Coast Cuisine: Lenten Dinner Edition
Lenten season provides local churches and civic organizations an opportunity to provide delicious, meatless meals for our community. We may be doing without meat, but we’re not suffering – not by a long shot.
- by Lisa Monti
When you walk in the front door of Roberts Place Café in Pass Christian, it just feels like home.
- by Lisa Monti
New Constellation of Offerings at cosmos
The stellar space-themed breakfast and lunch spot launches in Bay St. Louis at The Pearl Hotel.
- by Lisa Monti
– photos courtesy of Randy Schmidt and Cosmos.
The Deck - Tacos & Tequila
Gulf breezes, beach views, and tasty fare with a Mexican accent make for a laid-back sipping or dining experience.
- by Lisa Monti
- photos courtesy The Deck
Since opening last year "on a wing and a prayer," Beachside at Buoys has garnered a reputation for great burgers, snacks, sandwiches and sides.
- by Lisa Monti
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
In its new home on Highway 603, the Starfish Café sticks to its roots: delicious, well-prepared, healthy food, and giving back to the community.
- by Lisa Monti, photos by Kerry Maloney
Bright, fresh menu updates, tasty libations and new outdoor seating are exciting the many fans of the Mockingbird Café.
-by Lisa Monti
The Deep Comforts of Cooking
In this introductory column for a new series, chef Maria Vieages looks back to the love-filled kitchen of her childhood and the joys of cooking artichokes.
- by Maria Vieages
All Aboard at the New BBQ Depot
This friendly new restaurant in the up-and-coming Depot District proves that where there's smoke - there's BBQ!
- story by Lisa Monti
photos by Ellis Anderson and Trent Tomasich
A new head chef, innovative menu changes and a significant expansion are earning the beachfront restaurant even more loyal diners.
- Story by Lisa Monti
Hungry for Seafood? Visit your "Cuz"
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
Wholey Foods Offers Healthy Meals To Go
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
Papa B’s Tamales & More
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
Sycamore House Restaurant
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
The Savage Skillet
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.”
1248 C Highway 90
Bay St Louis
Wednesday - Saturday, 6:30 am - 6:00 pm
Breakfast begins at 6:30 am
Full daily menu 9 am – 3 pm (or until sold out!)
Barbecue on the Beachfront
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
Central Station Bistro
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.