For the longest time I only knew of The Painted Lady as That Cool Yellow House downtown. But one day a friend and I had the smarts to actually go in, and it’s been my favorite place to have lunch in Jackson since.* Not only because it’s in That Cool Yellow House but also because it has, in my opinion, the best lunch in town.
On my last visit I ordered a fried green tomato BLT for the first time, along with my usual champagne Vidalia onion Brie soup — two good decisions. The Brie soup I already knew I’d love — I’ve not had anything similar to it before. It has a bold, but rewarding flavor thanks to the Brie. The BLT was a delight as well (its bacon was thick, as all bacon should be but so seldom is), and it’s also assuring to know the tomatoes are fresh and grown locally. The Lady’s produce is grown in south Jackson — tomatoes, squash, zucchini, peppers, peas, etc. — and their herbs are grown on location on the back patio.
I forgo dessert at most meals, but my friend Melanie and I had been eyeing a strawberry cake on a buffet across the room and when our waitress told us they use fresh strawberries in the batter and icing, Melanie and I eyed each other and got big smiles on our faces. We knew we needed a piece of this cake. Not only do I usually skip dessert, but I’m also pretty picky with cakes, cupcakes, cookies and the like. But this cake was rich, well textured, and moist. In other words, this cake outweighed the guilt that sometimes comes with ordering dessert.
Of course The Painted Lady itself is an afternoon treat. The term “Painted Lady” was originally coined for the colorfully painted Victorian houses of San Francisco. Jackson’s Painted Lady is not only a bright example of Victorian architecture, but its interior transplants you from wherever you came from to a warm home with hardwood flooring and antiques that make you feel like you’re in your grandmother’s house — especially for our waitress Betsy White Riggs. The buffet, which displayed our strawberry cake, belonged to her grandmother Minerva Leah-Gate Johnson. It’s personal touches like these, among other things, that make this place so magnetic.
In Daughter’s of Painted Ladies (a coffee table book in The Lady’s foyer), authors Pomada and Larsen write, “The true importance of Painted Ladies is best measured not only by the beauty they add to our towns and cities but especially by the contribution they make to the lives of their owners.” It was obvious when speaking with Troy Huffman, who co-owns The Lady as well as a catering company with Mike Weir, that a lot of love goes into this place. Not only do they take pride in the food and the house, but also in their location, Jackson’s increasingly rejuvenated downtown. “We love being downtown,” Huffman said. “The whole downtown area is coming alive.”