Coast Cuisine - June 2020
- Story by Lisa Monti, photos by Ellis Anderson
When you’re looking for an outside dining experience with great views and even greater seafood, Cuz's Old Town Oyster Bar & Grill won’t steer you wrong.
- Story by Lisa Monti, photos by Ellis Anderson
While the Starfish Café remains closed, Wholey Foods helps support their mission with meal plans for healthy eating.
- Story by Lisa Monti
A pared-down menu packs all the Sycamore favorites to go, to satisfy the cravings of their loyal customer base.
- Story by Lisa Monti
At Papa B's Tamales, Tammie and Tony Burch's passion for humble Mexican street food offers their customers fun food to eat-in or drive-thru.
- Story by Lisa Monti
With a nod to cuisines from the bayou to Asia and beyond, the elegant Sycamore House has become a coast favorite.
– story by Lisa Monti
– photos by Ellis Anderson
Today, the Sycamore House is known for its eclectic choices on the hefty menu ranging from New Orleans and Southern classic seafood and steak entrées to pizza and Asian dishes.
That variety is what first-time guests in our group noticed quickly after settling in at our table in the Mauffray dining room recently. Across the hall is the larger Provence dining room with French accents and access to the large screened porch.
The menus haven’t changed much over the years, but there have been tweaks here and there. “We added a new salad, but I can’t tell you when that was,” she said. An aged Black Angus New York strip was added to the dinner menu, and the desserts (all made by hand at the restaurant) change up a bit depending on the season.
The menu reflects the two chefs’ backgrounds. “I’m from New Orleans and my husband is from New York. And because we’re in the South it’s hard not to have a lot of Cajun/Creole-type dishes.”
They also enjoy eating and cooking Asian food, a nice additional layer that fans are happy to find in Sushi-grade local yellowfin tuna with ginger-soy sauce.
A quick rundown of the menu shows the range of influences, from barbecue shrimp and turtle soup to Thai scallops and Saigon Chicken Tacos appetizers. The flavorful Cuban style slow-braised beef brisket also shines in a poboy variation. Turtle soup and Thai-Indonesian style curry are two of my favorites for brunch, as well as the Garlic Boursin BLT on sourdough with sweet basil mustard.
Pizza and sushi may be the most surprising finds at The Sycamore House, at least judging from the response of our group. About half ordered pizzas and the others went for sushi (which is available only on Wednesday nights as a special).
And one restaurant regular chose a favorite from the menu, the crabmeat and mushroom cheesecake. My Meat Lover's pie topped with pepperoni, andouille, Canadian bacon and grilled chicken made for great leftovers. You can get a cheese pizza with your choice of toppings, or you can go for one of eight specialty pies including BBQ shrimp and Mediterranean.
Pizza fans can thank Chef Michael for its addition to the menu, something rarely found in fine dining restaurants.
“After Katrina,” recalled Stella, “We were one of the only restaurants around for a while. My husband is from upstate New York and he was dying for New York-style pizza. We converted one of the ovens for pizza and it sort of stayed with us.”
Pizzas are popular for carry-out meals as well as dine-in. They’re available Wednesday through Sunday.
In the 17 years the couple has operated The Sycamore House, they have earned many a loyal customer among locals and weekenders. “Some come in every night we’re open, some two nights a week and we see some at least once a week,” she said.
“As with any restaurant, once you get to know a customer, you know what they like, you make their drinks the way they like them. It’s the old New Orleans way, we have that same sort of thing.”
With the holidays coming up, The Sycamore House is preparing for their special Christmas Eve and New Year’s Even four-course dinners. Watch for them on Facebook and Instagram – but be quick.
“A lot of times we’re sold out before we get to that point,” Chef Stella said.
The Sycamore House
210 Main Street
Bay St. Louis
Wed-Thurs 5:00 - 8:30 pm
Fri-Sat 11:30 am - 9:30 pm
Sunday Brunch 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Chef Tara Davis elevates comfort foods to new heights using sustainable, locally sourced ingredients.
-Story by Lisa Monti, photos by Lisa Monti and The Savage Skillet
“Time has flown,” said Tara, looking back at the storefront opening four months ago. “We’ve been very well received and supported well by the community.”
Many customers have become regulars, and orders from offices for carry-out meals are routine. And word of mouth keeps bringing in new customers.
Tara’s culinary education, training and experience shows in both her menus and her dishes. She honed her skills with award-winning chefs and on several Texas venues. The Savage Skillet logo with a cast iron skillet and a sharp knife shows her reliance on the basics for preparing good food.
“First and foremost, we use locally-sourced foods as much as possible,” she said.
The day starts early, around 5 am, for the all-female crew to get everything ready for the doors to open. That way, Tara says, customers know that when they come in, they’re going to get something “made fresh and not frozen, from local sources and as seasonal as possible.”
The selections are almost all comfort food, reminiscent of meals that make for happy memories. “Meat loaf like your grandmother made,” she said.
Tara doesn’t believe in disguising or masking any one ingredient in a dish. “I personally love for ingredients to stand out and for you to get every flavor all the way through. I want it to all be a star.”
Savage Skillet customers have plenty of options at the storefront, which is open Wednesday through Saturday from 6:30 am to 6 pm. There’s a variety of breakfast items available at 6:30 am, with daily specials ready at 7:30 am.
The full daily menu is available from 9 am to 3 pm. If you’re not grabbing something before work or during your lunch hour, you can settle into the restaurant’s roomy dining area to enjoy your meal.
The restaurant is an open, welcoming setting, nothing fancy by design, she says. “It’s really an easy place to come in and have an elevated eating experience without it being overwhelming or intimidating.”
Breakfast choices vary including stuffed croissants, a French toast sandwich, fruit and yogurt parfaits and various freshly baked muffins. Assorted breakfast tacos with house-made salsas are always available. Breakfast costs $3 to $5.95.
The lunch menu changes daily but always features two lunch items, starting at $5.95 and topping out at $11.95. (You can subscribe to receive the weekly menu at https://www.savageskillet.com/.)
Recent lunch offerings included a pork chop with mashed sweet potatoes and wilted spinach, three hand pies and salad, and steak or mushroom and pasta in a cream sauce.
The convenience of prepared meals seems to appeal most to Savage Skillet customers. “The grab-and-go case is the most popular, hands down,” Tara said. The offerings are perfect for a picnic for two, a brown bag lunch or a weekend’s worth of meals for families staying in a vacation rental or a second home.
“We keep everything on hand, from specialty items to staples like chicken salad, black bean salad, sandwiches, wraps and soups,” Tara said.
Soups are a runaway favorite with Savage Skillet customers. Recently Tara prepared Mexican pozole, lemon chicken, bisque, gazpacho, plus perennial favorites chicken noodle and steak and potato.
“We also do meal prep for families and individuals,” she said. The meal prep is made to order for individuals who want to order a couple or more items. Back to school is a great time to get some help with meal planning.
“Also, if they have certain dietary needs or desires, we can come up with a menu for them.” No matter what you get, “it’s seasonal and local, always fresh from scratch every day.”
Patrons will also be tempted by regional products on display, like salsas, rices, hot sauce, spices and coffee. And dog owners can pick up all-natural, no-preservative treats from Friends of the Animal Shelter, which receives 100 percent of the Savage Skillet sales. Tara even donates $1 for every box of treats sold.
Savage Skillet offers full service catering year-round, and every six or eight weeks Tara puts together a special culinary after-hours evening event to showcase local products and pairing. The next one will be in late September. The same space is available for meetings or other group events.
In a short time, Savage Skillet has become a go-to known for tasty comfort food and fresh, creative dishes. “It’s really nice to be supported by our neighbors,” Tara says. “We always wanted to be the neighborhood stop and hope to continue to build on it.”
Silver Slipper’s Smokehouse Cafe is serving some summertime favorites in a tropical setting.
- story and photos by Lisa Monti
A stage and chairs are set up on one side for the mostly local live entertainment offered weekly to customers. It’s generally a mix of locals along with hotel guests who have access via an elevator that delivers them right to the center of the Beach Bar and Smokehouse Cafe seating.
Some guests from Louisiana grabbed seats recently at the small beach bar before deciding what to order off the Smokehouse menu. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t their first visit to the Silver Slipper, which has a loyal following. They said they were back to enjoy the summertime events and food and drink offerings.
The Smokehouse’s meat-centric menu actually is an offshoot of the popular barbecue selections offered in the casino’s Jubilee Buffet. “We had such great response to the smoked meats on the buffet,” Chuck Anger, Food and Beverage Operations Manager, said, the casino crafted a small menu of barbecue classics.
There’s no one particular standout that the Smokehouse prepares on its custom grill and smoker, he said. All the food is served with a smoky, slightly sweet sauce made in Biloxi. And if you believe that barbecue goes especially well with beer, you may want to go for a Lazy Magnolia Easy Breeze. The Kiln brewery created Easy Breeze specially for the Silver Slipper.
The top item listed on the menu is the smoked rib platter, a half rack of fall-off-the-bone goodness that satisfies the craving for the hearty dish. The generous portion of Smokehouse Loaded Nachos are definitely shareable.
Anger said tables will order one, then follow up with two or three more portions. The chips are covered in slightly sweet pulled pork, baked beans and loads of rich cheese. You can customize these nachos - add jalapeños maybe - or stick with the basics. Either way, it’s all good.
For those who prefer a sandwich, there’s the Smokehouse brisket, always a favorite, and that delicious pulled pork. The fish taco selection features grilled trout, two tacos to an order, for a special seafood treat.
The one burger choice is a deluxe cheeseburger, and the dogs come in two varieties - the standard hot dog and the Gator Dog. All the items come with your choice of the classic barbecue sides: baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw or chips.
Prices for Smokehouse items range from $10 for the rib platter and sandwiches to $4 for a hot dog.
The Smokehouse Cafe is a place where you can go to enjoy a bite, a drink and some music in a relaxed atmosphere that’s definitely kid friendly. The place gets really busy on summer holidays, Cruisin’ the Coast and special events like the recent Jeepin’ the Coast, which drew a huge crowd. It’s also available for private parties.
An array of delicious items on their new Pub Menu adds a new facet of dining to this favorite Bay St. Louis café.
- story by Lisa Monti
The Mockingburger is the perfectly named and simply dressed patty on a toasted bun spiked with jalapeño and cheddar and served with a pile of homemade chips. Who knows how many of those have capped off Second Saturday or after a day of shopping and showing off Old Town to visitors.
At $10, the meaty Mockingburger and its delicious counterpart, the Summer Garden Burger, are at the high-end of offerings on the Pub menu, which is available Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to closing and on Second Saturday from 2 p.m. to close.
The new Charcuterie Board is $10 for a nice assortment of cheese, meat and fresh fruit that could easily be shared. Also new are the crunchy pork rinds and pretzel bites, both $5, and loaded fries that start a $7 and are elevated by $3 with the addition of pulled pork.
I finally went for the tacos, prompted by an enthusiastic recommendation for their taste and thrifty price. You can have one taco for $3, $5 for two and 3 for just $7. Choose from pulled pork, grilled chicken and the Summer Garden or have one of each for a range of tastes.
The pulled pork is sauced with rich espresso BBQ. The chicken is dressed with pico, cheddar and a sour cream Sriracha mix. The Summer Garden taco is filled with the aforementioned patty made with chickpeas, black beans and fresh vegetables splashed with red pepper aioli.
All the sauces are made in house, not a surprise to Mockingbird regulars who enjoy what the talented kitchen staff produces. Each of the three tacos was tasty in its own style, and the pulled pork was especially good thanks to the bold espresso sauce.
And of course the Pub food menu is balanced with a menu of drinks, all $5, and some with bird-themed names like Bird Brew Martini (cold brewed coffee, vodka and vanilla) and the sublimely named and tasty Tequila Mockingbird, a refreshing blend of rosemary honey, blood orange juice and of course tequila.
There’s a lot of variety in the drink selections, from the secret recipe Mockingbird Sangria, the Lushy Lemonade with vodka, the made-for-summertime Lavender Gin and Soda, a rosé wine-based Froze and the classic Mimosa.
Coffee lovers can sip a Bright Eyed Irish coffee or a Bird Brew Martini in keeping with the coffee theme. You can even match a trio of tacos with three beers that are paired for the pork, chicken and veggie versions. That’s just $12.
There’s also house wine and beer ($15 for a pitcher) available to cover all the bases for a visit to the Mockingbird.
110 S. Second St.
Bay St. Louis
Telephone (228) 467-8383
Monday-Wednesday : 7am-5pm
Thursday-Saturday : 7am-9pm
Sunday : 7am-2pm
Janice Hall brings a wealth of wine knowledge and a taste of Sonoma to this cozy Central Avenue eatery.
- story by Lisa Monti
“I draw upon my experience as a Master Commander Emeritus with the International Brotherhood of the Knights of the Vine for wine choices/selections,” Janice says. KOV is the oldest wine society in the country and is an off-shoot of the over-300 year-old European wine society.
To make the most of all that good wine, Central Station Bistro also serves an outstanding selection of gourmet cheeses and charcuteries to round out a visit to the bistro, where every board is made fresh upon order.
Prepping the meats and cheeses - all sliced to order - guarantees freshness and that naturally takes time. The result is “worth the wait,” Janice promises. And since Janice is a professional photographer, it’s no surprise that the Bistro’s boards make for gorgeous presentations. Combinations of cheeses with plump grapes, salty almonds, fresh berries, toast, baguette slices and swirls of prosciutto arrive ready for their closeup. “It’s all about the drama,” Janice says.
Janice works with a supplier who specializes in domestic and imported foods to make sure the meats, cheeses and pates are always “top of the line.” Customers know that their favorites will be available and prepared fresh every time.
The boards provide a variety of tastes and textures. The jams are from a North Georgia farm. The crisp baguettes are served hot out of the oven with rich Irish butter. The pickles, pickled asparagus and artichoke hearts add an element of tartness.
Janice’s interest in cooking and talent for entertaining guests eventually led to the Bistro. She and her husband Jim lived in California before moving here and when they found a spot for their new endeavor, Janice easily segued from seasoned hostess to the Bistro.
The boards come in a variety of elements, giving wine (and beer) drinkers a sampling or something more substantial.
The simple sampler comes with one meat, a cheese, dried fruit and nuts served with crackers. From there, the board offerings multiply.
The Fromage board has three artisan cheeses along with fresh fruit, preserves and baguette. The Charcuterie board has three meats served with cornichons, olives, stone ground mustard, dried fruit and baguette. The Fromage et Charcuterie combines the best of both.
With the three meat/three cheese board, Janice says, “I challenge anyone to leave hungry.”
The Sweet Board serves to satisfy cravings with truffles, biscotti and seasonal fruit, all drizzled with chocolate by Ghiradelli.
Janice notes, “The truffles are provided by the oldest chocolate maker in New England, specifically Rhode Island. Both the preserves and truffles are available to purchase under the Central Station Bistro name.”
Fans of crostini will find two standards on the menu including the always popular Bruschetta (chopped tomato, garlic, Balsamic vinegar topped with Parmesan, parsley and mint) served with stuffed olives. The other is half a baguette stuffed with Brie and Proscuitto and baked. “It’s our version of melted cheese,” Janice says.
Regular customers at the Bistro know they can count on finding their favorite beverages and boards in a friendly atmosphere and they also enjoy the service provided by what Janice calls her “Dream Team.”
Jennifer Black joined the Bistro with ten years experience at The Sycamore House.
Pam Valentine, a native Mississippian with a natural talent for interacting with people, has a background in customer service.
Rebecca Jaquith Diaz is a caterer who previously owned a kitchen store in Old Town and is “an all around Bay St. Louis favorite,” Janice said.
Janice promises great ideas are in the works for the Bistro’s future.
Central Station Bistro
205 Central Ave.
Bay Saint Louis, MS 39520
Open Thursday through Saturday 5-9 p.m.
RAW Oyster Bar on the Bay beachfront is all about the freshest of seafood and sushi - plus weekend and seasonal specials. This new venue is perfect for a quick bite and drink or a satisfying feast. Did we say fresh?
- story by Lisa Monti, photos by Lisa Monti and Ellis Anderson
Just inside RAW’s door at the head of the long bar is a bed of ice where plump oysters on the half shell, cooked crab legs and lobster tails rest while an oyster shucker nearby pries open bivalves and a sushi chef creates specialties to order. Customers can sit at the bar or at high top tables along the opposite brick wall. There’s also a bit of patio seating, which is in high demand when weather cooperates.
The RAW menu - listed by columns of food and drinks - is packed with a generous selection of oysters, boiled and chilled seafood and abundant sushi. Check the chalkboard for specials like Maine lobsters available on weekends.
General manager Drew Tomaszewski says RAW set out to become the best sushi place on the coast, and the key to making that happen was finding and hiring the top sushi chefs.
RAW’s chefs work for hours ahead of opening each day, cooking rice and prepping the fresh components for selections such the Ring of Salmon with blue crab and snow crab wrapped in fresh salmon and the Jalapeno Poppin' Spicy Tuna signature Roll with tuna, cream cheese, fresh jalapeno lightly tempura fried and topped with sriracha, eel sauce and wasabi mayo.
Our party of three cut a swath across the menu to get a good sampling of the offerings. We started with a shared plate of smoked swordfish dip and another with BBQ shrimp in rich sauce made for dipping with the accompanying French bread.
The photogenic Tuna Poke with chunks of tuna and avocado heaped into a martini glass topped with seaweed salad tasted as good as it looked. The house sushi rolls with spicy salmon were another hit.
We also went for the Beach Bum Roll, RAW’s most popular: the snow crab with “crunchies and cream cheese” topped with spicy mayo and eel sauce was a winner. Every dish we tried tasted fresh and was appealing to the eye, plus service was first rate.
RAW sells fresh local bivalves, of course, but also premium ones from such sources as Murder Point, Ala., to give diners a chance to try prized oysters from out-of-state waters.
The oysters at RAW are roasted (not charbroiled as is common). Drew says the roasting makes the oysters consistently good and the cooking time is quicker. Customers find that to their liking, he said.
The classically roasted oysters are prepared with roasted garlic and Parmesan butter, lemon and parsley. There’s also a spicy Diablo version, Southwestern Mexi-Cali oysters and Stella Bleu, again with roasted garlic and Parmesan butter plus bleu cheese and bacon.
Drew says RAW’s food menu remains true to popular items but also offers seasonal items to keep the selections interesting and fresh. It’s a practice that keeps customers returning for the oysters and sushi and weekend specials. “We’re not afraid to change the menu when we get an opportunity to put new things on it,” he says.
RAW’s drink menu ranges from Champagne and sparkling wines to whites, roses and reds to sake, beer and some creative cocktails.
RAW is that rare place you can stop in for a quick bite or an extended grazing session on seafood fresh from the source and sushi freshly prepared.
Writer and Shoofly Magazine editor Lisa Monti reminisces about her first oyster tasting, the beginning of a lifelong fandom for the delectable bi-valves.
- story by Lisa Monti
Detractors have trouble with the texture of oysters, or the notion of eating something raw. That must be even more off-putting to landlocked visitors than staring down at a fried soft-shell crab, with its crunchy legs shooting out from both sides of po-boy.
Fans of the oyster have no such worries when it comes to plump ones eaten raw or prepared in a well-turned dish. Without getting too Forrest Gump-ish, the versatile oyster can be grilled, charbroiled, scalloped, wrapped in bacon, baked, smoked, stewed, roasted, steamed and cooked into a dressing.
Oyster cravings get stirred up this time of year by cooler weather and memories of holiday feasts. A line formed in our kitchen when the Christmas oyster patties came out of the oven. Making them was a production, led by my grandmother, that involved a gallon of oysters and green onions run through a hand-cranked grinder intended for meat.
All the ingredients came together to bubble in a big Magnalite pot before being spooned into small flaky shells from the McKenzie’s Bakery on Chef Highway. A piece of art depicting an oyster patty hangs in my kitchen as a reminder of that holiday treat.
Of course oysters are available any time of year, and fortunately, you can find them on loads of local menus if not in your own kitchen. (Note to self: it’s frying time again.)
A fried oyster po-boy is always a good option, although sometimes choosing between shrimp and oysters can make for some serious internal conflict. The humble, almost sweet, always reliable shrimp? Or the oysters, delicate to the mouth, on the rich side (oysters Rockefeller, hello!) with a dash of extravagance. There’s a reason, don’t you suppose, that there are oyster bars and not shrimp or crab bars.
The last oysters that I ate were at C&C Farm to Fork restaurant on Main Street, listed on the menu simply as Gulf Fried Oysters, in a self-explanatory way. They were fried to a perfect crisp and served with delicious sauces, though the oysters were good enough to stand on their own.
There’s even a new festival celebrating the briny treats – the St. Clare’s Oyster Fest on October 13th (see details on our Upcoming Events page). If it’s anything like the church’s annual Seafood Festival, it’s bound to grow into a local tradition.
As a child on the beach trying my first raw oyster, maybe I didn’t appreciate how special that treat was at the time. But I’m mightily grateful now for all of the fresh seafood in the Gulf. Catch it, cook it, order it and celebrate it. Aren’t we the lucky ones?
Below are a few of our Old Town restaurants known for their oysters.
200 North Beach
200 N Beach Blvd
Bay St Louis
Open 7 Days
116 N Beach Blvd
Bay St Louis
C&C Farm to Fork
Creative and sustainable Southern cuisine
111 Main Street
Bay St. Louis, MS
Cuz’s Old Town Oyster Bar & Grill
108 S Beach Blvd
Bay St Louis
(228) 467- 3707
Open 7 Days
The RAW Bar
118 N. Beach Blvd.
Bay St. Louis
Silver Slipper Casino’s Oyster Bar
Fresh seafood appetizers and entrees
5000 S Beach Blvd
Bay St. Louis , MS 39520
Open 7 days
St. Clare Church Oyster Festival
St. Clare Catholic Church
236 S. Beach Blvd
10:00am to 10:00pm
Drawdown tickets are on sale now at the church—$50 per ticket.
Seafood, bands, vendors, a $5,000 drawdown raffle, and more seafood! Welcome the Fall season with tasty oyster dishes and "sides" like gumbo, potato salad, fried shrimp plates and poboys, crab stuffed potatoes, cotton candy, and more! Live local entertainment including the David Mayley Band (1pm-3pm) and Monsters at Large with the Moran Brothers (6pm-9pm). What a win/win--oysters and a drawdown!
Chef Rickey Peters settles into his new Court Street kitchen in Bodega's, taking bar food to new heights with delectable sandwiches, tapas, and of course, his signature gumbo.
- story by Lisa Monti
Then, Rickey and Kevin Jordan teamed up at Rickey’s Off the Tracks in the Bay’s Depot District. That place was a smaller venue but it quickly became a popular spot.
These days, Rickey is running the kitchen inside Bodega’s on Court Street, another Kevin Jordan production, where the Parrot Head Bar has tacked on “Grill” to its name. Doors opened March 15 and fans, along with visitors, quickly found their way to the tropical themed Bodega venture that includes a liquor store, yoga studio loft and bike, golf cart and water sports rentals.
The menu is abbreviated compared to the Waveland and Zuppardo kitchens where Chef Rickey presided. It has just three categories: the Krewe of Sandwiches, Hola Tapas and A Bite of Cultcha.
Clearly, the New Orleans/Cajun cultural imprint is strong; Rickey got started cooking with renowned chef Paul Prudhomme, so the New Orleans/Cajun cultural imprint is strong.
Witness the rich Gumbo Ya-Ya, Cochon deLait and Chicken and Boudin sandwiches and the Banana Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce, along with the Shrimp Remoulade Salad with Cajun Remy Sauce, Rickey’s Potato Salad and Mardi Gras Slaw.
The Cubano - roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese and honey mustard - is a swirl of salty/sweet goodness. And there’s a reason the homemade dressed meatloaf sandwich tops the list of signature sandwiches. Fans say it’s the best they have tasted. Sandwiches come with the classic casual sides: chips and a pickle spear, dressed with lettuce, tomato and mayo.
Rickey has added some new menu items in the Bodega location. Tapas fans are enjoying the flavors of the Dollar Taco, the 3-to-an- order Cheese Burger Sliders and the Shrimp Salad Rolls (boiled shrimp mixed with Cajun dressing), also three to an order. French Pizza Bread, Wings of Fire and Chili Cheese Nachos round out the bites.
Not surprisingly, the restaurant’s atmosphere is super casual and the wait staff is helpful and friendly. Prices are on the hospitable side too. The most expensive items on the small menu are $9.95 (the Porky Pig, Chicken Club and Ferdi sandwiches and the signature Shrimp Remoulade). The Dollar Taco is at the lowest end of the pricing.
Soon, the outdoor eating space will be expanded. The addition of a large balcony in the rear of the building will cover the bricked courtyard. Look for Rickey to be happily minding the new brick oven and grill there that will be expanding his kitchen – and the delicious possibilities.
Parrot Head Bar and Grill
111 Court Street
Bar & Grill hours: Wednesday-Sunday 11 a.m. to closing
A well-known local restauranteur branches out into barbeque and finds that just weeks after opening, many menu items have built a solid fan base.
- story by Lisa Monti, photos by Lisa Monti & courtesy Smokin' Jo's
115 South Beach Blvd.
Bay St. Louis
Tuesday-Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Just a couple of weeks after Smokin’ Jo’s BBQ opened for business on Beach Boulevard, menu favorites are starting to emerge and some new items are being added by customer request.
“The pulled pork definitely is the most popular meat item but the Bay Fries have already become famous. They’re flying out the window,” said owner Jolynne Trapani.
Since the barbecue restaurant opened March 13, customers have been heading for the order window at the shack in front of Buoy’s Bar for barbecue and sides. They’ve also been calling in orders for pickup and delivery since Smokin’ Jo’s is one of a few places in town that deliver.
The menu and the delivery service are part of what sets the place apart and the response has been favorable.
“It’s going well,” said Trapani, who co-owns Trapani’s Eatery just down Beach Boulevard. “It seems to me that everybody is excited that barbecue is back.”
And if conditions are just right, the restaurant’s large smoker sends the scent of barbecue in the air. “Some people have said, “We can smell the smoker from my house,” Trapani said.
Back to those favorites. The waffle fries, unique to beachfront restaurant menus, are topped with fresh bacon bits, green onion, cheddar cheese and pulled pork drizzled with secret white sauce and BBQ sauce. Dorm-bound Stanislaus borders are among Bay Fries biggest fans, Trapani said.
Brisket Bay Queso, another popular locally named starter, combines chopped brisket with queso, crisply tortilla chips with a dusting of spices.
Brisket is a special treat to smoked meat fans and at Smokin’ Jo’s it is served in slices on the Train Bridge sandwich (delicious, especially the burnt ends), on meat plates sliced with two sides, by the half or full pound and as an accent to BBQ nachos, another rising star on the menu.
You can also have it on Grace’s Barbecue Soft Tacos, which I did, along with one tortilla filled with that tasty pulled pork. The tacos are topped with mango pineapple slaw for sweetness and a spicy blend of sriracha, fresh jalapeño slices and just bit of BBQ sauce. There’s a lot going on in this serving and it’s all good.
If you want to eat at Smokin’ Jo’s you have options on where to sit to enjoy your food. Outside there are tables with umbrellas for shade, you can share a spot at a picnic table or eat inside Buoy’s. Wherever you land, the servers will deliver your order to you, along with Smokin’ Jo’s spicy vinegar and sweet and spicy sauces. (Plus napkins for sauced up fingers and faces.)
Next time, I’m going for the sausage, which comes on a stick as a starter, as a Salt Water Slaw Dog on a bun (two per order) and on a meat plate.
“The sausage is amazing, very flavorful, not all that fatty and with a crisp casing,” Trapani said. It comes from a Mississippi family owned producer with a long reputation. On weekends, you can try alligator sausage, but order early. It sells out quickly.
Smokin’ Jo’s recently added fried dill pickles to the starter lineup after customers asked for them. “We do it with crinkled Kosher dills served with our white secret sauce. The Koshers are crispier and more flavorful,” Trapani said.
Great news for ham fans. Smokin’ Jo’s will be smoking 10-pound spiral hams for every holiday, starting with Easter this year. If you missed the special order, you can get smoky slices for a short time in old fashioned ham sandwich with melted cheese served on bread toasted on the griddle.
Smokin’ Jo’s also does catering. Look for a ribbon cutting Saturday, April 28 at 4 p.m.
An award-winning chef brings Italian food - not anything at all like your mama's - to Old Town Bay St. Louis and wins over diners from across the coast.
- story by Lisa Monti, photos by Ellis Anderson
It was a lucky coincidence to have lunch with friends at C&C Italian Bistro on Friday and then go for the much anticipated steak dinner with family on Monday.
They were two entirely different meals, both plentiful and delicious, showing C&C’s versatility.
Chef David Dickensauge’s arrival on Main Street last year caused a stir with news of his plans to offer artisan pizza, pasta made in house and rustic Italian small plates. Dickensauge interned in Chicago Italian restaurant kitchens and wanted to bring those out of the ordinary dishes to the Bay.
A key player in the renovated space is a special gas-fired brick oven, which produces not only exceptional pizzas but menu treats such as charred oysters on the half shell.
Pizzas come with such glamorous themes as Rockefeller (oysters, creamed spinach, bacon and bechamel), Scottish smoked salmon and Steak Gruyere (grilled filet mignon, Gruyere, horseradish cream, truffle oil and micro arugula).
Besides the brick oven offerings, C&C’s menu is broken down into appetizers, fish and meat, the housemade pastas, sandwiches and salads alongside daily specials.
Our lunch gathering tried a little of everything. The pizza option was Primavera, with olives, feta, marjoram, onion and marinara.
For seafood, it was shrimp atop soft polenta that was topped with a poached egg and crispy proscuitto. The Toscano sandwich was stuffed with roasted hampshire pork, arugula, cracklings and salsa verdi on rustic bread.
Two brick oven-roasted Hampshire pork chops made an impressive and generous large plate with extras to take home and enjoy later. My choice of pasta was the Tagliatelle with rich bolognese ragu and parmigiana, rich tasting and warming on a dreary day.
Everyone agreed that our Italian dishes, all different, were tasty, generous and nicely presented. And it didn’t hurt that Frank Sinatra was serenading us from Pandora.
Dickensauge has crafted weekly specials that might make you want to double down for lunch and then back for dinner in quick succession.
Monday is steak night with the $20 18-ounce ribeye or 8-ounce filet and $10 pasta dishes.
Tuesday is live music with various dinner specials, Wednesday is wine specials and those brick oven charred oysters and Thursday is a four-course set dinner and wine pairing. Happy hour is celebrated Monday through Saturday.
C&C Italian Bistro is open for lunch Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner Monday-Friday starting at 5 p.m. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sushi, sashimi, rolls, hibachi and bento boxes: You'll find it all at Yamotos. And steaks. And seafood platters. You don't have to be craving Asian to visit and leave happy.
- by Lisa Monti, photos Lisa Monti and Ellis Anderson
Interest in the Yamato Steak House of Japan’s newest location (including the original in Hattiesburg and others in Mississippi and Louisiana) seems to be holding steady here. At a weekday lunch, the place was busy and the servers moved quickly to take orders and fill glasses.
Yamato’s has an ample menu - starting with appetizers and ending with desserts - covering all the bases in between. There are sushi rolls, hibachi lunch specials, dinners and combos, bento box specials all day, soba and steaks as promised in the name.
For a closer to home taste, there are even three Louisiana seafood platters with salad, fries and an egg roll as sides. We’re told that local diners tend to favor hibachi over the raw dishes but interest in sushi and sashimi is picking up thanks in part to some innovative specials.
At the heart of the menu are 23 special rolls with names like Shaggy Dog (shrimp tempura with spicy crab, shrimp and eel sauce) and the Fire on the Bayou (spicy scallop and crabmeat with tempura flakes, seared yellowtail, jalapeño and ponzu sauce on top).
The rolls range from $9.95 to $14.95 for the Alexander Roll (lobster, lettuce, cucumber, avocado, snow crab and special sauce). Most fall in the middle price range. You can also get any three of the 24 lunch sushi rolls for $10.99. Appetizers and soups start at around $1.75
Our table of four covered a sushi special, hibachi shrimp and chicken, a sushi appetizer and Yum Yum salad (raw fish, avocado in a crunchy sauce.) The special was Ahi tuna wrapped in seaweed, tempura battered and lightly fried. That one was the winner for best plating but all our choices were well prepared, plentiful, tasty and nicely presented by our server Brandon.
The tempura ice cream dessert, split three ways, was generous enough for four and it disappeared quicker than the house-made ice cream could melt among the whipped cream dollops in the corners and the chocolate sauce.
Customers who have been bringing in their own wine should know that Yamato’s is expected to have its liquor license soon, manager Ivy Wu tells us. Check first before you go.
Coast Cuisine - Oct/Nov 2017
One of Bay St. Louis's most popular restaurants has changed hands, and while the menu and décor have been subtly updated, the goal of pleasing people has not.
- story by Lisa Monti, photos by Ellis Anderson
Not much has changed under the new ownership and that’s just fine with the regular customers who remain loyal to their favorites at 200 North Beach, including Miss Ann’s homemade pecan pie and the always in- demand Angus ground chuck Bay Burger served on a brioche bun.
The look of the menu, however, has been refreshed, according to acting GM Vicky Bailey, and some new items have been added, including the deliciously rich-sounding double-cut New Zealand lamb chops ($29), which is something you don’t see often on local menus.
Another is beef Wellington ($27), marinated boneless short rib wrapped in delicate pastry, found on a list of local favorites that includes Ahi tuna, meatballs and spaghetti to fresh grilled catch of the idea.
The building itself dates back to 1903, making it one of the oldest on Hancock County’s waterfront. Over the years, the structure has gone through many iterations and owners. Most recently New Orleans developers Jim and Catherine MacPhaille and Chef Becton took over from Miss Ann Tidwell, well known for her gracious hospitality and for bringing the building back in 2011 after Katrina’s destruction.
For our recent lunch, a cup of hearty seafood gumbo led things off, followed by a satisfying slice of quiche speckled with salmon. There’s a Monday-through-Friday all-day local special and on this particular day, a Friday, it was blackened tilapia with seasonal vegetables ($12), all tasty and well seasoned.
The Catch of the Day (grilled triple tail topped with ginger glaze over a bed of rice for $21) is another reason to come back for lunch.
200 North Beach has built a reputation as a go-to spot for locals and a destination for visitors to enjoy a casual lunch, an end-of-the-day cocktail or a special dinner. There’s also an upstairs dining room and balcony for private parties.
Special events at 200 North Beach include Happy Hour from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday featuring specially priced oysters and house cocktails.
True to its roots while open to the interesting and new, Dempsey’s lures diners from near and far home to the Kiln.
– Story and photos by Lisa Monti, photos by Ellis Anderson
The multiple choices listed under appetizers, seafood, steaks, and chicken present a happy dilemma for diners, especially on a first visit. But for Dempsey’s regular customers — and there are many of them — it’s easy to fall back on their favorites: the abundant platter for two (gumbo, stuffed crab, shrimp, oysters, redfish, catfish and crawfish pies), the charbroiled oysters (Dempsey’s specialty), the famous shrimp and grits, or fresh grilled fish.
“It’s the same menu, but it’s grown at each place,” she said. “We even added Sunday brunch.”
Diane was following in her restaurateur father Andrew Marino’s footsteps in 2003 when she opened Dempsey’s on Coleman Avenue in Waveland “two years and two weeks before the storm hit.”
His restaurant, Jack Dempsey’s, operated on Poland Avenue in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans for 36 years.
After Katrina, Hennessy operated her restaurant for four years on Lower Bay Road in Lakeshore, and six years ago Dempsey’s moved to its current location on Kiln-Delisle Road.
Wherever the location, customers have followed. There are locals, out-of-towners, and out-of-state travelers who fill the dining room for lunch and pack the place for dinner.
“It’s very busy, especially on weekends,” Hennessy said. To keep things rolling along, Dempsey’s has an efficient, friendly staff of about 40. During a recent busy lunch service, several waitstaff joined around a table to sing “Happy Birthday” to a regular customer. At a nearby table, another server artfully handled a table of seven who wanted separate checks.
But back to the food. It’s New Orleans style — stuffed artichokes, frog legs, seafood platters — and plentiful and handsomely presented on each plate.
For our lunch, the seafood gumbo was rich, the fried shrimp poboy on chewy Leidenheimer French bread was wonderful, the tasty eggplant fries were crunchy and somehow oil-free, and the two large grilled redfish fillets were seasoned perfectly. The shrimp and grits topped with creamy Swamp sauce was something to behold and savor.
“It’s how my dad always did it,” Hennessy said. “He always said people eat with their eyes. I’m following in his footsteps.”
Hennessy’s kitchen prepares everything in house, including the rich seafood Swamp Sauce that tops the fried grit cake on the top-selling shrimp and grits entree.
“Nothing goes out of the kitchen that’s store bought. I take pride in the food and want it to taste delicious,” Hennessy said.
And while the menu is biased toward seafood, the Angus steaks don’t take a back seat at Dempsey’s. In fact, Hennessy said, the restaurant earned second place among Mississippi steakhouses in a magazine poll.
If the menu wasn’t packed enough, a chalkboard in the center of the dining room announces some delicious new treats: steamed seafood including Royal Reds, Dungeness and snow crabs, and — a rarity in Hancock County — escargot, a favorite of Diane’s. “I like to cook things you can’t get anywhere else,” she said.
Dempsey’s has 120 seats in the large dining room and bar area, but the place usually fills up with families and groups so reservations are a good way to get around wait time, which can stretch out to an hour at night.
And if the food weren’t enough to attract people to the Kiln, Dempsey’s hosts an annual Cruisin’ the Coast party. This year it’s on September 30 and will feature popular New Orleans performer Harvey Jesus.
Cuz’s Old Town Oyster Bar & Grill
Three generations of a coast family check out the new location of a popular restaurant that's a three-generation operation. The result? An exceptionally satisfying meal.
- story by Lisa Monti, photos by Lisa Monti and Ellis Anderson
Cuz’s is open daily at 108 South Beach Boulevard.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday–Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
A bit before the lunch time crush, we settled into a booth overlooking the courtyard seating, which was filling up as quickly as the dining room on this warm weekday with regulars, workers on lunch break, and visitors with shopping bags.
Cuz’s opened last year with a new name to reflect its new beach location – Cuz’s Old Town Oyster Bar & Grill – and polished up the popular seafood-packed menu with some new items like smoked redfish and tuna appetizers, chargrilled oysters, and pastas. The new grilled items are winning raves from customers while the old favorites, like fresh seafood served boiled or fried, are as popular as ever. The seafood is local and it’s cooked fresh.
We three generations – my niece Becky Monti Necaise, her daughter Emily, and me – bounced around the menu before settling on our favorites from the poboy section, where there’s no way you can go wrong. One half oyster poboy, one half shrimp and one half roast beef, with shared onion rings and fried sweet potatoes on the side.
We waited for our orders while visiting with other customers going in out of the dining room and talked briefly with Christy as she worked her way around the tables, checking to make sure things were flowing smoothly.
Cuz’s, she said, is a real family operation with the Barnes daughters and grandchildren playing a part in the day-to-day operation. “So it is definitely a family affair,” Christy said.
What’s better at the height of hunger than a properly made poboy on chewy french bread, fried seafood spilling out and dressed modestly with shredded lettuce, tomato slices and crispy pickles? Not much. The shrimp were fresh and tasty, seasoned and fried just right, as were the oysters.
The onion rings, something of a rare treat for me, were the crispiest I can remember ever having, and those sweet potato fries were as delicious as any side you could order. The roast beef, Emily reported, was juicy, full of flavor and piled high.
The new location in the French Settlement building also gave the owners some room to add offerings for their customers. Frozen daiquiris have been a big hit, and so have the gourmet popsicles handcrafted in small batches by Gulfport-based Pop Brothers. Don’t be surprised if the Cuz’s crew keeps coming up with new things to keep the restaurant fresh for its new and regular customers.
Breakfast in the Bay
Lisa Monti takes on a tour of some of the most popular breakfast spots in Bay St. Louis. Visiting any one of them is a surefire way to start your day off with a smile - and a satisfied appetite.
110 South Second Street
Bay St. Louis
Mockingbird Cafe, a local favorite since 2006, has outdoor seating and breakfast is served Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Take your pick of eggs your way, omelettes, frittatas, waffles, yogurt, fresh fruit and various sides. Not surprising for a place that started out as a coffee shop, the coffee here is fresh and served all day. Pick from espresso, latte, cappuccino, mocha, iced and specials along with hot and iced tea.
112 North Second Street
Bay St. Louis
The tables on the tiny front porch and in the shady front yard of Buttercup Cafe on Second are favorite spots for breakfast and people watching. Eating at one of the tables inside the cafe also is comfortable and casual for lunch and breakfast. And the fact that breakfast is served all day is another endearing thing that keeps attracting locals and visitors to the bright yellow building just off Main Street. Some favorites are the omelettes, pancakes and the roasted potatoes on the side.
Buttercup Cafe is open daily, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Lulu's on Main
126 Main Street
Bay St. Louis
The breakfast menu at LuLu’s on Main is plentiful, playful, and reliably delicious, from the kitchen of chef Nancy Moynan. The Breakthrough Breakfast Sandwich (cheese, fried egg and ham, bacon or sausage on a toast English muffin) is getting rave reviews. There’s Lu’s Bagel, the top of the line “everything” open-faced bagel with smoked salmon, crème fraiche, red onion, capers and sliced hard-boiled egg. For balance, there’s low-fat yogurt & fruit parfait topped with granola. And for something that combines the best of breakfast and lunch, the fried chicken beignets sprinkled with powered sugar seem totally well worth the calories.
LuLu’s breakfast is available Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
315 Reese Street
Bay St. Louis
Sunrise Cafe is a cozy spot at the corner of U.S. 90 and Dunbar Avenue that’s often packed with locals, so table sharing isn’t unusual. Customers come in for the cooked-to-order breakfast (and lunch) dishes and other favorites including hearty omelettes, breakfast sandwiches and buttermilk pancakes. There are specials, too. It’s open Monday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon.
2400 McLaurin Street
Grammy's Donuts and More
308 Hwy 90
Bay St. Louis
More donuts can be found at Grammy’s Donuts & More, where you might find yourself in a long line at the drive through to get your order. It’s that popular. The donuts made here bear no real relation to the manufactured variety except for the shape. The texture, glaze and flavor will have you understanding you've never enjoyed a real donut before. It's hard to believe that such a divine dining experience.
The "More" part of the name means daily specials (a recent weekday featured shrimp & grits, and a pork chop breakfast), full traditional breakfasts, omelets, and breakfast sandwiches on fresh croissants made in-house ($2.99). Try a breakfast and then a donut for dessert. You can skip lunch and not miss it.
Beignets Always Hot!
Ana’s Cafe offers the best in tasty baked goods and diner staples in Waveland. And don't forget the donuts!
- story and photos by Lisa Monti
The sweet fried dough practically melted in one bite, a decadent reminder of how deliciously addictive a superior donut can be. And yes, the second donut hole was just as airy and fabulous, the perfect mix of sweet, salty and fat.
When our breakfast orders arrived, both were tasty and plentiful, just what the first meal of the day should be. Ana’s Special holds top billing on the menu with classic fare: 2 eggs any style, grits or hash browns, toast or biscuit. Add bacon, sausage or ham or pancakes if you need more fuel. The daily special was a hearty omelet built around spinach and mushrooms, with hash browns and a large biscuit for good measure.
If you prefer a sweet start to the day rather than a savory breakfast, relax and enjoy. The display case in Ana’s Cafe is filled with enormous cinnamon rolls, flaky Danishes, crispy shoe soles, rich chocolate croissants, strudels, turnovers, apple fritters and muffins. And beignets. Yes, beignets. As the sign says, “Beignets Always Hot!”
Lunch at Ana’s is standard hearty fare, too. The menu includes roast beef, burgers, hamburger steak, pork chops, salads, chicken tenders and wings and shrimp grilled or fried.
There’s also a daily lunch special Monday through Friday.
But back to those amazing glazed donuts that lucky customers have been sampling. They haven’t been on the menu, but they’re coming back. Ana’s will begin serving donuts on April 28 but only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You can call in your orders.
Ana’s Cafe is open daily from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 6 a.m. to noon on Sunday.