I admit it. I've always wanted to be a part of the café society: to hang out in the local neighborhood bistro where the staff and I banter and hobnob. The wine is cheap. The food is delicious. Think Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday…the little Italian place where Olympia Dukakis eats in Moonstruck…the café in Amelie…Seinfeld…Lady and the Tramp. You get the point, right?
Color me surprised to find that this mythical place exists here in Jackson. It's been tucked away in Canton Mart Square since 2016, where co-owners Chef Jon Lansdale and Chef Gary Hawkins have cultivated a cozy, welcoming atmosphere complete with a gallery wall of paint-by-number art and enlarged, framed, handwritten recipes by Jon’s grandmother and great-grandmother.
Crazy Cat Eat Up is more than just a neighborhood café. From the desserts to the deep-dish quiche to the excellent service, there's an unmistakable family vibe.
The Cat (see how comfortable I am?) is like a favorite aunt, eccentric in a fun way: a well-traveled, classy Southern woman with a penchant for both pimento cheese and wild boar.
At lunchtime, the Crazy Cat space bustles with groups of women celebrating special days, friends craving cozy chats with each other and multi-generational groups sharing desserts. The dangerous thing about lunch is there can sometimes be a short wait, which affords one the time to peruse the dessert counter. As I waited, I eyed a chocolate-peanut butter square that needed to be mine but seemed to be selling out fast.
While the Crazy Cat desserts are a delicious draw, don't think that the lunch menu isn't just as craveable. The food is oh-so-creative and unpretentious. But Crazy Cat Eat Up also endows a sense of place – of southerness. The menu is seasonal and always changing. The lunch quiche changes daily and (given the number of patrons around me who ordered it) is hugely popular. The shrimp tamale fritters, crispy cumin-and-chili-powder-laced hoecakes studded with plump Gulf shrimp, are accompanied by classic comeback. I ordered the Southern tomato pie with local fresh tomatoes and basil layered in a flaky, buttery crust and baked under a savory dome of mayonnaise, Parmesan and cheddar. It was so good that I refused to share and ate the whole thing plus the strawberry side salad. The daily special of pan-seared trout was napped with smoky bacon jam butter and served on sautéed sugar snap peas. Another highlight was the meatloaf panini, recommended by our server Ruth, who was fun, knew the menu and was also kind enough to hold back a piece of the chocolate-peanut butter square – "Just in case."
Crazy Cat Eat Up is only open for dinner Thursday through Saturday evenings. It’s BYOB, so stop at Briarwood Wine & Spirits to pick up your favorite libation to go with dinner. The ambiance is a little different at night. There's a candlelit coziness that makes it perfect for a romantic date. (True story: I had one of my best dates ever here.) But there's also a festive dinner party feel, like you're suppering with your closest friends and neighbors.
Crazy Cat Eat Up is whimsical and inviting, a gathering place for great food and better conversation. It's the bohemian neighborhood café where locals can feel at home and one of those places where you take out-of-towners to show off what’s great about home. Go crazy, cat. Eat up!