Blue Plate Highways

Cantonese Cuisine?

Chad Hammons,

Article by Chad Hammons, Featured Author

Posted

If you work in the CABA footprint, and you litigate for your groceries and to pay your house note and kids’ tuition,2 chances are good that you occasionally go to Canton for court. Years ago, I learned the hard way that when you go to court in Canton, you don’t actually go to the courthouse in the middle of town, just like dozens of other small towns in Mississippi. Who knew? I for one didn’t. But I learned: if you are going to Circuit or County Court, you go to the Justice Center, a block or so north of the Canton Square. If you are going to Chancery Court, you go to the Chancery complex situated on the north side of the Square.

Ahh, the Square. Again, unlike a lot of other small towns in Mississippi, Canton has been fortunate to keep a functioning and even vibrant Square. I’m sure multiple factors contribute to its continued vitality, including the unspoken rules forbidding any sort of foolishness there. From what I understand from folks in the know, there is an unspoken rule of zero tolerance for any sort of crime on or near the Square, and that if the rule is violated, maximum punishment will ensue, and it may or may not come from law enforcement.

If soul food isn’t your thing, or if you are a Madison County courtroom regular and need to spice it up a bit with a little international flair, there are three Asian restaurants in Canton to choose from.”

Way back when, there was a really good restaurant called Davidson’s on the northeast corner of the Square. One of my mentors from yesteryear, Steve Rimmer, turned me on to the bread pudding there. Like the cheesecake or hot fudge pie from the Hoka back in the day, Davidson’s bread pudding remains the standard of comparison, even though it is long gone.

Since then, there has been a succession of places in that space, including Cilantro, which wasn’t bad. It had the misfortune though, of being owned by the guy who managed Nick’s into its death spiral, according to a source who had an interest in Cilantro. Same story, different locale. Now that space is occupied by a restaurant called Bettina’s Soul Food Kitchen, which I readily endorse, if you like soul food or plain ole country cookin’. It is close to the courthouses, and has a buffet, so it is easy in, easy out. Probably not a good place for folks taking statins.

If soul food isn’t your thing, or if you are a Madison County courtroom regular and need to spice it up a bit with a little international flair, there are three Asian restaurants in Canton to choose from. Each has something to offer that sets it apart from its competition. The most visible of the three is China Buffet, located on Peace Street, between the Square and I-55. This is pretty much a standard Mississippi Chinese buffet, which means it is going to have chicken drummies, banana pudding or jello, and other not-so-traditional Asian cuisine. In terms of trying to mind my southern manners, I’ll just say that seating is ample, and you can get in and out of there quickly, which is a plus if you have to be back in court in an hour.

The second contestant in the title quest for Best Asian Restaurant in Canton is a place no one has ever heard of, because no one really knows its actual name: Dragon’s Garden. Canton residents3 generally refer to it as “Red Roof” because it has a tall, angular, red roof that cannot be missed if you are driving east from the Square on Peace Street, toward Hwy 43, rather than going back toward I-55.4 Red Roof was obviously something else many years ago, but I’m not sure what. My guess is it was a hamburger restaurant, but it looks like it could have been part of an old Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge.

Like China Buffet, Red Roof is a sit-down restaurant, but is menu-driven rather than buffet style. The prices are extremely reasonable, and the food is good. When I had lunch there a couple of months ago, I had General Tso’s Chicken.5 My guest had cashew chicken. Both were quite good, with enough left for a take-home plate for dinner.

The final piece of the Asian culinary puzzle in Canton is Wok to Go. Situated in a small shopping center only a couple of hundred yards (if that) from Red Roof on Peace Street, Wok to Go rubs elbows with a finance company, a check-cashing business, and a nail salon in the same complex. (For those who might want Mexican, Santa Fe Grill is in the same center). As its name suggests, Wok to Go is primarily a take-out place. Like Red Roof, Wok to Go is inexpensive, and the food is good, standard, Asian take-out. It sort of has a Mr. Chen’s vibe, but without the seating area, fish tank, or buckets of frogs. Curiously, even though you can call in your order, they don’t actually start making it until you get there and pay. I guess they’ve had some no-shows in the past, which would understandably be quite frustrating.

Each place has its strong points and drawbacks. If crunched for time, China Buffet is probably the safest bet. If you finish your court appearance and don’t have to worry about going back at 1:00 p.m., and want to sit down for lunch, Dragon’s Garden/Red Roof is the way to go. And if you finish up late in the day, and want to get take-out for yourself or the entire family, Wok to Go is a great choice.


  1. Chad Hammons is a partner in the Jackson office of Jones Walker LLP, where he practices in the Litigation Section, specializing in creditors’ rights, bankruptcy, and commercial litigation.
  2. It should be pointed out here that many defense lawyers who hold themselves out as “socially conscious” or who contend they would rather be “helping the little guy” often proffer a version of what has been called the “yuppie nuremberg defense”: I was only doing it to pay for private school!
  3. Not sure of the demonym: Cantonians? Cantonites? Cantoneers? Cantonistas?
  4. As those in the know know though, the better ingress/egress to/from Canton/Jackson is via Nissan Parkway to Hwy 51, through the south side of the Square.
  5. As those in the know know though, the better ingress/egress to/from Canton/Jackson is via Nissan Parkway to Hwy 51, through the south side of the Square.
  6. This brings to mind a question posed long ago: who is the bigger villain in chicken history? General Tso, or Colonel Sanders?