It is only fitting that the Mayflower Café is particularly well known for its “comeback sauce.” That is because the café regarded as one of Jackson’s favorite seafood restaurant has been attracting back diners now for generations.
“Many generations of hometown people have come through here,” said Mayflower Café owner Jerry Kountouris. “Parent brought their kids, who grew up and brought their kids, and now another generation is bringing their kids. This customer base has developed over generations. We know many of our customers by name.”
Most of the Greeks restaurants in the Jackson area have developed a comeback sauce, named that because it is a sauce people would come back to get over and over again. Comeback sauce is served on salads, and is used for a dipping sauce. The Mayflower Café comeback sauce has been featured on the Food Network in a program called “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.”
Located on West Capitol Street, some of those customers who have been coming back for years include many of the state’s most prominent politicians. The late Gov. Bill Waller used to eat at Mayflower Café regularly, former Gov. William Winter comes regularly, and Sen. Thad Cochran is known to enjoy a meal there.
The restaurant was founded in 1935 by the present owner’s great uncle George Kountouris, and by John Gouras, who were both from the same island in Greece. Jerry’s father, Mike, joined the restaurant at a young age and was active in the business for 70 years except during the time he served as a paratrooper in World War II.
“The restaurant was his whole life,” Kountouris said. “My dad didn’t want me in this business. He sent me to college, where I got a degree in pharmacy. But after my dad bought out the business in 1990, he asked me to join the restaurant. I told my dad I would try it a couple years, and here I am still here 22 years later. I haven’t changed the type of restaurant. I just tried to improve in some areas. Our business has consistently grown almost every year since I’ve been here.”
The specialties include fresh Gulf seafood including, shrimp, oysters, red fish, red snapper, speckled trout, grouper, fresh soft shell crab, and fresh oysters. Kountouris said customers appreciate the fact that there are no surprises. The quality of food coming out of the kitchen is always good.
It helps that many staff members have been with the restaurant for a long time. Cook Candace Hatten has been with the café for 18 years, and most of the wait staff has been there 15 plus years.
“Customers tell us we have one of the best wait staffs in the city,” Kountouris said. “I feel blessed to have them. They stay with us a long time. They feel like they work for a Jackson tradition, which is part of the reason they are still here.”
In addition to seafood entrees, other customer favorites include the salad with crabmeat, and hand-cut French fries. Both, of course, can be served with the comeback dressing.
While currently the only family member involved in the business, Kountouris expects the Mayflower Café will continue for more generations to come. He said his children, Mike and Kimberly, will probably be the next generation to take over.
More on Mayflower Café
Name of Business: Mayflower Café
Date Founded: 1935
Owner: Jerry Kountouris
Address: 123 West Capital Street
Coolest thing about business: “Consistently reliable great seafood with the best comeback sauce around”