(Pictured) Chefs Michael Greenhill (L) and Derek Emerson (R) are among six partners behind Parlor Market.
When I tuck into Parlor Market, its cool embrace of dark wood and casual elegance peels away the layers of whatever I might want to leave on the sidewalk outside.
A sweet sight of relief greets the spot that feels special and familiar, all at the same time. The restaurant was the brainchild of the late chef Craig Noone, whose respect for Jackson history and vision for its downtown’s future merged easily into this well-appointed, welcoming spot. Decor and details honor the 1898 building’s past in the grocery, marble, meat, leather, lumber and restaurant realms on Capitol Street.
Now in the hands of partners Derek and Jennifer Emerson, Michael Greenhill, Robert and Lauren Rushton and Effie Hubanks, Parlor Market’s culinary profile retains a fresh, seasonal, Southern base on the ingredient end with a lean toward Italian coming from the kitchen. The chefs and management behind Walker’s Drive-In in Jackson and Local 463 in Ridgeland wanted to bring something new to Jackson’s dining rotation.
“There hasn’t been anybody lately doing fresh pasta on a daily basis,” Derek Emerson says.
With their metro area roots, “We all believe in downtown,” he adds. He recalls the landscape of the Jackson’s Fondren district when he first bought Walker’s Drive-In 16 years ago, with a big empty building nearby and the lack of activity. Now, it’s bustling.
The partners buy into Noone’s vision of a lively downtown for the state capital and the goal of keeping that dream alive. “It’s the same vision we had for Walker’s.” Craig’s Fried Oyster Salad and the PM Burger are holdovers from Parlor Market’s original incarnation, to honor what Noone started. “We should have a cool downtown, like it used to be,” Emerson says.
Straightforward fare with fresh local ingredients that speak for themselves is the thread among the three restaurants. Rustic Italian with Southern influences is the slant at Parlor Market, with Southern plate lunches and a casual fine dining profile.
A redfish dish is a play on Walker’s famous Redfish Anna, but at Parlor Market, seared redfish pairs with a saffron tomato broth, farro risotto and crab, shaved green bean and almond salad. Braised Short Rib Gnocchi, topped with shaved black truffle makes a wildly popular, meaty, earthy and savory start.
Executive chef Chaz Lindsay returned to his native Jackson after Culinary Institute of America training, work at restaurants such as Eleven Madison Park and Tom Colicchio’s restaurants Colicchio & Sons and Craft, plus time In Italy. He’d started his own Belhaven Pasta Company when the fresh-made pasta he hungered for “was few and far between” in Jackson, he says.
At Parlor Market, fresh pasta shapes up for the task at hand. Lindsay describes the pasta extruder, and shows off the cast bronze dies that determine the noodles’ outcome:“awesome shapes that not a lot of people were familiar with around here.”
Ridged and robust rigatoni is a match for the San Marzano tomato sauce that, warmed by crushed chilis and garlic, is brightened by the dusting of Pecorino cheese plus tasty little cubes of pancetta. A wild mushroom dish’s Parmesan broth nestles into the near tube-like curls of rye spaccatelli, under a sprinkle of fried rosemary.
“No one’s doing these cool, interesting shapes that we have here,” Lindsay says of pappardelle, campanelle, bucatini and more — each made with the intention of holding sauce. “So, it’s cool. It’s what sets us apart.”
He’s got strong support, too. Emerson jokes, “We tell him he’s got the three best sous chefs in town,” with Greenhill, Rushton and himself.
Lindsay talks passionately about learning the ropes of fresh pasta at Colicchio’s flagship restaurant Craft. He reflects on the time it took him to master gnocchi, getting the feel of it with daily practice. Perfecting his craft and taking it forward — that’s his goal. At Parlor Market, you’ll enjoy that perfect in the fresh pasta’s tooth and texture that stand up to tasty sauces with a look-you-in-the-eye honesty and depth of flavor as solid as a firm handshake.
Lindsay says, “I just want to cook good food that people can enjoy and approach.” Which I did eagerly, fork in hand.