It Came From the Delta 

Melissa Cookstone was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, and now she's incorporating her heritage into Yazoo's Restaurant, which she opened with her husband Pete late last year in Bartlett. As in the Delta, says Melissa, Yazoo's "people are friendly, the food is fresh, and every mealtime is about having fun."

The Cookstones have a long history in the food industry, with more than 40 years between them working as area representatives for Applebee's, Ruby Tuesdays, and the like. After observing restaurants for years and after eating out on countless occasions, the couple wanted to make sure they got it just right with their own place.

"When you're in the industry that long, the thought that 'I can do that better' pops into your head all the time," says Melissa. "But you have to have your own place to really do it better. We just got lucky with this location at a time when we're ready to take that chance."

Yazoo's emphasis is on fresh food, made from scratch daily. The restaurant uses Mississippi stone-ground grits, Delta farm-raised catfish, Gulf shrimp, aged certified Angus beef for steaks that are hand-cut daily, home-made desserts, and pulled-pork barbecue and ribs that have won awards all over the South. "We want people to come here and enjoy themselves," says Pete. "And it doesn't matter if it's a Tuesday night with the family or an anniversary dinner. Our prices range from $12 to $27, so there's something for everyone and a bunch of great items to choose from."

Yazoo's is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Yazoo's Restaurant, 6220 Stage (384-8860)

click to enlarge Vincent Nguyen, owner of Saigon II in Bartlett - JUSTIN FOX BURKS

Saigon II, according to its owner, Vincent Nguyen, is Bartlett's first Vietnamese restaurant, but it's not his first time being a groundbreaker. "We opened Saigon I in Jackson, Mississippi, about four years ago, and it was the first Vietnamese restaurant there," Nguyen says.

Originally from Saigon, Nguyen came to the Mid-South by way of Portland, Oregon. Family brought him to Jackson, and the desire to open another restaurant in an area that still needed a Vietnamese pho place brought him to Bartlett. The menu is straightforward, offering noodle soups and entrées, vegetarian dishes, and rice plates and hotpots.

Saigon II's hotpots come with your choice of beef, chicken, seafood, or a combination of the three. "Our hotpot is a little different from those at other Vietnamese places," Nguyen explains. "It's hard to describe if you have never eaten it. A rice hotpot is a mix of cooked rice, brown sauce, vegetables, fish and/or meat that is all baked in a metal pot so the bottom and sides get crispy."

Saigon II also offers sinh to, mixed fruit drinks in strawberry, papaya, jackfruit, mango, and lychee, and chè homemade puddings: a bean pudding with coconut milk or tapioca pomegranate with jelly and coconut milk.

Saigon II is open Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m., and Sunday11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Saigon II, 2731/2733 Bartlett Blvd.(213-0447)

The Flying Fish, scheduled to open downtown this week, is the latest undertaking of restaurateur Shannon Wynne, who's also responsible for the restaurant's sibling, Flying Saucer Draught Emporium. This will be Flying Fish's fifth location, with three of the restaurants in the Dallas area and one in Little Rock.

The Flying Fish concept centers around a relaxed, lake-house-like atmosphere and simple, hearty fare. The main selections are fresh catfish, shrimp, and oysters and a specialty selection of salmon, trout, or tilapia. The Flying Fish, even though related to the Saucer, won't be your place for an unlimited beer selection. It will offer a few beers on tap and 10 bottled selections, along with a selection of red and white wines.

If you want to exaggerate about your big catch, bring a photo for Flying Fish's "Liars Wall." The restaurant will also feature the world's first "Billy Bass Adoption Wall," where any customer who donates a Billy Bass will receive a free basket of catfish, along with his or her name on a plaque.

The Flying Fish will be open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

The Flying Fish, 105 S. Second (522-8228)



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