New Crazy Cat Gets Chef Gary Hawkins Stamp
It’s not every day that a highly anticipated restaurant like the new Crazy Cat Eat-Up opens in Jackson. When it does I’m always torn between waiting until they have all the kinks worked out or rushing in to try some food that has been a long time coming. When Chef Gary Hawkins told me he was leaving 1908 Provisions at the Fairview Inn, I couldn’t wait; I knew we’d be in for a treat when he was able to open his restaurant with his concept and his stamp on it.
“…when Craig Noone asked him to help open his beloved Parlor Market, Gary joined the original cast there along with names like Jesse Houston, Ryan Bell, Reynolds Boykin and others.”
Gary Hawkins moved to Jackson around 10 years ago to work at the Fairview Inn. The restaurant, formerly known as Sophia’s, was his first Jackson area gig; and when Craig Noone asked him to help open his beloved Parlor Market, Gary joined the original cast, along with names like Jesse Houston, Ryan Bell, Reynolds Boykin and others. Later, Gary returned to The Fairview and, after he assisted in the transformation that became the Library Lounge, he helped rebrand and relaunch Sophia’s as 1908 Provisions.
Hawkins has been courted heavily by other restaurants as far away as Virginia and as nearby as Louisiana. Ultimately, to my delight, Gary decided to stick around and join forces with his friend Jon Lansdale, the owner of the former Crazy Cat Bakers in Highland Village. Crazy Cat Bakers has enjoyed a steady crowd for years, but, much like other local businesses in Highland Village, was looking for a new place to call home.
Jon and Gary share several interests, beyond their stellar beards and the good natured temperaments. And now, they have created a brand new experience over in the Canton Mart Square shopping center – a family location that was once the Paul Anthony’s Meat Market space.
Introducing… Crazy Cat Eat Up
There’s already a boost of traffic clamoring for the new Crazy Cat Eat Up menu and experience in Canton Mart Square location during lunch service, and with dinner service opening in the coming weeks, Jackson will be treated to another great dinner option as well.
Getting Started on the New Menu
Let’s get down to the food, which, of course, is the best part. I wanted to order one of everything on the menu, but with limited time and since I was flying solo for lunch, I opted to try only a couple things on the menu.
For starters, I asked for a taste of pimento cheese, just to see what theirs is all about. It’s one of my favorites to try from restaurant to restaurant and no two in town are alike. They sent out a couple of portions on the most delightful saltine cracker I’ve had; and man I’ve gotta say, nailing a pimento cheese bite is a great way to start a new restaurant menu. It was as heavenly to the palate as it was to the eyes. I shared my sample with the table next to me who agreed with my assessment. Crazy Cat Eat-Up nailed the pimento cheese.
My Choice for Salad
Moving right along, my appetizer salad was headed to the table. I’ve always loved a beef tenderloin salad, and, for me, it’s great to get the greens with a healthy dose of protein, crunch, and, of course, a little cheese. The Steak and Spinach Salad came out as one of the most eye-pleasing dishes I’ve had brought to my table of late. Perfect mid-rare beef medallions, bright ripe tomatoes, red onion slices, deep green spinach and a bacon bourbon dressing on the side. You’ll agree; it’s a remarkable look.
The taste was dead perfect: the candied pecans and the bleu cheese paired well with the rich, tender beef and spinach. Ironically, and much to my surprise, my least favorite part of the dish was the dressing with bourbon and bacon. I love both bourbon and bacon, but the dressing didn’t quite have the punch that I was anticipating to play well with that mess of greens and rich beef. Never fear, there are lots of dressings that can be used on this salad, so try one of those!
There was something still calling my name on the menu, and while I didn’t really need to order anything else. But I wanted to do you, the reader, a favor, and just double check that what the words on the paper said were actually as good on the plate as they were to my ears. That’s why I ordered the Not your Mother’s Grilled Cheese described as melted brie and strawberry preserves on a toasted slice of crisply grilled, buttered bread.
“…melted brie and strawberry preserves on a toasted slice of crisply grilled, buttered bread. I did it for you. And yes, it’s every bit as good as it sounds.”
I did it for you, and yes, it’s every bit as good as it sounds.
I was in a blissful state as I tried each bite. The side of potato salad accompanying the sandwich was equally as good. Fantastic textures and flavors filled my mouth, and I was again reminded why I was so excited to see Crazy Cat Eat-Up open up this week.
Save Room for Dessert
After some coaxing, I was convinced to order dessert. I really didn’t have a choice; my waitress was insistent that I try the bread pudding. I caved, and one of the best bread puddings I’ve ever had appeared on my table within moments.
I could carry on about how much the top was crispy with toasted, crunchy cinnamon and sugar, and how melty and warm the middle was inside, but if you love bread pudding, all I’d have to do is tell you that you should try this one, and you’re already there. Trust me on this one. You’ll love it. I admit that I could have gone for some ice cream on top, but since I was alone, I just tasted my bites, took some photos and made notes to share.
Sometimes when you go to a new restaurant, it feels stale and heartless. It’s especially hard in restaurants that aren’t in a stand alone space to accomplish a sense of place and uniqueness for their customers, even moreso when newly opened. This struggle is often compounded by opening a restaurant in a space formerly occupied by another restaurant that moved out.
Not so in this case.
There’s a distinct buzz and vibe happening in Crazy Cat Eat Up. Its hustling servers combined with happy tables visiting audibly and sharing with the tables next to them about what they ordered (and loved) for their lunch give life to the location.
There’s definitely not been a million dollars spent on the decor, but everything about the place feels familiar and inviting, much like the owners. It’s really the perfect lunch spot atmosphere, and just the buzz this popular shopping center needed for this particular space.
How About the Service?
My server couldn’t quite figure out what I was doing with the camera on my phone at first. I think she was a little worried that I didn’t like my food when I started to photograph it before tasting the first bite. After I assured her that there was nothing wrong, we got along happily, and she wasn’t a hoverer. She did keep things refilled and she kept my meal rolling along.
So, if you are wondering should you wait or go, I’d suggest you wait no longer and grab a spot at one of their 60 or so seats. Jon and Gary will feed you well, just like they did me. Well.
>> Crazy Cat Eat-Up, formerly known as Crazy Cat Bakers, is now open and located at 1491 Canton Mart Road, Suite 12, which is inside Canton Mart Square in Jackson, Mississippi. Contact them for hours as dinner service will begin soon. Call 601-957-1441 or like them on their very engaging Facebook Page.
>> We’ve got even more Jackson, MS metro lunch ideas waiting for you.
>> Want to join us for our Lunch & Learn series with local chefs and sometimes other VIP guests? Join the Eat Jackson Fork & Knife League’s Epicurious group.