The Elite Restaurant
141 East Capitol Street
Capitol Street in downtown Jackson, Mississippi is like stepping back in time to the Old South of the 20s, 30s, and 40s. Sure, half a century before my time, but I’ve seen it on TV.
Jackson may serve as both Mississippi’s largest city and its capital, but it retains the pace and character of that small town Hollywood South, like Mayberry or Hazard.
Friendly Mississippians and state legislators from all corners of the Magnolia State stroll the sidewalks, parking is downright plentiful, and traffic lights dangle in the sweltering heat in no particular hurry to turn green.
I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see old Boss Hog himself ramble down the marble steps of the Mississippi Capitol Building, sweating in a seersucker suit.
But there are certainly signs of “progress” too.
Each trip I make to Jackson seems to reveal one more gleaming new bank, but Capitol Street still has the Roaring Twenties era Walthall Hotel, named after a local Confederate hero, where I stay for $79 a night.
And the old Mayflower Café, which has been serving fried seafood and “comeback” sauce since 1935, still beckons passersby with its vintage neon sign that hasn’t seen a paint brush in decades.
Best of all, The Elite Restaurant is still serving biscuits, eggs, and enchiladas just like they have for 63 years.
The old buildings of stone, art deco, and ornate cornices may be giving way one by one to the more modern bank buildings, and the old Montgomery Wards and Ace Records buildings now vacant — or worse, housing government workers.
However, change still comes slowly to Jackson.
And I like that.
Easy for me to say, I realize, since I don’t have to live there.
But I like that years after my first visit, I can still count on a good southern-cooked meal at The Elite. And a friendly Southern waitress who knows every customer by name (except for me, obviously).
All my previous meals at The Elite were lunch – tenderloin, catfish or enchiladas with sides of hearty Southern vegetables.
The breakfast menu definitely trails far behind the lunch menu in variety. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits or toast. And grits, of course.
It turns out the traffic lights and the TSA agents at the airport aren’t the only ones taking their sweet time in Jackson – I almost missed my 8:15am meeting because it took so long for my breakfast to make its way to my booth.
Nope. Nobody is in a hurry in Mississippi. Except me, that is.
My waitress apologized and explained that it took a while to heat up the griddle. Apparently, I was the first customer of the day to order pancakes.
After tasting them, I could see why.
The melted butter and homemade maple syrup certainly helped, but these crumbly and dry pancakes weren’t up to shirt-buying standards.
The country sausage patties and homemade biscuits on the other hand were better than average.
And you can’t beat the price. $5 bucks for enough food to keep me full at least 36 hours.
But based on the modest menu, sparse crowd, and uninspiring pancakes, breakfast clearly isn’t the specialty of The Elite.
Next time I’m in Jackson, I’ll stick to lunch and those Southern style vegetables.
And give myself plenty of time because turnip greens and “progress” in the Old South just can’t be rushed.
Rating: Would Wear A Free Shirt.