Murky Waters Blues and Barbecue transformed a great space in the heart of BSL's bustling downtown into a cool new joint with a bluesy vibe.
- by Lisa Monti, photos by Ellis Anderson
Next came the process of gutting the space and remaking it into a music-filled venue with dining inside and outside and a full bar. The smoker room right outside the entrance marks the spot with appetite stimulating aroma. Even before you get to the hostess stand inside the door, you’ll hear classic blues by the musicians whose colorful portraits line the walls.
After some delays resulting from the pandemic, plus complications that always seem to crop up around major renovations, the much-anticipated restaurant opened quietly on November 17. Fans of Murky Waters’ flavorful barbecue and tasty sides say it was worth the wait.
The bluesy, smoky barbecue brand, introduced by owners Brandon Atwell, Frankie Penn and Thomas Young in downtown Gulfport in 2013, has been building a following and winning awards ever since. The Gulfport location was followed by one in Ocean Springs and a third in Hattiesburg. Landing in Bay St. Louis was a goal of all three owners, longtime friends from Long Beach.
My lunch visit to the new restaurant started a bit early, so I had a chance to look around inside before getting down to the business of ordering. There is seating for about 100 people outside and inside. The dining room offers seating for parties of two, four and six, plus singles along the bar and alongside it.
Of course, the large menu hinges on meats dry-rubbed and smoked on site, but there are some seafood options too. Portions are generous and served on trays covered with black-and-white checkered paper.
The attractive bar is eye-catching, stretching across the back of dining room, long enough to have space above for three big screen TVs. The full bar features a good selection of craft beers from local, regional and national brewers.
As it got closer to noon, the dining room filled up quickly with couples, families and groups. Service was prompt and efficient, keeping up with the new arrivals and delivering orders and refills.
My server, Jade, walked me though the options and helped me decide what to order as a good intro to the menu in one meal. I decided on the Murky Waters BBQ Sandwich, a double decker of smoked chicken and pulled pork served on a sourdough bun with Texas toast in between the meats. It’s a hefty knife-and-fork kind of sandwich.
I sampled each of the three sauces on the table – sweet, vinegar and spicy – and went with the sweet, though all three are good. The baked beans served as a side were smoky and hot and delicious. The lunch leftovers traveled well and made for a great dinner.
Come prepared to make the most of the extensive menu, especially if you’re craving barbecue in a variety of dishes. Appetizers showcase it in the form of nachos topped with pulled pork or chicken or chopped brisket. Same with quesadillas, but with chopped sirloin and cheese, and waffle fries.
Salads come in barbecue varieties, too, and you can also get a shrimp salad with fried, grilled or blackened shrimp. Murky Waters “famous” wings are hugely popular, smoked in-house and flash-fried to crisp them up. There’s a kids’ menu too, with a nice variety of choices for those under 12.
A baker’s dozen of sandwiches run the barbecue gambit of pulled and chopped fillings, but you can also get some delicious-sounding burgers, a steak melt, and shrimp or catfish po-boys. The dinners come in three varieties: Gulf shrimp, farm-raised fried catfish and chicken tenders.
Barbecue lovers will find that the menu section headed “From the Smoker” offers everything they’re craving: chicken, brisket, pork, sausage and ribs. The much sought-after burnt ends, those crunchy, charred bits of brisket, sell out quickly so plan accordingly if you want that unique item.
Sides hit all the notes for a barbecue place, from regular orders of baked beans, coleslaw, collard greens, potato salad and fries to the Premium sides: fried okra, waffle or sweet potato fries, mac & cheese and onion tanglers.
Blues is as big a part of Murky Waters’ dining as the menu, and the hits just kept streaming at lunch, some performed by famous blues musicians portrayed in the colorful artwork and photos lining the restaurant’s walls.
Sidelined somewhat by COVID, live music is featured only on Second Saturdays for now. More is planned as the weather warms up and foot traffic picks up, according to Tori Nieto, the restaurant manager.
Murky Waters is open daily from 11 am to 9 pm Monday, Wednesday and Sunday, and until 10 pm Thursday through Saturday.
126 Main Street, Suite D
Bay St. Louis
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