Southern Cooking: City Limits Café

The “meat and two” plate lunch is served buffet-style, so there’s no wait to dig right in (catfish and hushpuppies with green beans and macaroni and cheese) is shown here.

by Julian Brunt

It is hard to tell how good a restaurant is by outward appearances. Sometimes, if you see the kitchen staff dressed in whites, you expect professionalism. But just because a chef has been to culinary school does not mean they have magic in their fingers.

Not all good cooking comes from a formal chef, not all good cooks wear professional whites, and Margaret Brown, the master behind the City Limits Café, is just one such person. She has been cooking great country-style food for 64 years, 11 of those years at City Limits Café.

Margaret Brown prepares catfish in the kitchen at City Limits Cafe.

Owner Ralph Elmore is proud of what Brown dishes out, Monday through Friday, for lunch at their new location at The Mississippi Farmers Market on the Mississippi Fairgrounds.

City Limits is a family-owned business. That is the comfortable atmosphere you notice as soon as you walk in—nothing fancy, just emphasis on friendly service and exceptional food. The menu changes daily, but expect four types of meat and 11 sides, plus fresh homemade desserts, like banana pudding, pecan pie and chocolate cake. It’s “buffet-style,” ready to serve for those hungry or in a rush.

On a recent visit, City Limits Café offered fried chicken, baked chicken, fried pork chops, hamburger steak, rice and gravy, creamed potatoes, turnip greens, mac and cheese, green beans, butter beans, black-eyed peas and cornbread. You can also order from the menu.

Elmore emphasizes the same simple points: good, old-fashioned country food and family-friendly service. This café is the type of place you used to find in every small town. This food is the same as what your mom or grandmother made for you. It’s a place to celebrate these old-fashioned meals as we celebrate any haute cuisine because that is what it is: local foods prepared in a fashion that has evolved over hundreds of years.

I would put a plate of Margaret Brown’s cornbread and peas up against any food, anywhere in the world.

Do not get the idea that the City Limits Café is full of truck drivers and farmers on the way to the fields. The café sits in the middle of downtown Jackson, and on the day I visited, there were four members of Mississippi’s senate and the house of representatives in for lunch. Everyone is welcome, and you will find people from all walks of life enjoy eating here.

Next time you are downtown Jackson, and you are in the mood for the food the South is famous for, check out the City Limits Café.

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