by Liz Allen
Yes, Caet (pronounced Kate) is the kind of classy, candle-lit, sleek wine bar you would expect the owners of Walker’s Drive-In to open; full of hip beautiful Fondrenites, as well as older and established Jacksonians. But, fear not, college students, they won’t judge you if you are not a wine expert.
At our corner booth, where it was equally possible to observe the full Friday evening crowd and engage in private conversation, my two personal wine gurus escorted my relatively ignorant self through the menu (to ensure I didn’t ask for Chillable Red). They walked me through the types of wine. The three basic whites: Chardonnay, “what suburban housewives drink”; Pinot Grigio, a light wine that “no one will find offensive,”; and Sauvignon Blanc, “refreshing and crisp”; alongside an easy summer red Pinot Noir. All the while, they threw out terms like oaky, grapey, light, heavy, buttery (and more that went impressively over my head). Regurgitating this language minutes later allowed me to order with relative confidence (in the words of one guru, a tone of confidence will take you a long way, both in ordering wine and in life.)
The wine by the pour selection is robust, with just shy of 50 options, divided between sparkling, white and red. The prices start reasonably at $6 a glass (still affordable for that college budget), but they do range upwards to the priciest at $60. Other drink menu offerings included draft beer (mostly local and regional), standard bottled beers, a respectable mixed drink and whiskey selection. Wine, however, remains center stage.
I would recommend The Isabel, a 2003 Sauvignon Blanc, our table’s favorite of the night. As the night wore on, though, I admitted my lack of knowledge to the server, and she was non-judgmental and helpful (and continued to take me seriously, even as a college paper restaurant reviewer.)
While wine comes first, don’t write off Caet’s small plate options, designed by Chef Derek Emerson. Southern and seafood dishes with a twist make up the bulk of the menu, ranging from chick peas to duck confit, oysters to specialty burgers and lobster sliders. We sampled the boudin balls, which are served with three gourmet sauces, including a chimichurri sauce.
Caet opened Sept. 3, in the recently-vacated Miso! location on Duling Avenue. Atmosphere-wise, Caet still manages to be light-hearted and fun. Being unsure of dress-code (alongside a perpetual tendency to be underdressed) led me to go with a can’t-go-wrong dress. While not out of place, I was definitely outnumbered by jeans.
On the casual-to-fancy spectrum, Caet situates itself rather comfortably between Fondren Public and the Apothecary, while setting itself apart from both. The emphasis on wine, as well as the mixed purposes—dinner, drinks, or pre-drinks for a Walker’s reservation—as well as the space-age Napa Valley Wine Stations—bring something new to the Fondren bar scene, rather than duplicating what already exists.
Final word: If you are looking for a cheap, pre-game dive bar with all your friends, this is not your destination. However, this is the perfect place for getting to know more of the Jackson community. But mostly—and the sheer number of two-person oak tables support me here—if you’re looking for a still affordable but classy and intimate date spot—you cannot ask for better.
Caet is open Mon. through Thurs. 4 p.m.- 11 p.m., and Fri. and Sat. 4 p.m. to midnight.