Taylor Bowen Ricketts.
I first heard this name nearly a decade ago while on a work project in Greenwood, Mississippi. I wasn’t in the “food world” like I am now; instead I was in town working on a marketing tech project tied to some of the downtown businesses. At the time, she was at the helm of Delta Bistro which was mentioned as a “must eat” location.
Unfortunately, that trip to Greenwood didn’t accommodate the luxury to make good on that recommendation.
A few short years later, her name popped up again. This time, on the list of James Beard Award nominations – a nomination that’s a huge honor for someone in New York, Chicago, even New Orleans. But to receive this nomination while at the helm of a small restaurant in an even smaller Mississippi Delta town meant something special was afoot. And it was.
And it still is.
Welcome to our favorites list, Fan & Johnny’s.
Last summer, after a few other stops along the way, Taylor opened Fan & Johnny’s.
Done her way.
Fresh ingredients, people centric. Named after her grandparents, who inspired her love of cooking in the first place.
For now, the restaurant has Taylor practically chained to the stove. She’s cooking up a storm and working with her small staff to create art on the plates of Delta diners. And she’s loving every minute of it.
It’s been a long trail of food for Taylor to get to this place. She’s been successful everywhere she’s been. She’d served faithfully with lots of love and spirit, and now she’s all grown up and gotten her wings, so to speak. No co-owners or investors. Just her and her food. The groundwork is there for this adopted Delta daughter to be very successful making her food, her way, in yes, her restaurant.
She’s got challenges and obstacles to overcome. Finding and training staff in a small town can be tricky business. Working the line and overseeing every plate of food headed out of the kitchen can been quite the task – especially if you’re also the one chained to the stove. But Taylor is tougher than most. She’s got the sort of grit that is thriving in the challenge. I think, because in her heart, she holds a true passion for serving ingredients that matter to people that matter. She’s not for cutting corners, and she’s not going to serve a dish she doesn’t believe is great. That’s what makes the magic happen. That’s what makes a Chef a true artist.
What to Order
Don’t skip the Biscuits and Oysters.
Let me just say that the explosion of flavors on the palate were as money as the infamous nearby Money Road. Creamy gravy on fresh-from-the-oven-made-from-scratch baking powder biscuits. The dish was one of the best things I had last year. And to be honest, I went all the way back to Greenwood a second time to have them again.
I consider myself a biscuit connoisseur, and I love white gravy. Toss in a few tender delicate oysters and man oh man. It is simply sooooooo incredible. It’s hard to predict whether Biscuits and Oysters will be on the menu there forever, so if you visit Fan & Johnny’s, and they’re available. Order them.
Then get the Hamburger Po-Boy.
I often judge a restaurant by the tomatoes. Sure it sounds cliché. But have you ever noticed the depth of the red color of a tomato at your favorite restaurant? The deep rich, blood red hue of a ripe, acidic and yet perfectly fresh tomato is a ruler with which I like to measure. Sure – there are some exceptions, but in Mississippi – in July – tomatoes had better look like they’ve seen some sunshine!
The tomatoes on the Hamburger Po-Boy were magical adding the perfect ka-pow to this sandwich. So, at the risk of being overly dramatic, the Hamburger Po-Boy at Fan & Johnny’s was more than just a burger. It was the perfect ending to a cow, and the perfect lunch for my life.
Open for Lunch
You’ll find Fan & Johnny’s tucked at the end of side street just shy of where the street runs into the Yazoo Riverfront, a couple of short blocks over from the “main drag” where Viking Cooking School, The Alluvian Hotel and Spa and a nice variety of boutiques can be found – all within easy walking distance of one another. If you’re in the area, make time to also stop by Turnrow Books, which is on your way if you’re walking between The Alluvian and Fan & Johnny’s, to pick up signed first editions from famous or rising regional authors. Fan & Johnny’s is lunch only at the time this story was written, and we recommend getting there early – or if you prefer, fashionably late, because the local crowd fills the place up at high noon on weekdays.