Crazy Cat Eat Up, curled up in a cozy corner of Canton Mart Square, is the spot where tasty freshness and sweet indulgence hang out like litter mates. Every visit gets me purring like a kitten in a slant of sunshine.
Delicious and unpretentious might well be the calling card, if Crazy Cat ever needs one. The move of Jon Lansdale’s Crazy Cat Bakers from Highland Village two years ago and the addition of chef Gary Hawkins took it from 643 square feet to 2,500. Charm and character intact, the cafe’s found a busy niche without, for the most part, a lick of advertising. But with — as sort of suits the name — plenty of from-scratch commitment.
“We had built a very loyal following of customers who had seen how hard we had worked and wanted us to succeed,” Lansdale says. Hawkins, formerly at Sophia’s and then 1908 Provisions at the Fairview Inn, came on board as a partner, bringing “just a wealth of knowledge about formal cooking that I learned from watching TV,” he adds with a chuckle.
The restaurant offers dinner Thursday through Saturday nights and, soon as they find another grill cook/sous chef in the kitchen, plans to add more. Crazy Cat is BYOB (if you forget, Briarwood Wine and Spirits is around the corner); a liquor license remains on the to-do list.
“It’s been a good two years,” says Hawkins, with a brisk lunch and dinner gaining momentum on weekends. “We’ve been really happy here.” “It is the neighborhood spot. It’s amazing to watch people, on a busy Friday or Saturday night, working the room like a politician because they know everybody!”
“What we’re going for is the quintessential neighborhood restaurant/hangout,” Lansdale says of Crazy Cat’s appeal.
Southern-inspired cuisine leaves plenty of room open for creative fun and flair. “The essence of any good Southern cook was, you made do with what you had,” Lansdale says. The lunch menu is due for a bit of a tweak, he says, and the dinner menu, kept nimble for quality and freshness, changes about every six to eight weeks.
Menu must-haves include the quiche and strawberry salad, with almonds and sweet and sour dressing, at lunch. “Quiche was the first dish that put us on the map. It was run as just a special one day and then it took off to where we had to have it every day,” Lansdale says. “I owe a debt of gratitude to a client who told me about the strawberry salad. I’m not sure where she got it, but I took it and ran with it!”
The Meatloaf Panini and the Gulf Oyster Peace Maker (a fried oyster po-boy) are standouts on the sandwich side, but there’s not a slacker in the bunch.
At night, the redfish reigns. No matter the prep, it’s popular, and the dish that puts it atop low country succotash with green tomato butter is a fresh, breezy winner. Johnny cakes with Gulf crab, remoulade and pepper slaw has proved a highlight, too. Pecan-crusted lamb rack, grilled Verlasso salmon and more are also among spring’s featured entrees.
Desserts are suitably indulgent, with chocolate, peanut butter, nuts, caramel and more vying for your sweet tooth. A Crazy Cat classic is the award-winning bread pudding. Keep an eye out for a touch of whimsy. Once, a coffee toffee brownie languished under glass, until they changed the name to “Where Have You Been All My Life?” which flies off the shelf, Lansdale says.
Decor swings from real art by Ellen Langford to paint-by-numbers finds by who-knows? to enlarged handwritten recipes that belonged to Lansdale’s grandmother and great-grandmother. “Found, flea or free,” as Lansdale describes it. Church pews repurposed for seating find another use, too. Settle in, order, eat up and you’ll bow your head and thank heaven you found this place.
Crazy Cat Eat-Up is located at 1491 Canton Mart Road, tucked inside the Canton Mart Square shopping area. They’re open Monday thru Saturday for lunch, and they open for supper at 5:30 p.m. Thursday thru Saturday.
Sherry Lucas is a Jackson writer with an appetite for iconic foods. This story was produced in partnership with The Mississippi List.