Walker’s Drive-In, Jackson
We’re happy to see Walker’s Drive-In reopened. Walker’s is one of those places that we frequented as teenagers when we backed the ivory ’51 Chevy Bel Aire (complete with lowering blocks and fender skirts) into the parking space against the back fence and had Cokes (in the original six-ounce bottle) along with burgers served on a window tray brought out by one of the cute carhops. We had an ongoing institution, that the possessor of Coke bottle — remember the city-of-origin was always on the bottom of the bottle in those days — from the most distant location got his or her meal at the expense of the others in the car (which sometimes exceeded the intended maximum of six passengers).
Walker’s has come a long way. It is no longer a drive-in (even though it still retains its original name) but the food has improved tremendously and it is not only a very popular neighborhood restaurant but one of the most popular B.Y.O.B. spots in the city, where only a very few remain.
As it has continued through several owners, Walker’s has two distinct personalities. The blue-plate lunch special is down-home fare and is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is normally priced at $5.50 with the exception of Friday’s salmon croquets which are listed at $6.25. This includes salad, two veggies, cornbread and drink.
The evening bill of fare differs tremendously. First there are several appetizers from which to choose. These include such items as grilled shrimp kabobs, seared tuna, shrimp and lump crabmeat over pasta, crawfish fritters with red cabbage marmalade, tri-nut pesto stuffed mushrooms and chicken satay with pad Thai dipping sauce. Our favorite is the crawfish fritters with the red cabbage marmalade which also come with angel-hair pasta. It is priced at $5.95 and is excellent. The red cabbage marmalade nicely complements the fritters which are replete with crawfish while the perfectly-cooked angel hair simply helps to bind the flavors together.
There is a soup of the priced at $2.50 a cup and $4 a bowl.
Entrees include grilled shrimp over angel-hair pasta, shrimp and lump crabmeat served over angel hair with a light Alfredo sauce, Thai fried noodles with shrimp sesame sauce and ginger, grilled or sauteed Redfish Anna with lump crabmeat and hollandaise sauce, herb-roasted salmon filet, pan-seared sesame-crusted tuna with ginger-orange sauce, grilled filet of beef tenderloin with caramelized onions and roasted mushrooms in a rosemary and tomato sauce and sauteed medallions of beef over spinach with Roquefort Mornay sauce. Entrees are priced from $14.95 to $21.
The redfish Anna is our favorite dish on the menu. Our filet was grilled to a perfect turn-nicely crusted along the edges while still very moist and flaky in the center. It was topped with lump crabmeat and some wonderfully grilled large shrimp. One has the option of having the redfish sauteed as well.
The grilled filet of beef tenderloin comes in two sizes. The small is prized at $18 and the large at $21.
Service was above average but when the miniscule dining room fills to capacity, expect some delays, lapses and waits. We thought they were marginally understaffed for the full house we experienced on one of our visits.
Save room for dessert. Both the raspberry moussecake and the bread pudding are excellent.
As for the atmosphere, the inside is much the same as it was some forty-five years ago when Walker’s was one of our haunts. The counter remains intact and those counter stools are probably the same ones we used back in the early fifties.
Walker’s Drive-In is located at 3016 North State Street in Jackson. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday; from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed all day on Sunday and on Monday evenings. Limited handicap accessibility. Major credit cards accepted. Price expensive. Telephone: 982-2633.
Rooster’s II, Ridgeland
Let’s do lunch at Rooster’s where, according to the menu, “Life’s a Grill.” We’re talking Rooster’s II in Ridgeland where we enjoyed some mighty fine ribs the other day. The half rack along with some good baked beans, adequate cole slaw and your choice of rather run-of-the-mill fries or onion rings, some toasted French bread and your drink came to a modest $8.95 per plate. The ribs were falling-off-the-bone tender and as moist and tasty as any we’ve had of late anywhere in the Capital City. They were meaty enough that we had sufficient to eat without most of the side dishes, which we merely tasted for the experience. If you are a big eater, then you’ll probably want to opt for the whole rack. Rooster’s has come a long way since the days of those all-you-could-eat beef ribs that were mostly bone.
Rooster’s hamburger is no slouch either. Opt for the bacon-cheese on a jalapeno-cheddar bun. The six-ounce burgers begin at $3.50 and run through $4.25 with several options, while the half-pounders start at $4.60 and end at $5.10. Choices of homemade white, wheat or jalapeno-cheddar buns are provided. We gave the burger an eight on our scale of 10. Chili is both a burger and a side option.
A children’s menu is available.
The atmosphere is rustic and casual in this self-serve eatery where one goes to the counter to order and pick up the food after one’s number has been called.
Rooster’s is located in the Log Village on U.S. Hwy. 51 in Ridgeland (across from Thomastown). Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday. Limited handicap accessibility. No credit cards accepted. Telephone: 853-1014.
Bill Patrick’s column appears every other week in the Mississippi Business Journal. He has written extensively about restaurants for more than a dozen years and has served in the kitchen, dining room, behind the bar and as a food service inspector.