By JACK WEATHERLY
Haute hamburgers and curated cocktails. Not exactly a classic match, but that’s just fine and dandy with Ray-Scott Miller.
In fact Fine & Dandy is the name of his new restaurant in Jackson’s District at Eastover.
There’s more than a little whimsy with the restaurant, starting with the menu, which informs the diners that they are in “Fine Ole Jackson, Mississippi.”
From the list of curated cocktails, I chose de la Mississippienne, made with Rittenhouse rye, sherry, absinthe, yellow chartreuse liqueur and Peychaud’s bitters.
The menu describes it as “boozy.” Mais oui. Et delicieux.
(Sorry, certain menus set loose my limited college French.)
Next time, I might try a Farish Street Colada made with Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka. No translation needed there for locals.
The menu includes “Adult Shakes” with a touch of alcohol.
And “One More Drink”: the F-Bomb made with cold brew coffee and a shot of Fernet Branca on the side, presumably providing the F.
On to the food.
For a snack (appetizer, if you like), I chose Crab Z’Herbes Dip in a six-inch iron skillet, while my wife had Fine Deviled Eggs with smoked trout caviar, dill and shallots.
I had to have one of the burgers. After all, I already had had a cocktail. And what are you gonna do after a cocktail but chow down on America’s sandwich?
Cooked medium, as I had asked, it provided a surprise, for me, beyond The Standard’s lettuce, tomato, onions and mayo.
I am a salt fan. But as I took a bite and then a second, I discovered that I didn’t want to add salt.
So was it salty? No. I have to assume it was simply well-seasoned.
Jill had the Cap’n Catfish sandwich with generous delecata filets from Simmons Catfish of Yazoo City. The sandwich had its own pleasant surprise: pickled raisins.
Miller brought in Jesse Houston, formerly head chef at Saltine, which turned heads in the James Beard and Bon Appetit worlds.
His mixology counterpart is Jonathan Webb, bar manager, who, after graduating from Millsaps with a degree in studio art, decided that his post-graduate studies in religion and art didn’t do it for him, that crafting cocktails did, according to Miller.
Miller recruited Hospitality Director Marissa Marino from North Carolina because of her fine-dining background, he said.
Together, they have formed what owner Miller, owner of Miller Hospitality, describes as a “classy burger joint.”
Miller Hospitality built out the restaurant from the shell provided by the developers of District at Eastover.
Wier Boerner Allin Architecture of Jackson did the overall design, while Mary Sanders Ferriss of Ferris and Co. designed the interior. Ferriss’ portfolio includes all the Babalu Tacos and Tapas.
The décor is both modern – airy and open – and generically traditional, the latter including “family portraits.”
Hung just inside the entry are portraits of real but unknown “family” members. The wallpaper has a toile effect, with Jackson landmarks. If you notice that the pattern is “running downhill,” that’s intentional, Miller said. When the paper was on the square it looked too much like stripes, not the eccentric slant they were going for, Miller said.
The staff scoured the country looking for china and water glasses that were of a certain era, Miller said.
Miller calls the overall effect “grandma chic.”
The patio accommodates diners comfortably during good weather, of which there was plenty during the soft-opening last week, leading up to the grand opening Tuesday of the 5,300-square-foot eatery with its 185-seat capacity.
It overlooks the small “village green” that separates Fine & Dandy from Cantina Laredo, the modern-Mexican fare restaurant that opened in late July in the mixed-use development east of Interstate 55 in Jackson between Eastover Drive and Meadowbrook Road.
Miller said his company, which owns four Newk’s franchises, plans to shift its focus to building other independent restaurants, though not necessarily from the same mould as Fine & Dandy.
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