lost, and the rest was abandoned. Fourteen years later, a group of local citizens made a commitment to restore Iron Horse. The original structure was renovated and brought back from the ashes. Iron Horse Grill has been up and running ever since, serving up delicious steaks, seafood, pasta, and so much more. Iron Horse even has a museum inside, the Mississippi Music Experience at Iron Horse Grill. Learn about the birthplace of America’s music through stories and exhibits of Mississippi artists, trace the history of the music, and experience the expression of the human spirit through music. Of course, don’t forget to have a seat and order a burger, a platter of fajitas, or a hearty serving of shrimp and grits.

Elite Restaurant
Since 1947, the Elite Restaurant has been serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner to patrons from the all over, whether they’re Jackson-area residents or traveling from out of town. The multi-cuisine establishment is loved by many in Jackson and truly is a staple to the downtown dining scene. The Elite Restaurant is known for their Southern, home-cooked meals using the freshest ingredients. The fish is fresh daily, and the famous yeast rolls are prepared throughout the day. The menu also includes a wide selection of steaks, chicken breast, and even homemade enchiladas. With such a wide variety of menu options, even the pickiest eater is sure to find something they’ll love at the Elite. The quaint, 1800s-era building on Capitol Street packs in a lot of flavors, and it’s absolutely a Jackson icon that everyone in the area should check out if they haven’t already.

In operation since 1935, the Mayflower Cafe is the oldest operating restaurant in the capital city. The Mayflower started as a hamburger stand, started by a pair of Greek immigrants and friends from the island of Patmos. Some years later, the Mayflower expanded into the neighboring beer garden to become a full-service restaurant. There were sandwiches, some Greek items, Chinese dishes, and plates of soul food. Over time, the menu was streamlined to spotlight now classic standards: redfish, flounder, and the Mayflower Greek Salad, complete with fresh lump crabmeat. The Mayflower Cafe is a downtown landmark, and few celebrities have even made their way to the Mayflower Cafe. It’s also been featured in a couple of films, including Ghosts of Mississippi and The Help. The house salad dressing at the Mayflower has been featured in Maxim magazine as the Nation’s Number One Condiment and was also featured on Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. To go along with the famous salad, customers can enjoy a wide variety of seafood dishes, steaks, chicken, or even pasta dishes. There is also a “lunch only” menu available Monday through Friday that includes sandwiches, burgers, and po’boys, as well as plate lunches. If you’re looking for a taste of Jackson’s history, the Mayflower Cafe is the place to be.

Brent’s Drugs
A Fondren staple, Brent’s opened in October 1946 with the completion of the Morgan Center, the first shopping center in Mississippi that was later renamed Woodland Hills Shopping Center. Pharmacist Alvin Brent left Patterson’s Drugs in the Plaza Building downtown to open his own pharmacy and soda fountain in the Fondren neighborhood. From its inception, Brent’s was not only a successful pharmacy but also a local gathering place for friends. Brent owned and ran the pharmacy until he sold it in 1977 to pharmacists Paul Helfin and Bob Grantham, who had worked there since 1951. It went through a handful of other owners throughout the years until finally, in 2009, Fondren resident Brad Reeves obtained the now pharmacy-free Brent’s. Brent’s was renovated in 2014 to bring it to the modern days while still keeping some charm. Decades later, Brent’s is always a local favorite that serves up delicious burgers, sandwiches, breakfast, and, of course, classic malts and milkshakes.

Paul Crechale opened his restaurant, Crechale’s, off highway 80 outside of downtown in 195. A native of the Greek island Skopelos, Paul was no stranger to the restaurant world. In the 1920s, he owned restaurants in Tampa Bay and Chicago and eventually made his way to Jackson. Today, Paul’s grandson Bob runs the favorite local restaurant. The menu remains similar to when it first began: prime steaks, hickory-smoked chicken, fish, shrimp, and crab. Crechale’s has been a local favorite for many years, with many customers returning over and over again.

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Paige McKay

eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI is a food magazine dedicated to sharing Mississippi's passion for food with the world. From local chefs making their culinary mark to the many great restaurants this state has to offer, Mississippi's hospitality shines through in the pages of this magazine. It is our desire to preserve our culinary heritage and inspire today's cooks with a new passion for cooking and eating. All opinions expressed in this post are the opinions of the writer and not necessarily those of Sipp Jackson.

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Roberta Welch

After the Armour Smokehouse closed, Lowery Smith had his furniture store there until he died. The building was then turned into the Iron Horse Grill.