Walker's Drive-In is a Mississippi Classic
Old Capitol Museum…Lamar Life Building…Governor’s Mansion…Greyhound Bus Station…Capri Theatre…Walker’s Drive In… you can’t mention one of these recognizable and beloved Jackson landmarks without adding the famous Fondren restaurant to the list. It’s been a beloved part of the Jackson landscape for over 70 years; a small, but colorful neon aqua building with pink signage filled with charm, satisfied diners, and of course, delicious food.
Don’t let the name fool you. You won't get your food handed to you through a window. Walker’s cozy dining room is regularly filled with an eclectic mix of scrub-wearing medical students, white jacketed physicians, young professionals, and retirees. They've entered the restaurant highlighted with black and white checkerboard floors, artwork, and cozy leather booths and tables for a reason that transcends the ambiance of this legendary space: outstanding food.
Sure, the charming space looks like it would fit into almost any decade of the past. But ambiance aside, the majority of diners come for everything from fresh seafood to creative salads to Walker’s signature dish, Redfish Anna, and in the evening, mouth-watering, sizzling steaks.
Walker’s has maintained its ranking as one of Jackson’s oldest and long-lasting restaurants for a number of reasons. Its prime location in the heart of Fondren near hospitals, offices, and residential areas may have something to do with its longevity. And, as mentioned, the comfort and charm of the neighborhood diner by day and elegant restaurant after dark may have something to do with its staying power.
But having renowned chef and restaurateur Derek Emerson as its owner for many years is most likely is the overriding reason Walker’s has continued to stay at the top of its game. Emerson kept the best of Walker’s classic dishes and put his personal spin on fresh, local ingredients to create unique, healthy, and delicious dishes for both the lunch and dinner menus.
On my most recent visit to Walker’s, my waiter casually mentioned that crews from the Food Network and the Travel Channel’s Food Paradise show had recently traveled to Mississippi to visit Jackson’s legendary restaurant. I was curious to know the dishes they selected. Among their choices – naturally, Redfish Anna was on the list.
It’s a succulent redfish topped with lump crabmeat, garlic, sautéed thin beans, and charred tomato lemon butter. Due to popular demand, it’s offered as a lunch ($21) and dinner ($33) entrée.
As I perused the lunch menu, I was tempted to order the signature redfish. However, I wasn’t sure if I was up to the task of tackling the large dish, so my waiter suggested the smaller grilled redfish sandwich ($16). As I took a bite of the savory sandwich filled with grilled redfish, Applewood smoked bacon, red onions, lettuce, tomato, and the perfect finishing touch, basil aioli, I knew I’d made the right choice. With a side of fries and a glass of iced tea, it’s the perfect Southern lunch.
Other sandwiches include the gulf shrimp po’boy ($14.50), fried green tomato BLT ($11), Southwest turkey ($11), and LD’s chicken salad ($10), to name a few. There’s also the Walker’s Burger ($9) and a turkey burger ($9.50) All sandwiches and burgers are fully dressed and served with house cut fries.
Walker’s offers a daily blue-plate special ($11) with a different entrée each day (red beans and rice, baked and fried chicken, and fried catfish are a few of the selections) along with two vegetables and a salad.
Besides Redfish Anna (pictured left), lunch entrees are Walker’s tamales ($15) and crab and chips ($21). This dish comes with a jumbo lump crab cake, French fries, and slaw, highlighted with Walker’s charred tomato lemon butter.
Salads are another option and range from herb grilled chicken summer salad ($14) to Cajun fried chicken ($12) to Walker’s Cobb Caesar ($15).
The food and ambiance are amazing during the day, but when the sun goes down, Walker’s kicks things up a notch. The lights are low, setting the stage for enhanced ambiance and even more creative dishes, including the steaks for which Walker’s is equally famous.
For starters, unique appetizers like crispy pork belly Niman Ranch ($15) have intriguing descriptions and ingredients, including “forbidden black rice, Napa peanut slaw, soft poached egg and Asian barbecue.” Also on the appetizers list are foie gras Hudson Valley ($21), crispy fried lobster skewers ($21), flash fried calamari ($12), and breadless jumbo lump crab cakes ($19).
Salads include Asian Three Way ($12, grilled peach and whipped ricotta ($11), Walker’s house ($8 for whole), and BLT wedge ($9 for whole).
All of these and other preludes and lighter meals are delicious, but it’s the main courses that attract Walker’s after-dark diners.
You can’t go wrong with one of Walker’s famous steaks. The wood grilled Wagyu hanger steak ($38) is topped with roasted Mississippi chanterelle mushrooms and comes with truffle parmesan fries.
The eight-ounce center cut aged Hereford filet ($36) is highlighted by a bacon-cheddar mash, asparagus, crispy onions, and a red wine sauce.
There’s also the Colorado double cut lamb chops ($42), pan seared grouper ($32), crusted tuna ($30), crab, artichoke and parmesan crusted “gigged” flounder ($29), veal and lobster Kathy ($32), and, as mentioned, Redfish Anna with lump crab meat.
A variety of sides in the $5-$10 range include shrimp and feta risotto, crispy onion strings, pepper Jack grits and truffle fries are perfect accompaniments to these entrees and others on the eclectic menu.
Like any Jackson landmark, it’s a shame to allow tourists to experience it more often than Mississippians do. If you haven’t sampled one of our culinary treasures, Walker’s Drive-In, it’s time that you do.
Walker’s is located at 3016 N. State Street. Hours of operation are: lunch, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., Monday-Friday and dinner, 5:30 p.m. – until, Monday-Saturday.
Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are encouraged for dinner and for lunch or dinner parties of 10 or more. Call 601-982-2633 to make reservations.