by Susan Marquez
There’s always excitement when a new restaurant opens, and that held true for Elvie’s, which held its soft opening on January 31 of this year.
“That date was significant,” says co-owner/chef Hunter Evans. “The restaurant was named after my grandmother, Elvaretta May Good. The anniversary of her death is January 31. It was my way of honoring her.”
While the restaurant got off to a strong start, Evans and co-owner Cody McCain had no idea that they would face a worldwide pandemic a couple of months into the restaurant’s opening.
Elvie’s is a new-build, located at 809 Manship Street, in the new Belhaven Town Center. The restaurant is the brainchild of Evans.
“I went to culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. I had already been cooking in restaurants, but at CIA, I learned technique,” he said.
Evans and McCain met three years ago.
“I was working for my dad at Buffalo Peak Outfitters,” McCain says, “and I wanted to do something on my own. I met Hunter, and although I had never thought of getting into the restaurant business, everything seemed to click into place with us.”
Evans grew up visiting his grandmother in New Orleans. In her kitchen, which was central to the home, Evans recalls shrimp in the sink about to be peeled, stuffed artichokes in the oven and spinach Madeline casseroles.
“Food in New Orleans is fun, flavorful, nurturing and communal,” says Evans. “I got a front-row seat to that at my grandmother’s. That’s what I wanted to create for Elvie’s. Food has a story that includes the people who produce it and their culture. Elvie’s was inspired by those stories.”
The menu items offered at Elvie’s are seasonal, dictated by what’s available and fresh. The food highlights Southern farmers, including fishers and oyster farmers in the Gulf, farmers growing organic produce and sustainably-raised animals. The emphasis is on finding the highest quality, ethically-sourced and best-tasting ingredients possible.
“We have a long list of farmers we partner with such as Two Dog Farms in Flora, Home Place Pastures in Como and French Hermit Oyster Company in Biloxi,” says Evans.
“I love working with urban farmers such as Dr. Cindy Ayers of Footprint Farms and Fertile Ground, both located within Jackson’s city limits. Our breads are baked by Robert Raymond of Sunflower Oven, and we use products from Cathead Distilleries in our bar.”
While the restaurant is similar to French cafes, the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed Evans to spread his culinary wings a bit, offering a themed menu weekly for a few months. “We did a potluck takeout service of sorts, featuring Indian, Mexican, Chinese and even New York deli food.”
McCain says the restaurant received strong support from the neighborhood and from their friends. “They kept us going.”
McCain says that Elvie’s provided 1,000 meals to kids in Jackson the first couple of weeks the restaurant was shut down, and they served a hog roast for local health care workers. “We wanted to support our local farmers, so we teamed up with a hog producer and roasted two pigs. We served up 800 barbeque sandwiches for workers in area hospitals.”
As restrictions have eased a bit, the restaurant still exercises precautions. “We have a limited seating capacity,” explains Evans. “We are offering a six-course tasting menu, along with dinner snacks from our opening menu. Each dish on the tasting menu is inspired by the culinary and agricultural history of Mississippi. The tasting menu has been very popular. Reservations are required, and we are so grateful that we been selling every seat.”
For more information, visit elviesrestaurant.com.