The longevity of some restaurants is measured in a few years or a decade or two at most. This Jackson landmark restaurant continues to create memories of delicious meals while passing through generations of families like a treasured keepsake. Opened in downtown Jackson in 1935 by George Kountouris and John Gouras, the Mayflower Café is one of, if not, the oldest restaurant in Jackson. It has reigned supreme at the corner of West Capitol and Roach Streets for over 80 years and is one of those “you have to experience it” Jackson eateries.
Specialty dishes like broiled redfish with lump crab meat, veal cutlets with cream sauce, and succulent steaks attract after-dark attendees of arts and cultural events in downtown Jackson. Blue plate specials draw a steady lunch crowd composed of regulars as well as visitors to the old-school café complete with the same cozy interior highlighted with tile floors, glass mosaics, and a line of center tables surrounded by leather booths hugging the walls.
Stop by at night, and the ambiance is further enhanced by the Mayflower’s iconic fluorescent sign atop a shimmering marque-like awning that has been lighting the way for diners to stop in and dine in a family-like atmosphere since the previous century.
The Mayflower began as a hamburger stand started by a pair of Greek immigrants and friends from the Orthodox island of Patmos. A few years later, the Mayflower grew into a full-service restaurant. The original menu contained sandwiches, Greek items, and soul food. Over time, the menu was streamlined to spotlight the now-classic standards like broiled redfish, stuffed flounder, and the Mayflower Greek Salad with fresh lump crab meat.
However, don’t get the mistaken opinion that these are the only items on the menu. To get your Mayflower meal started, there’s shrimp Mayflower served with the restaurant’s famous homemade remoulade sauce, eggplant Josephine, broiled oysters, fried crab claws, homemade onion rings, shrimp cocktail, crab cakes, shrimp and oysters, and fried calamari. Or, try seafood gumbo, Greek salad, seafood salad supreme, and crab bisque.
When it’s time to order an entrée, I usually select the Mayflower’s famous veal cutlets with cream sauce. This dish has been satisfying guests for decades, and it shows no signs of wearing out its welcome. It’s perfectly breaded, lightly fried to a golden crisp, and topped with thick, rich gravy. In short, old-school comfort food at its finest.
Other choices are grilled chicken breast, broiled pork chops, rib-eyes, sirloin steak, filet mignon, and shrimp, chicken, or seafood pasta.
The Mayflower is known for its selection and preparation of fresh seafood. It’s hard to select one when there’s redfish filet and redfish Orleans with soft shell crab, stuffed shrimp, broiled whole flounder, jumbo soft shell crabs, sea scallops, catfish, oysters, and jumbo shrimp prepared a variety of ways on the menu. Or, sample the Akropolis Special filled with broiled redfish with crabmeat, shrimp, and oysters.
However, the Mayflower is much more than seafood and steaks. Stop by for lunch and you’ll be hard-pressed to pick from among the burgers, sandwiches, and blue plate special offerings. Sample the Mayflower club, feta-burger, steak or oyster poboy, or a heartier lunch courtesy of hamburger steak with onions and gravy, broiled pork chop, chicken fried steak with brown gravy and fries, and, of course, my favorite, veal cutlet.
No restaurant with Greek roots would be caught serving anything less than outstanding baklava, and neither would the Mayflower. A tried-and-true, authentic baklava has delighted generations of diners. The dessert menu also includes lemon ice box pie, cheesecake, homemade pies and bread pudding and brownies.
The Mayflower Café is located at 123 W. Capitol St. in Jackson. Hours are Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch; 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. for dinner; open for dinner only on Saturday, 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Closed on Sunday