Travel advice for Jackson, MS please!
February 6, 2017 1:17 PM   Subscribe

Hi everyone! I'm going to be traveling to Jackson, Mississippi a few times in the next month. I am a special snowflake traveler and could use some advice about food and other things.

Food: I am a vegetarian with allergies to gluten and soy. I love tacos, Indian, Middle Eastern, African, gluten-free pizza, places run by hippies, and anywhere I can ask questions.

Tea: I'm fine with Starbucks but like most of us I need something to turn my brain on in the morning and if there's a cool place to get tea, I would love to know about it.

What else is in Jackson? If there are cool museums or historical stuff, I would love to know about them! I also like zines, weird bookstores, and awesome LGBT bars or hangout spaces.

I will have a car.
posted by bile and syntax to Travel & Transportation around Jackson, MS (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Ooof.

I'm afraid I don't have much specific to offer other than the fact that you probably need to prepare for some disappointment. Mississippi in general isn't super friendly to LGBT folks, or people with dietary needs outside the mainstream. There's a local coffee/tea chain (Cups), but I have no idea if you'll find them acceptable (their coffee's not so great) -- it's probably worth checking out anyway.

That said, Jackson, in its capacity as the "city" in Mississippi, does have a surprisingly good art museum downtown, and pretty much everything there (at least near downtown and Fondren) is pretty old and steeped in history, and the city generally is enjoying a pleasant upsurge in fine or interesting dining.

The Jackson Free Press is probably a good resource for you, and might have jumping off points for more specific queries.
posted by uberchet at 1:30 PM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm from MS -- I was born in Jackson, in fact -- and I've been a vegetarian most of my life. I'll start with this: when you go to a regular meat & 3 type lunch place, order the vegetable plate (which will be 4 sides instead of 3) and do not ask what else is in the vegetables. Especially the green beans. They will be delicious and taste very smoky. Even liberals in Mississippi have to learn to not ask certain questions.

You will probably feel most comfortable in the Fondren area, which is the closest thing Jackson has to a cool hip little neighborhood, and has beautiful historic homes. Rainbow Co-op is the health food store, with a vegetarian restaurant section (I personally have never tried the food). There is a planetarium downtown, of all things, and although it was a little down at heels when I was last there, I would love to check it out again.

Jackson, culturally, is not the best our state has to offer, but mainly just because it is boring, not menacing. It's an edge city without the city. Mississippians are much better people than the state legislature would have you believe, and on an individual basis you will find us warm and human. You may see stickers in business windows with rainbow stripes and "If you're buying, we're selling," and they may not be the businesses you'd think to make such a statement.

Good luck! If you get a chance to ride around to a Delta town or to Oxford, though, take it!
posted by Countess Elena at 1:47 PM on February 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Glad the Countess remembered the co-op's name!

She (?) mentions the stickers, but just so we're super clear: they were in response to a bill passed or proposed designed to allow folks to deny service to LBGT folks; lots of businesses decided to be affirmatively welcoming, in part to shame the bigoted ones who refused the suggestion that they put up signs saying who they intended to exclude.

There's also a really, really great bookstore called Lemuria not super far from downtown. Seriously, it's no-kidding better and bigger than anything I can boast of here in HOUSTON, which has twice as many folks as the whole STATE of Mississippi. Check it out.
posted by uberchet at 1:54 PM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Eudora Welty's house is open to the public.
posted by brujita at 2:08 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As a point of interest for touring/sightseeing, take a look at the Natchez Trace.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:57 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Well! Strange question. What can I tell you, hmm.... (grew up there, still visit family)

1. Taking the aforementioned meat and three advice in hand, Two Sisters downtown is my favorite southern food joint anywhere.

2. Don't laugh: the natural science museum near LeFleur's bluff is surprisingly good. I went with my sister's kids over Christmas and enjoyed myself a lot. It obviously isn't that big, nor does it have the most amazing stuff everywhere, but it is full of lots of love and care for the state wildlife. I'd go again in a heartbeat.

What other local stuff can I recommend.... Lemuria is indeed a legit bookstore...

There was a concrete gorilla in a yard in eastover when I was in high school. That was often a weekend highlight.

Oh, follow the local politics if you have time. There's almost always something crazy going on.
posted by billjings at 9:33 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Speaking of Mississippi bookstores, by the by, Square Books in Oxford is worth the trip over a weekend. It's my favorite bookstore in the world so far.

And Oxford is nice, too.
posted by billjings at 9:36 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

My SO has told me there are a lot of good restaurants in Jackson (I would never have guessed). At one time she spent a month or two a year there for work and much preferred it to most of the other places her travel took her. Maybe she'll reply with some actual advice of her own.

Sadly, the one time I had a couple of days there I was unable to enjoy the restaurant she insisted we go to because I was all stuffed up and generally not in a position to be able to taste anything, and my other visit was just a 6 or 7 hour road trip sleep stop.
posted by wierdo at 10:15 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: First, the bad news. Aside from the co-op, there are no obvious options for most of your food restrictions and preferences in Jackson. People are by no means backwards or uncultured there, but my sense is that they hear those kinds of dietary requests pretty rarely, and might not be prepared to accommodate them. My impression was also that it's pretty hard for restaurants and grocery stores to get unusual foods because of how out of the way it is- produce in the grocery stores was usually kind of a bummer. I can't recall seeing a single person whom I'd describe as a hippie the entire time I lived there. There also isn't much of an immigrant population to support most of the cuisine types you mentioned.

That said, there are some pretty rad spots. And there's a Whole Foods (believe it or not) if you can't find other food options!

Deep South Pops is an awesome, new popsicle-beer-coffee shop. Starbucks is pretty out of the way (I think the closest one is in Target if I remember correctly) so Cups and Deep South Pops are your main options unless there's a spot downtown that I don't know about.

The Mississippi Farmers Market is great. My friend sells fermented stuff there- kombucha and kimchi. Tell her I sent ya but don't buy honey from the guy outside the door (long story).

Aladdin is really good for Mediterranean, and cheap!

The art museum is pretty fabulous and has a permanent collection of MS artists. I've also heard good things about the Smith Robertson Museum. You can also tour the capitol building.

Seconding the Eudora Welty house if you're into her books (or really, even if you're not but appreciate literary history). You can tour Medgar Evers' home but it's kind of ad hoc so call the number way ahead of time. The Manship house tour is also an option, although I've never been so I can't vouch for it.

Check out Fondren First Thursday if you're there at the right time. Fondren is the closest you'll get to a hipster neighborhood.

The Apothecary is a "secret" bar through a back door inside Brent's Drugs (which is pretty decent itself, despite the very slow service).

Also seconding that a drive to the Delta (or New Orleans, which is the same distance away) might be worthwhile for cool museums and historical stuff. Definitely check out the Abita Mystery House, which is maybe an hour and a half away, if you go south.

Jackson is more progressive than you might expect. It's a diverse, Democratic city. We came out in droves to protest at the governor's mansion against the LGBT discrimination bill, including tons of out LGBT folks. That was a bill in the state legislature, which tends to be in opposition to the politics of Jackson as a city.

Bonus tip. Don't forget to say "sir" and ma'am" before you say "yes" or "no" or you'll be treated as if you're rude.
posted by quiet coyote at 12:40 AM on February 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

(I think the coyote means to suggest that "yes sir" and "no ma'am" are still considered a normal part of conversation and etiquette in Jackson, and that adopting the usage while there will go a long way, especially when dealing with people older than you.)
posted by uberchet at 5:35 AM on February 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yes, thanks for clarifying. Also I definitely meant after instead of before.
posted by quiet coyote at 8:05 AM on February 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

We made a weekend trip to Jackson last year specifically to see an exhibit at the art museum downtown. We are at Saltine and it was one of the best meals ever. One of is vegetarian, but I can't speak to the vegan part. The staff was excellent and we asked a lot of questions. The surrounding neighborhood was very up-to-date urban, so I would recommend checking that out.
posted by raisingsand at 10:06 AM on February 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Saltine is in the Fondren area mentioned uptopic, and I can confirm that it is delicious. ESPECIALLY if you like oysters.
posted by uberchet at 10:50 AM on February 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so much, everyone! Metafilter has been absolutely the best for travel advice, and especially for smaller cities like Jackson. You are all wonderful!
posted by bile and syntax at 7:03 AM on February 11, 2017

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