More than 50 years go, Mike Ilitch was poised for major-league glory. An up-and-coming shortstop for the Detroit Tigers, his baseball finesse was blossoming when an injury derailed his sports career. But although the wound stunted his athletic aspirations, it steered him toward a new path, and on May 8, 1959, he and his wife opened the first Little Caesars location, a then-unheard-of carry-out-only joint. The career shift and novel technique eventually proved triumphant. Today, the pizzeria's iconic, toga-clad mascot adorns storefronts on five continents. In each shop, staffers forge the signature Hot-N-Ready pizza, a freshly baked pizza designed for instant pickup, and warm, garlicky Crazy bread. With a storied half century under their belt, Mike Ilitch and his family strive to give back, supporting local organizations and creating their own charitable programs.
The burgers at Cool Al's aren't fast food. Each patty is made to order, so the preparation takes a bit longer than standard drive-thru food or reconstituted astronaut burgers. These are worth the wait, though; the spot, formerly known as Stamps Superburgers, has garnered praise from local press as well as national publications such as Southern Living.
Cool Al's kitchen crew sculpts ground turkey or beef into patties that range in size from 5 to 15 ounces, and they blend ingredients such as habanero peppers or chopped bacon directly into the meat to intensify the flavor of every bite. There are plenty of meatless options, too, including a Jamaican black-bean burger infused with fresh ginger and a West African black-eyed-pea burger paired with a spicy ginger-tomato sauce. To concoct their signature side dish, the cooks fashion Mississippi-grown sweet potatoes into chips before dusting the slices with salt and pepper or cinnamon and sugar.
Fresh dough flattens into a circle, crackling gently and browning slightly from heat. This from-scratch tortilla forms the base for the dishes on the Jaco's Tacos menu. Vegetables and meats, which have never been frozen or even seen snow, load up each wrapper, giving it the shape of a burrito, taco, or fajita. Mojave pork and grilled shrimp festoon mexican pizzas built on the warm tortillas and smothered in traditional ingredients. On tables, cool rings of condensation form, ghosts of where margaritas rested. Chatter rises up, past exposed-brick walls and a perimeter of greenery, which converts carbon dioxide from the open windows into oxygen and compliments from botanists. On select evenings, live music thrums beneath the din of conversation and the crunching of crispy tortillas.
Two Sister's Kitchen whips up its signature fried chicken?lauded by Travel Channel and Food & Wine magazine as among the best in the country?in the kitchen of a historic home built in 1902. Six days a week, buffets and chafing dishes serve catfish, cornbread, biscuits, tomato gravy, and other Southern eats. Tables draped in flowered cloths fill the house's cozy dining rooms, and wrought-iron furniture crowns the outdoor patio. The front porch looks out at the capitol building, which serves as a reminder to abide the law about chewing with your mouth closed.
A local favorite, Stamps Superburger took third place in the Jackson Free Press’s Best of Jackson 2012 competition, winning accolades in both the Best Local Burger and Best Fries category. The original Superburger is a 12-ounce beef patty topped with lettuce, tomato, and pickles, but diners can customize theirs with an assortment of additional toppings including four kinds of cheese, grilled onions, and chili. Chefs will also swap in a turkey burger or substitute a really nice edited photo of a 6-ounce beef patty for lighter appetites. Orders of fresh-cut fries round out the meal—choose from lemon-pepper or Cajun seasoning or sweet potato fries.
Fried green tomatoes, cheese grits, and other classic Southern sides jazz up plates of upscale fare at The Copper Iris Catering Company, named for a metallically hued spring flower native to the Mississippi coastline. Sunlight streams through broad, front windows by day, and music performances send sound bouncing off the historic building's exposed brick walls on many nights. When not working together on the latest iteration of the seasonally rotating menu, owner Jonathan Lee and chef Olivia White often appear in person to advise guests on which dishes will best match their self-provided beverages—Copper Iris is BYOB—or carefully coordinated napkin rings.