Home! Mr. Kim and I like to say to each other, “네가 있으면 집이야”–“Home is wherever you are”–so I guess that means that for the last week of 2015, our home was back in the suburb of Jackson, Mississippi, where I spent my adolescence.

The Mississippi River from the air, last summer.

It’s always weird spending time in a faraway, infrequently visited hometown. Lost accents return; old thoughts and feelings and habits spring back into being. When you bring someone with you, you see it anew through their eyes, and greater experience gives you greater appreciation for some things while highlighting your earlier limits on other dimensions. But, I still love Jackson, the under-known capital of a misunderstood state, and it’s still home to people I love and also a lot of great food–so, for the next few days, I’ll present Jackson: the travelogue, with supplements from previous trips.

We arrived this trip on Christmas Eve, flying into Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans instead of the much closer Jackson-Evers International Airport. Pro-tip for visiting Mississippi: Flying into Jackson is expensive. Four airlines fly from five cities, all commuter-type connecting flights on small planes since Southwest stopped flying there a few years ago. So, for us, flying to New Orleans on Spirit, renting a car and driving three hours to Jackson was about half the price and took the same amount of time as flying to Jackson with the requisite connecting flight would have. Another option would be Memphis, also three hours away. In any case, you pretty much must have a car in Jackson, so it’s definitely worth looking into.

My beautiful pecan pie and my improvisation of a cherry tart–the things you do for family!

The first day and a half were, in any case, filled with Christmas activities: pie making, ham baking, present opening, and other travelogue-unworthy ventures.

Saturday, we headed to Fondren, an area full of establishments that my father would term “hipster.” (“Hipster doesn’t even mean anything,” my giant of a younger brother droned when our father accused him of being one.) Anyway, the revival of this area several years ago means that there’s a kind of concentrated area of food and nightlife in Jackson that wasn’t there the last time I lived in Mississippi, nearly 10 years ago.

The bar at Hops & Habanas in Jackson, Mississippi.

We started at Hops & Habanas, a craft beer and cigar shop that also has a fairly large selection of taps. You can sample two beers free, so we did, then ordered a pint each–I stuck with the Gameday IPA from Tin Roof (4.3%) because we were planning to show up at my aunt’s house later and I didn’t want to be, you know, that person.

Mr. Kim’s second-favorite thing about Mississippi: its “winter.”

We chatted with the bartender for awhile–another tip, if you go there, bring cash to tip because you can’t add it to the credit card receipt!–and then headed out to the cabana area to enjoy the wonderful, 83F/28C weather.

We also spent some time in the patio seating at Cups, a nearby coffee shop where I’ve rendezvoused with friends since college, before my brother, who had been lunching with a friend nearby, picked us up so we could say Merry Christmas to my aunt and uncle and their kids and grandkids.

After that, my brother dropped us off in Fondren again. First we had dinner at Babalu: Southern-inspired Mexican food, or Mexican-Southern fusion. However you characterize it, it’s good, and I’ve never had bad food or service there. Mr. Kim ordered duck tacos and redfish tacos.

Mr. Kim’s duck tacos (foreground) and redfish tacos. (Redfish is his new obsession.)

I ordered a pork belly taco, a beef taco and an oyster taco–my favorite of mine, with a quite spicy sauce. (I also tried one of Mr. Kim’s duck tacos, which was very good.)

Pork belly taco, beef taco, fried oyster taco at Babalu in Jackson.

After dinner, we went across the street to The Apothecary at Brent’s Drugs. The Apothecary is a Prohibition-themed bar located in the back of Brent’s Drugs, a former drugstore/diner that is now all diner.

Brent’s Drugs after closing time–go straight to the back on the left to get to The Apothecary bar.

Brent’s Drugs was actually the location of a scene in The Help, the one where Skeeter meets her friends in a diner and (if I recall correctly–but it’s been awhile) gets fussed at for not finishing a newsletter, giving her the idea and motive for the toilet prank. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a good screenshot.

The Doc Noble at The Apothecary, with pecan and cayenne-infused rye!

The Apothecary would probably not stand out in a city like New York or something, but it’s pretty nice (although bring a sweater–the air conditioning is fierce!) and has a nice Mississippi spin on a lot of its drinks. For example, there’s a martini made with regular vodka and honeysuckle vodka from Cathead, a Mississippi distillery, and my drink, the Doc Noble, which includes pecan and cayenne infused rye. Yum!

After The Apothecary, we headed to the nearby Fondren Public to meet a few of my old friends. Unfortunately, we were too busy socializing to take any photos there, but good beer and spirits and times were had by all.

Tomorrow I’ll take you to a couple more Jackson restaurants as well as the Mississippi Craft Center. In the meantime, happy New Year!