What would the South be without seafood and culinary flair? We can't even imagine! This week we chat with Jesse Houston, chef and owner of Saltine, Oyster Bar & Restaurant in the Fondren neighborhood of Jackson, MS about his business, inspiration and culinary creations. If you haven't visited Saltine yet, let us go ahead and give a blaring recommendation from many-a-visit and experience. From flavor to ambience to customer service, Saltine is mastering it all daily and supporting the local economy while they're at it. Needless to say, we are big fans, and that just might be an understatement.
Read on for our recent chat with Jesse and check out their site at this post's end for a full menu and more info.
. . . . .
Q & A with Jesse:
Give us a brief description of Saltine’s style and the food you create there...
The food at Saltine is modern and playful Southern. We always strive to keep things fresh and exciting at Saltine, working with local farms within the season, with an emphasis on Gulf Seafood.
How did you all get started and what was the inspiration to take the small business leap?
I'd been thinking about opening my own restaurant since 2012, but instead went to work in Oxford for a brief time. Oxford wasn't really my speed, so I decided that it was now or never.
How does Mississippi play a role in your business?
Craig Noone, a Jackson native, asked me to help him open Parlor Market in 2010. That leap of faith really helped jump start my career. I can't imagine doing what I'm doing anywhere else. I love it here.
Craig's Oyster Stew
What are your goals for your business?
We have goals to grow into other Markets soon. In general, I would like people to think of Saltine as the place to go for craft beer and exciting cuisine.
What is your culinary background?
I went to the Texas Culinary Academy Le Cordon Bleu program in Austin, Texas. I loved it there.
Where do you find inspiration for new dishes?
I find inspiration for new dishes everywhere. It can be a single ingredient, a theme, a play on words, or an interesting plate. I strive to always be creative and try new things. Some fail, and some work out remarkably well.
What do you like to do when you aren't "at the office"?
Drink rare craft beer from around the country with my friends, grow my Lego collection, and watch movies.
What are your favorite local places to shop and dine (besides Saltine, of course!)?
Sneaky Beans, Swell o Phonic, The Manship, Mr. Chen's, Electric Dagger, Campbell's Bakery, Apothecary...just to name a few!
What are some of the reasons you call Mississippi home?
The community of Fondren is one of the main reasons I call Mississippi home. I love this small, artistic and creative place where I can run into any one of my close friends at any moment. Here, I feel part of something bigger than just what's happening inside of my kitchen.
Ballistic Blond Mussels with Belgian Broth, Coriander Citrus Butter and Frites
How do you think what you are doing is helping to shape your local community as well as the image of Mississippi?
We've already drawn some exciting press for our food at Saltine, bringing Mississippi and Southern culture to the headlines. We hope to continue bringing awareness to local Mississippi agriculture and fisheries. It's an exciting time to be a chef in Mississippi right now!
All photos credit: Mark Nardeccia
Want to learn more? Of course, if you're local, give Saltine a visit:
Find their menu HERE and keep up with them in all these places: