By JACK WEATHERLY
Bon Appétit has named Saltine at 622 Duling in Jackson as one of the Best New Restaurants in 2015.
Compiled by the magazine’s editor, Andrew Knowlton, the annual award honors innovative cooking at the top 50 new restaurants in America. The seafood restaurant and oyster bar, which opened a year ago, will find out Aug. 18 if it made the magazine’s Hot 10 – and whether it is the overall winner – when the September issue hits newsstands.
“Raw, wood-fired, fried: You can have your oysters pretty much any way imaginable at this seafood heaven,” Knowlton said in a news release. “Jesse Houston’s nautical takeover . . . of a former elementary school has become a hangout for Fondren District locals, who sit at the long bar, slurping down $1 oysters on the half shell during happy hour and sipping one of the 30 beers on tap.
“Soon families arrive, and the place starts to feel like the coolest after-school program in town. Textbook po’boys, over-stuffed with roast beef, fried chicken, or fried catfish, could more than hold their own in nearby New Orleans. Want to order like a local? Try Houston’s famous-around-these-parts pork cracklins with house french onion dip and salmon caviar.”
Houston said the honor is “kind of mind-blowing. We’re included on a list with some huge restaurants. It’s kind of surreal.”
Houston, owner and executive chef, rattled off a list of restaurants and chefs on the Bon Appétit list that have been inspirational and helpful to him.
The timing of the Top 50 honor comes as the restaurant prepares for a first-anniversary celebration on Aug. 23, including an oyster-eating contest, said Houston, 34, who started working in restaurants when he was 15.
“We’d like to open up another Saltine. It’s being talked about.”
Knowlton said that while quality of the food is paramount, he also considers every aspect of the eatery, from its commitment to service, to its lighting and design – noting Saltine’s octopus mural.
Saltine is the only restaurant in Mississippi included on Bon Appétit’s list this year. Other Southern nominees include Shaya in New Orleans, Biscuit Love in Nashville, The Grey in Savannah, and Gardner in Austin. For the full “Best New Restaurants 2015” list, visit bonappetit.com/top50.