While the longevity of many restaurants is measured in months or a few years, one Jackson restaurant continues to create memories while passing through generations of the same family like heirloom jewelry. Family members are still running Hal & Mal’s, a restaurant started at 200 Commerce St. in 1985 by brothers Hal and Malcolm White. The restaurant’s presence in a cul-de-sac of sorts off State Street delights newcomers and loyal customers, some of whom consider the sprawling brick building packed with interesting people and delicious food their home away from home.
Its popularity began when news spread that Hal & Mal’s was the place to enjoy live music, run in to almost everybody you know, and sample amazing gumbo, red beans and rice, tamales, and seafood, among many other creative offerings.
Those same favorite dishes continue to satisfy original customers and their offspring. As much as things change, it seems like they stay the same at Hal & Mal’s. While the menu has increased in size and been altered here and there, most of the dishes customers have been enjoying for decades are still offered, including Friday’s specialty, seafood bisque.
The downtown stalwart has continued to thrive by adhering to the White’s legacy of family traditions, familiar décor, and an abundance of good food. Migrating with other downtown restaurants to the suburbs has never been an option for members of the White family. Dining at Hal & Mal’s is the quintessential “downtown Jackson experience.” If you’ve never been, I highly recommend adding it to your culinary bucket list.
To get your meal started, nothing says “old Jackson” like comeback sauce and crackers ($3). Dipping crispy saltines into the tangy dressing while sitting at a cozy, timeworn table or booth, or in the courtyard and people watching, is an amazing way to pass the time while waiting on your meal.
Other appetizers include Hal’s soup du jour ($5-cup/$6.25-bowl), beef tamales ($5-$15), bayou gumbo ($5-cup/$6.25 bowl), cheese nachos ($7.25-$8), Friday seafood bisque ($5.74-cup/$7-bowl), fries with dipping sauce ($2), stuffed jalapeños ($7.50), and combo fried platter ($15).
If a burger is calling your name, it can be adequately answered at Hal & Mal’s. Grilled burgers range from the Better Burger ($7.75), “Diddy Wah Diddy” ($15) made to your specifications, bacon cheese ($8.75), and free press veggie ($7.75), to name a few.
Sandwiches named for famous people and places are hand-made and delicious. A sample includes the Decatur Street muffaletta ($7.75-$20), Michael Rubenstein ($9.25), downtown club ($9.75), southern fried chicken ($8.25), chicken-fried steak ($9.25), and Aunt Voncil’s spicy pimento cheese and bacon ($5).
Also on the menu are po’boys filled with shrimp, hot roast beef, catfish, oyster, shrimp, and sausage (ranging from $9.25-$12).
Hal & Mal’s is famous for its down-home and utterly delicious blue plate specials and entrées with accompanying sides. Selections include the restaurant’s famous red beans and rice ($9.25), hamburger steak ($13.50), catfish ($20), shrimp platter ($21.25), chicken zita ($14.75), and seafood platter ($22.50).
For those eating light, a variety of fresh salads is on the menu, ranging from Greek ($7.50) to fried chicken salad ($10).
No visit to Hal & Mal’s is complete without a slice of chocolate or key lime pie, or bread pudding with hot whiskey sauce ($4.50-$5).
Hal & Mal’s offers catering, event spaces, and musical entertainment. Check out the complete lineup on their website: www.halandmals.com.
Hours of operation are Monday, 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Friday, 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m., Saturday, 6 – 10:30 p.m., and closed on Sunday.