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Natchez native cooks up home-inspired food in Jackson cafe

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Natchez native Aubrey Norman is the owner and chef of the Downtown Cafe on Capitol Street in downtown Jackson. Norman opened the restaurant in 2011 and specializes in cooking soul food like chicken and waffles.
Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Natchez native Aubrey Norman is the owner and chef of the Downtown Cafe on Capitol Street in downtown Jackson. Norman opened the restaurant in 2011 and specializes in cooking soul food like chicken and waffles.

NATCHEZ — Fry up some secret-recipe chicken, pile on the golden-malted waffles, add a little Jazz music, and you’ve got Aubrey Norman’s smooth recipe for the perfect soul food restaurant.

Norman, a Natchez native, opened up Downtown Cafe in Jackson in 2010, and said he focuses on taking his patrons back to the Jazz era and back to momma’s kitchen.

Chicken and waffles is his most popular dish, Norman said, and the Jazz music played in the cafe takes patrons back to Norman’s favorite time in the history of chicken and waffles.

“After jazz musicians would play all-night jam sessions, they wanted dinner but all that anyone was serving was breakfast,” Norman said. “So they would serve fried chicken and the waffles would serve as the bread.”

Norman’s fried chicken has a little bit of a twist.

“It’s a secret recipe, but I use a Greek seasoning,” he said.

And the waffles are golden-malted.

“It’s the same batter that TCBY and Baskin-Robbins use to make their waffle (ice cream) cones,” Norman said.

Jackson is a fairly short drive from Natchez for a good plate of chicken and waffles, but Norman decided in March he wanted to bring his chicken and waffles back to Natchez.

“It’s home; it’s where it all started and where I get my roots and my motivation,” he said.

The first Friday of every month Norman serves chicken and waffles at Natchez Manor.

But chicken and waffles isn’t all Norman offers at Downtown Cafe. Turnip greens, macaroni and cheese, lima beans and fried okra are also on the menu.

“It’s inspired by home,” he said. “I think people miss the home-cooked meals from home. They’ve been away from mom, and they want the turnip greens, the lima beans and fried chicken. We provide that for them at the cafe.”

And Norman’s ultimate goal is to come back home.

“I want to open up a bed-and-breakfast in Natchez,” he said. “A bed-and-breakfast that serves chicken and waffles.”

Norman is a 2001 graduate of Natchez High School. He is married to Ashleigh Crosby Norman, who is a teacher at Brandon Middle School.

Norman said he is enjoying running his restaurant in Jackson, but he said he never forgets his Natchez roots.

“Whatever I do, it always comes back to Natchez,” he said.

The Downtown Cafe is located at 224 East Capitol St. and can be reached at 601-592-5006. For the cafe’s full menu, visit jxndowntowncafe.com.

 

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