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Best of Jackson 2020: Food

Aladdin Mediterranean Grill Photo by Seyma Bayram

Aladdin Mediterranean Grill Photo by Seyma Bayram

We here at the Jackson Free Press like to keep our focus on local: local people, local business, local food—you get the idea. There's nothing to us more local than Best of Jackson. We're officially in our 18th annual award season.

Here is who you voted as the best local people, places, food and more.

Best Ethnic Market, Best Place for Healthy Food, Best Place for Hummus, Best Vegetarian Options: Aladdin Medditerannean Grocery; Aladdin Mediterranean Grill

(730 Lakeland Drive, 601-366-6033, aladdininjackson.com)

Since 2004, Yoseph Ali's Aladdin Mediterranean Grill has been Jackson's go-to spot for healthy, meat- and vegetable-based Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. The Fondren restaurant's menu includes a wide range of dishes: beef and chicken kebabs; lamb chops; kibbeh; dips and salads, including baba ganoush, fatouche and tabbouleh; baklava. Its vegetarian options, like the famous falafel plate, and its hummus earned the restaurant multiple Best of Jackson awards this year.

Jacksonians looking to try something new or craving the taste of home can head next door to shop at Aladdin Groceries, which won Best Ethnic Market in Jackson. Customers can browse the aisles for jams (apricot, fig), grains, herbs, nuts, cheeses (feta, nabulsi, halloumi), labneh (yogurt cheese), soujouk (a popular Middle Eastern dried beef sausage), pickled vegetables, tins of stuffed grape leaves, olives, Turkish biscuits and chocolates, candies, teas, oils and much more.

The market also offers halal whole and ground beef, chicken, lamb or goat by the pound. Pro tip: Place an order in advance with Mohamed and pick it up on a Wednesday, when the weekly meat shipments come in.

Perhaps best of all is Aladdin's selection of plump medjool dates. The date palm—a sacred tree for Middle Easterners and North Africans, one the Qu'ran frequently references—bears a fruit widely considered a delicacy. Aladdin sells 5- and 11-pound boxes of the dates. Deep honey-colored and delicious, they make you wonder what was really inside of the glowing suitcase that Jules popped open in "Pulp Fiction." — Seyma Bayram

Best Ethnic Market

Finalists: Carniceria Valdez (2275 Highway 80, 601-352-6300; 6530 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-899-6992) / Mr. Chen's (5465 Interstate 55 N. Frontage Road, 601-978-1865, mrchensms.com) / Patel Brothers (1999 Highway 80 W., Suite 15, 601-353-6611; 6800 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-952-0332, patelbros.com) / Asian Market (901 Lakeland Place, Suite 6, Flowood, 769-572-7050, asianmarketflowood.com) / India Bazaar (957 Highway 80 E., Clinton, 601-272-4000, indiabazaarms.com)

Best Place for Healthy Food

Finalists: Crossroads Cafe (398 Highway 51, Ridgeland, 601-790-7141) / Kale Me Crazy (1067 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite D, Ridgeland, 601-499-0459, kalemecrazy.net) / Mama Nature's Juice Bar (655 Lake Harbour Drive, Suite 400, Ridgeland, 601-499-4936, mamanatureswellness.com) / Vitality Bowls (Franchise) (multiple locations, vitalitybowls.com) / Refill Cafe (136 S. Adams St., 601-540-7231, refillcafejackson.com)

Best Place for Hummus

Finalists: Aplos Simple Mediterranean (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 174, 601-714-8989, eataplos.com) / Athenos Greek & Lebanese Cafe (111 Colony Crossing, Suite 490, Madison, 601-605-1400, athenoscafe.com) / Keifer's (710 Poplar Blvd., 601-355-6825, keifers.net; 120 N. Congress St., 601-353-4976, keifersdowntown.com) / Krilakis Greek Gyros & Salads (207 W. Jackson St., Suite D, Ridgeland, 601-790-9463, krilakis.com) / Zeek'z House of Gyros (96 Laurel Park Drive, Flowood, 769-572-4802, zeekzdogwood.com)

Best Vegetarian Options

Finalists: BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / Mama Nature's Juice Bar (655 Lake Harbour Drive, Suite 400, Ridgeland, 601-499-4936, mamanatureswellness.com) / North South Tadka (119 Colony Crossing Way, Suite 600, Madison, 601-707-5824, northsouthtadka.com)

Best Restaurant; Best Fine Dining; Best Steak; Best Wine List/Wine Selection: Char Restaurant

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Photo courtesy Char Restaurant

(4500 Interstate 55 N. Frontage Road, 601-956-9562, charrestaurant.com)

With its extensive wine menu full of whites, reds, sparking and rose from across the world, including Argentina and Italy, it's no surprise that Jacksonians voted Char for Best Wine List/Wine Selection. No matter what your taste is, the restaurant probably has something for you, whether it's a Villa Pozzi pinot grigio by the glass or Dom Perignon Champagne by the bottle. For those who like something a little strong, try a cocktail like the Mississippi mule with Cathead honeysuckle vodka, lime, a strawberry simple syrup and ginger beer.

Char, also a winner for Best Fine Dining, Best Restaurant and Best Steak, has a menu that includes appetizers such as a crabtini with jumbo lump crab, lettuce and vinaigrette, and main dishes like the chili-rubbed Cowboy Ribeye with maitr d'butter. The restaurant has five private dining rooms that can seat anywhere from 10 to 200 people, depending on the room and type of seating. Each room has an audio-visual projector and screen. The Highland Room has two projectors and a TV behind the bar.

Char is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit jackson.charrestaurant.com. — Amber Helsel

Best Fine Dining

Finalists: BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / CAET Seafood and Oysterette (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 9015, Ridgeland, 601-321-9169, caetseafood.com) / Koestler Prime (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 6001, Ridgeland, 601-957-3753, koestlerprime.com) / Table 100 (100 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-420-4202, tableonehundred.com) / Walker's Drive In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633, walkersdrivein.com)

Best Restaurant

Finalists: Amerigo Italian Restaurant (6592 Old Canton Road, 601-977-0563; 155 Market St., Flowood, 601-992-1550, amerigo.net) / BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / Godfrey's Caribbean Restaurant (2460 Terry Road, 601-398-3602) / The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen (1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562, themanshipjackson.com) / Walker's Drive In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633, walkersdrivein.com)

Best Steak

Finalists: Ely's Restaurant & Bar (115 W. Jackson St., Suite 2E, Ridgeland, 601-605-6359, elysrestaurant.com) / Kathryn's Steaks & Seafood (6800 Old Canton Road, Suite 108, Ridgeland, 601-956-2803, kathrynssteaks.com) / Koestler Prime (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 6001, 601-957-3753, koestlerprime.com) / MM Shapley's Restaurant (868 Centre St., Ridgeland, 601-957-8000, msshapleys.com) / Tico's Steak House (1536 E County Line Road, Suite 1905, Ridgeland, 601-956-1030, ticossteakhouse.com)

Best Wine List/Wine Selection

Finalists: Amerigo Italian Restaurant (155 Market St., Flowood, 601-992-1550; 6592 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-977-0563, amerigo.net) / BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / CAET Seafood and Oysterette (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 9015, Ridgeland, 601-321-9169, caetseafood.com) / Koestler Prime (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 6001, 601-957-3753, koestlerprime.com)

Best Local French Fries; Best Hangover Food; Best Meal Under $10: Keifer's

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Keifer's Photo by Trip Burns

(710 Poplar Blvd., 601-355-6825, keifers.net; 120 N. Congress St., 601-353-4976, keifersdowntown.com)

While Keifer's is a repeat Best of Jackson winner and finalist in categories like Best French Fries and Best Hangover Food, this year Jacksonians have helped Keifer's become a finalist under a new nod: Best Geek Hangout. The restaurant has extensive seating both inside and out, so Keifer's is perfect for those who want to game on their laptops or read comic books, and it has an extensive menu that caters to everyone from college students looking for a place to eat, study and chill to people celebrating a birthday.

Of course, it wouldn't be a complete visit without getting fries from the restaurant (they are this year's winner for Best Fries, after all). Guests can choose from two types: curly and cottage, which are fried slices of a whole potato with feta dressing. If you've had a crazy night out and need some food to recover, Keifer's has you covered, from more than 10 types of gyros to salads to appetizers like pita mozz. The downtown location also has daily specials like a bacon cheeseburger and a veggie wrap, and both locations feature a soup of the day.

Keifer's in Belhaven is open Sunday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. The downtown location is open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, visit keifers.net or find the restaurant on Facebook. — Amber Helsel

Best Local French Fries

Finalists: Aplos Simple Mediterranean (4500 Interstate 55, Suite 174, 601-714-8989, eataplos.com) / CAET Seafood and Oysterette (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 9015, Ridgeland, 601-321-9169, caetseafood.com) / Fine & Dandy (100 District Blvd. E., 601-202-5050, eatdandy.com) / Rooster's (2906 N. State St., Suite 104, 601-982-2001, glennfoods.com) / Stamps Superburgers (1801 Dalton St., 601-352-4555)

Best Hangover Food

Finalists: BB'S LIVE - Bonny Blair's (1149 Old Fannin Road, Brandon, 769-447-5788) / Basil's (2906 N. State St., Suite 104, 601-982-2100; 120 N. Congress St., Suite L1, 601-944-9888) / Green Ghost Tacos (2820 N. State St., 601-487-6082; 1290 E. County Line Road, Ridgeland, 601-957-7436, greenghosttacos.com) / Rooster's (2906 N. State St., Suite 104, 601-982-2001, glennfoods.com) / Shucker's Oyster Bar (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105, shuckersontherez.com)

Best Meal Under $10

Finalists: Aladdin Mediterranean Grill (730 Lakeland Drive, 601-366-6033, aladdininjackson.com) / Basil's (2906 N. State St., Suite 104, 601-982-2100; 120 N. Congress St., Suite L1, 601-944-9888) / Beatty Street Grocery (101 Beatty St., 601-355-0514) / Bully's Restaurant (3118 Livingston Road, Suite 6103, 601-362-0484) / Green Ghost Tacos (2820 N. State St., 601-487-6082; 1290 E. County Line Road, Ridgeland, 601-957-7436, greenghosttacos.com)

Best Local Fried Chicken; Best Lunch Counter or Buffet; Best Soul Food: Mama Hamil's Southern Cookin' & BBQ

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Photo courtesy Mama Hamil's Southern Cookin' & BBQ

(751 Highway 51, Madison, 601-856-4407, hamils.com)

When my mom visited from Montana, Mama Hamil's was one of the dining places that offered a tasteful and memorable introduction to the state. The restaurant has a down-home quality where the customer can feel a sense of warmth and comfort when stepping inside the log walls. The tables and food are laid out in a way to suggest serious eating will take place once the customers enter and take an assessment of their surroundings while figuring out which home-cooked food will be first on the plate.

The restaurant's namesake comes from the Hamil family, who founded the establishment in 1977. Highway 51 in Madison has been the home of the restaurant since its creation, although the original spot was a small cabin with a maximum capacity of 50 people, and now the current building is situated behind that cabin.

The restaurant boasts a private event space, catering and delivery service within a 20-mile area.

The current manager, Bob Hamil, assumed management control in 1994 and inherited the recipes from his grandmother. Like many business owners and cooks, Hamil learned the labor and attention to detail that accompanies food preparation and preservation as well. He would watch his grandmother use vegetables from the garden and his grandfather butcher a hog. This early introduction to what we might now label as farm-to-table engendered a love of cooking to the young Hamil. — Mike McDonald

Best Local Fried Chicken

Finalists: Local 463 Urban Kitchen (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 5002, Ridgeland, 601-707-7684, local463.com) / Lou's Full-Serv (904B E. Fortification St., Suite B, 601-487-6359, lousfullserv.com) / Primos Cafe (2323 Lakeland Drive, Flowood, 601-936-3398; 515 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-898-3600; 201 Baptist Drive, Madison, 601-853-3350, primoscafe.com) / Rooster's (2906 N. State St., Suite 104, 601-982-2001, glennfoods.com) / The Gathering at Livingston (106 Livingston Church Road, Flora, 601-667-4282, livingstonmercantile.com)

Best Lunch Counter or Buffet

Finalists: Brent's Drugs (655 Duling Ave., 601-366-3427, brentsdrugs.com) / McDade's Market (1220 E. Northside Drive, 601-366-8486; 653 Duling Ave., 601-366-5273; mcdadesmarkets.com) / Pearl's Southern Cooking (3505 Terry Road, 601-372-2100) / Ichiban Chinese Buffet; Ichiban Hibachi & Sushi (multiple locations, ichibanbuffetms.com)

Best Soul Food

Finalists: Bully's Restaurant (3118 Livingston Road, Suite 6103, 601-362-0484) / Gloria's Kitchen (2430 Bailey Ave., 601-362-0009; 3417 N. West St., 601-397-6173) / Sugar's Place (168 E. Griffith St., 601-352-2364) / Yum Yum's Kitchen & Catering (1815 Hospital Drive, 601-398-1880)

Best Margarita; Best Veggie Burger; Best Place for a First Date: Babalu Tapas & Tacos

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Photo courtesy Babalu Tapas & Tacos

(622 Duling Ave., Suite 106, 601-366-5757, eatbabalu.com)

Known for its unique Latin American cuisine and hand-crafted adult beverages, Babalu again takes multiple Best of Jackson awards. "Its atmosphere isn't too romantic or too family-oriented, making it a comfortable and enjoyable place to have a first date,'' says Amanda Spradley, general manager of the Fondren location. "It's no secret that the vegetables we use for tacos, salads, guacamole and more are fresh, locally sourced as much as possible and crazy good. Because of this, I think it's natural for our loyal customers to think our Black Bean Burger is the best," Spradley adds.

The owners plan to completely renovate the Fondren restaurant, beginning this summer. The renovations will reinvent the kitchen and guest area and will create a large private dining room for special occasions and events. The owners hope to keep the restaurant open during the renovations.

Babalu, which opened in 2010, is known for original drinks like its signature Baba Rita with pomegranate mix, hand-squeezed sour mix and Patron tequila. "Babalu mixologists work tirelessly to create top-notch margaritas and hand-crafted cocktails for guests to enjoy," Spradley says. — Mauricio J. Quijano

Best Margarita

Finalists: El Sombrero (multiple locations) / Green Ghost Tacos (2820 N. State St., 601-487-6082; 1290 E. County Line Road, Ridgeland, 601-957-7436, greenghosttacos.com) / Picante's Mexican Grill (960 N. State St., 601-398-1344) / Sombra Mexican Kitchen (140 Township Ave., Suite 100, Ridgeland, 601-707-7950, sombramexicankitchen.com) / Sophomore Spanish Club (200 District Blvd. E., 601-203-3333, sophomorespanish.com)

Best Veggie Burger

Finalists: BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / The Farmer's Table (929 High St., 601-940-4241) / Crossroads Cafe (398 Highway 51, Ridgeland, 601-790-7141) / Local 463 Urban Kitchen (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 5002, Ridgeland, 601-707-7684, local463.com)

Best Place for a First Date

Finalists: Amerigo Italian Restaurant (155 Market St., Flowood, 601-992-1550; 6592 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-977-0563, amerigo.net) / Char Restaurant (4500 Interstate 55 N. Frontage Road, 601-956-9562, charrestaurant.com) / Mama Nature's Juice Bar (655 Lake Harbour Drive, Suite 400, Ridgeland, 601-499-4936, mamanatureswellness.com) / Sophomore Spanish Club (200 District Blvd., Suite E, 601-203-3333, sophomorespanish.com) / Walker's Drive In (3016 N. State St., 601-982-2633, walkersdrivein.com)

Best Barbecue: The Pig & Pint

(3139 N. State St., 601-326-6070, pigandpint.com)

"Come for the Pig. Come for the Pint." This award-winning restaurant is a local go-to for anyone who appreciates barbecue cuisine. The Pig and Pint offers catering and delivery through Waitr.

The menu options range from barbecue chicken tacos, pork belly corn dogs, baby back ribs, brisket, nachos and other creative takes on southern staples. Patrons can pair their meals with one of 100 craft beers from the restaurant's selection.

A popular stop in Fondren, The Pig and Pint strives to serve flavorful barbecue with a side of nostalgia, a little flair, and warm, friendly southern hospitality. You can visit pigantpint.com to view the full menu. — Luis Montgomery

Finalists: E & L Barbeque (1111 Bailey Ave., 601-355-5035) / Hickory Pit (1491 Canton Mart Road, 601-956-7079) / Jefferson's Grill Restaurant & Catering (5612 Old Canton Road. 601-863-5227) / Little Willie's BBQ (115 Village Square, Suite G, Brandon, 601-992-6328; 5419 Highway 25, Suite L, Flowood, 769-572-4238; 3015 Highway 80, Pearl, 601-397-6698) / Sylvester's MS Style BBQ (9434 Highway 18, Raymond, 601-346-8000)

Best College Student Hangout; Best Place to Get Coffee; Best Geek Hangout: Cups Espresso Cafe

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Cups Espresso Cafe Photo courtesy Tera Eichelberger

(multiple locations, cupsespressocafe.com)

College students are known for their obsessions with coffee shops. Always looking for a relaxed place to study, do homework or hang out with friends, college students can find the perfect, cozy spot at Cups Espresso Cafe.

Now with 11 locations, Cups serves drip coffee, iced coffee, espresso, tea, and seasonal favorites like Pumpkin Spice, Irish Cream, Chocolate Hazelnut, Frosty's Favorite and Christmas Snow. The cafe also offers Cups Originals, such as the Capitol Street, Brunette and Diablo.

In addition to serving coffee made with beans they roast themselves, Cups strives to support local artists by displaying their art on the walls and looking for artists to hire as baristas as they pursue their careers in media, visual arts or music. Cups has become a place not only for college students, but also anyone in Jackson who wants to support local and harbor community. To find a Cups near you, visit cupsespressocafe.com. — Alyssa Bass

Best College Student Hangout

Finalists: Deep South Pops (1800 N. State St., 601-398-2174; 4500 Interstate 55 N. Frontage Road, 601-398-0623, deepsouthpops.com) / Fenian's Pub (901 E. Fortification St., 601-948-0055, fenianspub.com) / Fondren Public (2765 Old Canton Road, 769-216-2589) / Ole Tavern on George Street (416 George St., 601-960-2700, oletavern.com) / Sneaky Beans (2914 N. State St., 601-487-6349)

Best Place to Get Coffee

Finalists: Coffee Prose (1619 N. West St., 769-208-0230, coffeeprose.com) / Mocha Mugs (1800 W. Government St., Brandon, 601-825-1006; 5610 Highway 25, Brandon, 601-919-3684; 119 Grandview Blvd., Madison, 601-605-0160; mochamugs.com) / The Prickly Hippie (500 Highway 51, Suite F, Ridgeland, 601-910-6730, pricklyhippie.com) / Sneaky Beans (2914 N. State St., 601-487-6349) / Urban Foxes (826 North St., 769-572-5505, urbanfoxesjxn.com)

Best Geek Hangout

Finalists: The Hangout Gamer Lounge (1149 Old Fannin Road, Brandon, 769-572-7887, thehangoutgamer.com) / Keifer's (710 Poplar Blvd., 601-355-6825, keifers.net; 120 N. Congress St., 601-353-4976, keifersdowntown.com) / Offbeat (151 Wesley Ave., 601-376-9404, offbeatjxn.com) / Sneaky Beans (2914 N. State St., 601-487-6349) / Van's Comics, Cards & Games (731 S. Pear Orchard Road, Suite 1, Ridgeland, 601-898-9950, vansccg.com)

Best Bakery; Best Breakfast: Primos Cafe

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Primos Cafe Photo by Trip Burns

(2323 Lakeland Drive, Flowood, 601-936-3398; 515 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-898-3600; 201 Baptist Drive, Madison, 601-853-3350, primoscafe.com)

Primos Cafe has been around since the 1920s, so it's no wonder that they are honored in multiple categories after spending so long establishing their credibility with Jacksonians. Dessert lovers can find all types of scrumptious sweets including cookies, petit fours, fudge squares and pies. Whether you need a whole dessert for the family or a slice of heaven for yourself, the business' amazing two- and three-layer cake choices of caramel, Italian cream, German chocolate or strawberry cake will fit the bill.

For those who understand that the most important meal of the day is great for any time of the day, Primos has that covered, too. It serves southern breakfast staples such as omelets, bacon, pancakes, oatmeal and parfaits all day and always has a daily breakfast feature. The biscuits are wonderful. — Torsheta Jackson

Best Bakery

Finalists: Broad Street Baking Company (4465 Interstate 55 N., Suite 101, 601-362-2900, broadstbakery.com) / Campbell's Bakery (3013 N. State St., 601-362-4628; 111 Colony Crossing Way, Madison, 601-362-4628, campbellsbakery.ms) / La Brioche Patisserie & Bistro (2906 N. State St., 601-988-2299, La Brioche at the Museum, 380 S. Lamar St., 601-965-9900, labriochems.com) / The Prickly Hippie (500 Highway 51, Suite F, Ridgeland, 601-910-6730, pricklyhippie.com) / Urban Foxes (826 North St., 769-572-5505, urbanfoxesjxn.com)

Best Breakfast

Finalists: Brent's Drugs (655 Duling Ave., 601-366-3427, brentsdrugs.com) / Broad Street Baking Company (4465 Interstate 55 N., Suite 101, 601-362-2900, broadstbakery.com) / Jo's Diner (241 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-988-9000, josdiner.net) / La Brioche Patisserie & Bistro (2906 N. State St., 601-988-2299, La Brioche at the Museum, 380 S. Lamar St., 601-965-9900, labriochems.com) / Sneaky Beans (2914 N. State St., 601-487-6349)

Best Brunch: The Iron Horse Grill

(320 W. Pearl St., 601-398-0151, theironhorsegrill.com)

The Iron Horse Grill is a repeat winner and finalist in Best of Jackson for a lot of reasons, such as its live music and good drinks. But it's a perennial favorite in one particular category: brunch. On Sundays, chefs at the Iron Horse are busy chatting with guests at the different stations, adding meats, vegetables and cheeses to omelettes and toppings like berries, whipped cream and chocolate chips to waffles. Iron Horse's brunch menu also includes hash browns, bacon, cheese grits, sausage, champagne, freshly squeezed orange juice and more, as well as bottomless Bloody Marys and mamosas. Local musician Thomas "Tiger" Rogers performs live on Sundays from 
11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The Iron Horse serves brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. For more information, visit theironhorsegrill.com. — Amber Helsel

Finalists: BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / Char Restaurant (4500 Interstate 55 N. Frontage Road, 601-956-9562, charrestaurant.com) / The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen (1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562, themanshipjackson.com) / Saltine Restaurant (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899, saltinerestaurant.com) / Table 100 (100 Ridge Way, Flowood, 601-420-4202, tableonehundred.com)

Best Beer Selection (Store): Hops & Habanas

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Photo courtesy Hops & Habanas

(2771 Old Canton Road, 769-572-4631, hopsandhabanas.com)

Beer is a craft, and the people from Hops and Habanas understand that well. From domestic and imports to both local and nation-wide craft selections, Hops and Habanas has something for all tastes.

The store has a wide selection of both bottled and canned beer, as well as a cornucopia of beer on tap from classic labels like Pabst Blue Ribbon to favorites from breweries closer to home like Southern Prohibition Brewing in Hattiesburg and Abita Brewing Company of Abita Springs, La.

The store also sells kegs of various sizes from 5.23-gallon tanks all the way to 15.5 gallons. Owner Richard Miles' blog at hopsandhabanas.com talks about new arrivals and upcoming store events. — Caleb McCluskey

Finalists: Barley's Beer Barn (1716 Highway 51, Suite E, Madison, 601-790-7901) / Craft Beer Cellar (500 Highway 51, Suite P, Ridgeland, 601-790-7474, craftbeercellar.com) / LD's BeerRun (5006 Parkway Drive, 769-208-8686) / McDade's Market (1220 E. Northside Drive, 601-366-8486; 653 Duling Ave., 601-366-5273; mcdadesmarkets.com)

Best Chinese Food; Best Sushi/Japanese: Ichiban Chinese Buffet; Ichiban Hibachi and Sushi

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Ichiban Hibachi and Sushi Photo by Nick Judin

(multiple locations, ichibanbuffetms.com)

Starting from Ichiban's original Lakeland space in 2006, owners Kam and Ling Ngai aimed to bring an upscale model of pan-Asian buffet to the Jackson metro. The formula worked, and the result is the most wildly popular buffet and sushi spot in town. The metro now has five different Ichiban restaurants since the 2019 opening of a Madison location. Kam Ngai laughed when I asked him how many more were planned for this year, but if the business became a nationwide chain, Jacksonians wouldn't be surprised.

Variety is partially to thank for the brand's success, from the wide array of buffet menu items to the different types of restaurants: buffet, hibachi, traditional sit-down and conveyor-belt options are available across the different locations. But it's the freshness of the fish, not a quality typically associated with buffet sushi, that is Ichiban's hallmark. — Nick Judin

Best Chinese Food

Finalists: Great Wall Chinese Restaurant (218 Clinton Blvd., Clinton, 601-925-4922) / Hunan Wok Carry Out (6556 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-8988) / Mr. Chen's Authentic Chinese Cooking (5465 Interstate 55 N. Frontage Road, 601-978-1865, mrchensms.com) / Tokyo Tasty Chinese & Sushi Buffet (Old Square Road, 769-216-2420, tokyotastingbuffet.com) / Wok to Go (4329 N. State St., 601-981-2112)

Best Sushi/Japanese

Finalists: Bonsai Japanese Steakhouse (1925 Lakeland Drive, 601-981-0606, bonsaijxn.com) / Edo Japanese Restaurant ( 5834 Ridgewood Road, Suite C, 601-899-8518, edojapaneserestaurantjacksonms.com) / Little Tokyo (876 Avery Blvd. S., Ridgeland, 601-991-3800) / Nagoya Japanese Sushi Bar (111 Colony Crossing Way, Suite 380, Madison, 601-856-5678, nagoya-ms.net) / Sakura Bana (4800 Interstate 55, 601-982-3035, sakurabanajackson.com)

Best Italian Restaurant; Best Place for Dessert: Amerigo Italian Restaurant

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Photo courtesy Amerigo Italian Restaurant

(6592 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-977-0563; 155 Market St., Flowood, 601-992-1550; amerigo.net)

Amerigo's Italian Restaurant is one of the best-loved places to dine on Italian cuisine in the Jackson metro. The restaurant has been operating in the area for more than 30 years with an extensive menu, which includes pastas such as Shrimp Primavera and Cannelloni Al Forno, pizza and traditional entrees including its popular Veal Saltimbocca.

The restaurant also offers Sunday brunch featuring the Tuscan Breakfast, a wide selection of wines and signature cocktails, and desserts like the Pecan Butter Crunch Cake and Tiramisu. With so many alternatives, it truly speaks to the atmosphere, quality of food and service, and consistency that Amerigo's has maintained its position as a Jackson favorite with many Best of Jackson awards over the years to prove it. — Malcolm Marrow

Best Italian Restaurant

Finalists: BRAVO! Italian Restaurant & Bar (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 244, 601-982-8111, bravobuzz.com) / Cerami's Italian Restaurant (5417 Lakeland Drive, 601-919-2829, ceramisitalian.com) / Fratesi's (910 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-956-2929, fratesisrestaurant.com) / Parlor Market (115 W. Capitol St., 601-360-0090, parlormarket.com)

Best Place for Dessert

Finalists: Char Restaurant (4500 Interstate 55 N. Frontage Road, 601-956-9562, charrestaurant.com) / La Brioche Patisserie & Bistro (2906 N. State St., 601-988-2299; La Brioche at the Museum, 380 S. Lamar St., 601-965-9900, labriochems.com) / Lou's Full-Serv (904B E. Fortification St., Suite B, 601-487-6359, lousfullserv.com) / The Prickly Hippie (500 Highway 51, Suite F, Ridgeland, 601-910-6730, pricklyhippie.com) / Urban Foxes (826 North St., 769-572-5505, urbanfoxesjxn.com)

Best Local Burger: Stamps Super Burgers

(1801 Dalton St., 601-352-4555)

Tucked into a residential strip in Jackson's Washington Addition neighborhood, Stamps Super Burgers has been serving its award-winning burgers for over 40 years. Algernon Stamps Sr. opened the restaurant in 1970, and it continues to be family-run with sons Algernon Jr., Philippian and Timothy Stamps at the helm.

Its most popular burger is the Super Burger, also known as the Stamps Burger, which Algernon Sr. first began to sell around 1982 for $1.65. Today, at $6.45, it is still affordable. The burger consists of a 12- to 13-ounce ground beef patty, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes and onions. Stamps offers turkey burgers, too, and other dishes.

Al Jr. said that his father opened the burger joint because he couldn't find a burger in Jackson that he liked. So, he made one himself and perfected the recipe "till he got it just right." His father was not out to simply make money, though, Al Jr. said. He wanted to feed his community. "As I see people out and about, they just tell me things about how when they were coming up and they didn't have any money, my father would never turn anybody away. ... It's the same thing right now," Al Jr. said. — Seyma Bayram

Finalists: Babalu Tapas & Tacos (622 Duling Ave., Suite 106, 601-366-5757, eatbabalu.com) / Burgers & Blues (1060 E. County Line Road, Suite 22, Ridgeland, 601-899-0038, burgersblues.com) / Fine & Dandy (100 District Blvd. E., 601-202-5050, eatdandy.com) / Lou's Full-Serv (904B E. Fortification St., Suite B, 601-487-6359, lousfullserv.com) / Rooster's (2906 N. State St., Suite 104, 601-982-2001, glennfoods.com)

Best Local Chicken Sandwich: Rooster's

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Rooster's Photo by Nick Judin

(2906 N. State St., Suite 104, 601-982-2001, glennfoods.com)

For those in search of a good local chicken sandwich, you're in luck because Rooster's in Fondren has a few to choose from. They include simple ones like a grilled chicken sandwich, which includes lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions on a choice of white, wheat or jalapeno cheddar buns, but the restaurant also have special choices, like the fried chicken club, which has lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, Monterey Jack cheese and bacon. For those who like a challenge, there's always the Hot, Hot Fried Chicken Sandwich. Like the name suggests, it is hot, but the coleslaw, pickles and cheese help tamp down some of the spice (I also suggest using ranch dressing). For those who want something a little healthier, Rooster's has salads with chicken, including the Devil's Caesar, which is a regular Caesar salad but with pieces of the hot fried chicken on top.

Rooster's is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit glennfoods.com. — Amber Helsel

Finalists: Barrelhouse (3009 N. State St., 769-216-3167, barrelhousems.com) / Fine & Dandy (100 District Blvd. E., 601-202-5050, eatdandy.com) / Josephine's Kitchen (4638 Hanging Moss Road, 769-572-4276, josephineskitchenms.com) / Lou's Full-Serv (904B E. Fortification St., Suite B, 601-487-6359, lousfullserv.com) / Saltine Restaurant (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899, saltinerestaurant.com)

Best Seafood; Best Place for Oysters: Half Shell Oyster House

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Photo courtesy Half Shell Oyster House Facebook

(115 Laurel Park Cove, Suite 105, Flowood, 769-257-7586, halfshelloysterhouse.com)

Founded in Gulfport in 2008, Half Shell Oyster House made its debut in the Jackson metro with a location in Flowood in 2015. Since then, the restaurant has provided Jacksonians with oysters and other seafood dishes like fish and lobster. Its most popular dish is Redfish Orleans, blackened redfish topped with Orleans spicy Creole sauce, five gulf shrimp, crab meat and parmesan cheese. It also serves chicken, steak, hand-cut ribeyes and po-boys.

Half Shell serves dinner all week, lunch on weekdays and brunch on Sundays. Business hours are from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Visit halfshelloysterhouse.com. — Brianna Gibson

Best Seafood

Finalists: CAET Seafood and Oysterette (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 9015, Ridgeland, 601-321-9169, caetseafood.com) / Crab's Seafood Shack (6954 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-956-5040) / Sal & Phil's Seafood Restaurant & Lounge (6600 Old Canton Road, Suite B, Ridgeland, 601-957-1188, salandphils.com) / Saltine Restaurant (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899, saltinerestaurant.com) / Shaggy's on the Rez (1733 Spillway Road, Brandon, 601-724-2990, shaggys.biz)

Best Place for Oysters

Finalists: CAET Seafood and Oysterette (1000 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 9015, Ridgeland, 601-321-9169, caetseafood.com) / Drago's Seafood Restaurant (1005 E. County Line Road, 601-957-1515, dragosrestaurant.com) / Saltine Restaurant (622 Duling Ave., Suite 201, 601-982-2899, saltinerestaurant.com) / Shaggy's on the Rez (1733 Spillway Road, Brandon, 601-724-2990, shaggys.biz) / Shucker's Oyster Bar (116 Conestoga Road, Ridgeland, 601-853-0105, shuckersontherez.com)

Best Crawfish: Crawdad Hole

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Photo courtesy Crawdad Hole

(1150 Lakeland Drive, 601-982-9299, thecrawdadhole.com)

The shady patch of forest near the Agricultural Museum is a good spot for the Crawdad Hole. It too feels like a slice of history, with its creaky wood and picnic seating. On the right night you can enjoy the gentle sway of the trees above the deck as you polish off a pound of crawfish or shrimp. And if the summer heat is too oppressive you can slip through the takeout line, in and out in five minutes. No one needs to know how many pounds of seafood you're putting away. That's between you and God.

It's the seasoning that makes the meal, that perfect balancing act of savory heat and cajun flavor. The rest of the menu is tailored to complement the main course, from corn and potatoes to plump sausages and tamales. —Nick Judin

Finalists: The Crawfish Hut (6956 Old Canton Road, Ridgeland, 601-957-8900) / Mudbugs (1299 Old Fannin Road, Brandon, 601-992-5225; 151 W. Government St., Suite D, Brandon, 601-706-4751; mudbugscrawfish.com) / Sal & Phil's Seafood Restaurant & Lounge (6600 Old Canton Road, Suite B, Ridgeland, 601-957-1188, salandphils.com) / T'Beaux's Crawfish and Catering (941 Highway 80 E., Clinton, 601-926-4793; 5752 Terry Road, Byram, 769-230-3855)

Best Gumbo: Gumbo Girl

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Gumbo Girl Owner Marilyn Kithukain Photo by Imani Khayyam

(5681 Highway 18, Suite C, 601-790-0486, gumbogirl.com)

Jacksonians have many good reasons to make that drive to New Orleans, but getting a good bowl of gumbo isn't one of them. Gumbo Girl is ringing in the decade with its fourth consecutive Best of Jackson win for Best Gumbo.

Marilyn Kithuka opened the restaurant in 2015 and has since spent her days in the kitchen whipping up aromatic creations. While Gumbo Girl is best known for its made-from-scratch gumbo, its menu includes other foodie favorites like the 
Cajun "Pot," which features spicy seasoned turkey necks, as well as seafood platters and even burgers and salads.

Gumbo Girl is opening a new location off County Line Road in the next few months. "Gumbo Girl is coming bigger and stronger. There will be more good eats and a lot more surprises in store for our customers," Kithukain says. Not only will the menu expand, but the space will as well. The new location will include a large dining area, a bar, and a place for parties and special events. Visit gumbogirl.com. — Tunga Otis

Finalists: Char Restaurant (4500 Interstate 55 N. Frontage Road, 601-956-9562, charrestaurant.com) / Hal & Mal's (200 Commerce St., 601-948-0888, halandmals.com) / T'Beaux's Crawfish and Catering (941 Highway 80 E., Clinton, 601-926-4793; 5752 Terry Road, Byram, 769-230-3855) / Fat Tuesday's (6923 Old Canton Road, Suite 105, Ridgeland, 601-956-2971) / Gumbo Spot (640 Grants Ferry Road, Flowood, 601-724-5118)

Best Food Truck/Mobile Vendor: One Guy Steak and Chicken

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Photo courtesy One Guy Steak and Chicken

(601-503-5908, oneguysteakchicken.com)

When some people think of a food truck, they imagine someone slinging hamburgers, hotdogs or fried foods. But One Guy Steak and Chicken goes beyond those standards to provide a gourmet food-truck experience. With nearly three decades of experience in the food industry under his belt, chef Kendrick Gordon has refined his menu to feature dishes including crab cakes, marinated redfish, grilled filet mignon, leek mashed potatoes and more. "I want my food truck to provide my customers with a taste of fine dining," Gordon says.

With no shortage of palate-pleasing options being served for lunch and dinner, locals have flocked to One Guy Steak and Chicken. With such a heavy demand for his food, Gordon will be opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant later this year. Visit oneguysteakchicken.com or follow the food truck on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. — Tunga Otis

Finalists: 2 for 7 Kitchen (601-837-1794) / 30 Below Rolled Ice Cream (601-720-3847) / Bessi Roo's (601-214-1843, bessiroos.com) / Burgers & Blues (601-899-0038) / Oops! All Vegan Mobile Eatery

Best Doughnuts: Monroe Donuts

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Monroe Donuts Photo by Trip Burns

(6310 Medgar Evers Blvd., 601-981-3208; 255 E. 
McDowell Road, 601-371-1185; 3820 Northbrook Drive, 601-982-1883; monroedonutsandbakery.com)

Everyone loves the coworker who brings a box of doughnuts to share with the rest of the staff, but where is the best place for the rings of sugary joy? Monroe Donuts and Bakery is a popular and delicious option.

For more than 20 years, the family-owned shop has been serving fresh doughnuts made from scratch every day. The business started when owner Monroe Jackson began selling doughnuts and pastries from the den in his home on Medgar Evers Boulevard. In 2003, a hurricane destroyed his family's home, which prompted Jackson to open Monroe's Donuts in a storefront.

Monroe's offers a variety of sweets from classic glazed doughnuts to cinnamon rolls and apple fritters. While his store has received a lot of positive reception, Jackson continues to tweak his recipes. "We are always working on improving on our recipe," Jackson says. "The best is yet to come." — Tunga Otis

Finalists: Donut Barn (1069 Highway 51, Suite D, Madison, 601-605-8100) / Donut Palace (multiple locations) / The Do-Nut Shop Cafe (718 Highway 49, Richland, 601-936-2037) / Pillow Donuts (1679 Old Fannin Road, Suite, D, Flowood, 601-992-6040; 707 Beau Pre Drive, Ridgeland, 601-790-9697) / The Prickly Hippie (500 Highway 51, Suite F, Ridgeland, 601-910-6730, pricklyhippie.com)

Best Liquor/Wine Store: Corkscrew Fine Wine and Spirits

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Corkscrew Fine Wine and Spirits Manager Chris Pennock Photo by Nick Judin

(4800 Interstate 55, 601-981-1333)

The first thing you'll notice when you step foot into Corkscrew Fine Wine and Spirits is all the activity. Move quickly through the lanes. There's probably someone behind you. Product moves fast at Corkscrew, which claimed its status as the state's largest volume liquor store in 2016.

The second thing you'll notice are the prices. I assumed the steep discounts were a side effect of the store's wholesale business, which serves more than 100 other restaurants and liquor stores statewide. Not so, says manager Derek Crenshaw: It's more about purchasing. The store knows how to take advantage of a good deal. So does everyone who shops there. — Nick Judin

Finalists: Briarwood Wine & Spirits (4949 Old Canton Road, 601-956-5108, briarwoodwineandspirits.com) / Fondren Cellars (633 Duling Ave., 769-216-2323) / Kats Wine & Spirits (921 E. Fortification St., 601-983-5287, katswine.com) / McDade's Wine & Spirits (McDade's Wine & Spirits, 601-366-5676, mcdadeswineandspirits.com) / Wine & Spirits in the Quarter (1855 Lakeland Drive, 601-366-6644, drinkinman.com)

Best Thai Restaurant: Surin of Thailand

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Surin of Thailand Photo by Trip Burns

(3000 Old Canton Road, Suite 105, 601-981-3205, surinofthailand.com)

Surin of Thailand opened in March 2015 inside what was formerly Nick's Restaurant on Old Canton Road in the heart of Fondren. Surin's popular menu includes pad thai, masaman with avocado, coconut soup, chicken and shrimp curry, spicy beef noodles, pot stickers with red curry, dim sum, tom yum shrimp soup and chicken panang among customer favorites.

The restaurant also has indoor and outdoor seating, a private room for parties and events, a sushi menu and a full bar. For more information, visit surinofthailand.com. — Dustin Cardon

Finalists: Fusion Japanese & Thai Cuisine (1002 Treetops Blvd., Flowood, 601-664-7588; 1030 Highway 51, Madison, 601-790-7999, orderfusioncuisine.com) / Jutamas Thai Restaurant (multiple locations, jutamasthai.com) / Thai Tasty (5050 Parkway Drive, Suite 7, 601-540-2534) / Thai Time Thai & Sushi Restaurant (1405 Old Square Road, 601-982-9991, thaitimems.com)

Best Plate Lunch: Georgia Blue

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Georgia Blue Photo by Trip Burns

(multiple locations, georgiablue.net)

The most popular day for Georgia Blue's daily blue-plate specials is Friday, featuring catfish with hushpuppies. Simon Kazey, floor and bar manager for the Madison location, says many regulars arrive early to claim their favorite spot, but there seldom is a wait.

"When I make table visits for refills, I am greeted with big smiles," Kazey says.

Simon says the business has happy employees as well. "When I was hired in 2013, I came on board as a server, and now I am in management. I quickly learned that the management at Georgia Blue works as a team." In addition to the daily plate specials, Georgia Blue offers a menu featuring a plethora of freshly prepared options, such as steaks, salads, pasts and a variety of seafood. It also features live music, which can be checked weekly on the business' website at georgiablue.net. —Anne B McKee

Finalists: Bully's Restaurant (3118 Livingston Road, Suite 6103, 601-362-0484) / McDade's Market (1220 E. Northside Drive, 601-366-8486; 653 Duling Ave., 601-366-5273, mcdadesmarkets.com) / Nonna's Cafe (5311 Highway 80, Pearl, 769-233-8430) / Primos Cafe (2323 Lakeland Drive, Flowood, 601-936-3398; 515 Lake Harbour Drive, Ridgeland, 601-898-3600; 201 Baptist Drive, Madison, 601-853-3350, primoscafe.com) / The Trace Grill (574 Highway 51, Suite F, Ridgeland, 601-853-1014, thetracegrill.com)

Best Local Pizza: The Pizza Shack

(925 E. Fortification St., 601-352-2001, pizzashackms.com)

The Pizza Shack provides Jackson with culinary concoctions that are sure to pique the interest of any pie lover. In 2017, Cecilia and Tony Hollins took over ownership and have worked hard to preserve the excellent legacy and following that original owners Michael Parker and Larry Emmett built. Pizza Shack is like visiting a pizza shop you would see on television—the service is friendly, and the aura is always inviting. The pizzas are loaded with fresh ingredients and you can tell a great deal of care went into each step.

Special pizzas include the justifiably named Carnivore to more adventurous fare such as The Greek, Thai Chicken and Chicken Curry delight. In addition to great pizza, they offer some of the best wings in the city as well; they are crisp yet juicy with great sauces. During the holiday season, the company devoted a day's worth of profits to their employees as a Christmas bonus. Learn more at pizzashackms.com. — Malcolm Marrow

Finalists: Basil's (2906 N. State St., Suite 104, 601-982-2100; 120 N. Congress St., Suite L1, 601-944-9888) / Lost Pizza Co. (multiple locations, lostpizza.com) / The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen (1200 N. State St., Suite 100, 601-398-4562, themanshipjackson.com) / Sal & Mookie's New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint (565 Taylor St., 601-368-1919, salandmookies.com) / Soulshine Pizza Factory (multiple locations, soulshinepizza.com)

Best Mexican/Latin: El Sombrero

(multiple locations)

Lights of varying colors welcome guests who make their way to El Sombrero, this year's choice for Best Mexican/Latin food. Luis Antonio Angel, born in Jalisco, Mexico, came to the United States as a resident and later gained citizenship. He opened the first of El Sombrero in Starkville 35 years ago. Since then, the business expanded to 10 locations, including its Flowood spot 15 years ago, starting in a small building. In 2016, the business moved across the street to a big house on Dogwood Boulevard so that it could hold more people.

"It was very well decorated, so I think customers were curious to look inside and came back when they noticed the excellent food and good services," says Alvaro Macias, manager of the Flowood location. Macias says the restaurant has a family atmosphere and serves fresh margaritas as well as dishes that embody the flavors of Mexico. — Mauricio J. Quijano

Finalists: Cazadores (500 Highway 51, Ridgeland, 601-853-4417) / El Charro Authentic Mexican Restaurant (2086 Lakeland Drive, 601-362-4447) / Green Ghost Tacos (2820 N. State St., 601-487-6082; 1290 E. County Line Road, Ridgeland, 601-957-7436, greenghosttacos.com) / Sombra Mexican Kitchen (multiple locations, sombramexicankitchen.com) / Sophomore Spanish Club (200 District Blvd. E., 601-203-3333, sophomorespanishclub.com)

Best Sandwich Place: Room Service

(4659 McWillie Drive, 601-362-4617; 
1010 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 104, 601-707-3600, roomservicejackson.com)

Owner Hays Thompson opened Room Service more than 35 years ago and has been successful ever since. Thompson started out by making everything by hand from scratch and only using natural ingredients, after which he then personally carried his salads and sandwiches on foot around the city. His first deliveries started with women in beauty salons, and Room Service had committed customers in no time.

Room Service has since grown into a catering service that now serves more than 35 gourmet salad choices and 38 sandwiches, all with original names like the Destin, Jamaican, Washington, Bombay, Louisianne and more. Some people can never get to all the choices because they find themselves so hooked on their favorite ones. Instead of missing out on what could be your favorite thing since sliced bread, visit roomservicejackson.com to learn more about the options. Remember, Room Service delivers. — Deja Davis

Finalists: Basil's (2906 N. State St., Suite 104, 601-982-2100; 120 N. Congress St., Suite L1, 601-944-9888) / Beagle Bagel (4500 Interstate 55 N., Suite 145, 769-251-1892; 100 Mannsdale Park Drive, Madison, 601-856-4377, thebeaglebagelcafe.com) / Broad Street Baking Company (4465 Interstate 55 N., Suite 101, 601-362-2900, broadstbakery.com) / Steve's (125 S. Congress St., 601-969-1119; 200 S. Lamar St., 601-714-5683; stevesdowntown.com)

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