Growing Up Downtown - August 2015
The Restaurants and the Bakeries
In this installment of Pat Murphy's book-in-progress about historic Bay St. Louis, you're invited to dine at some of the city's older restaurants. And join the ranks of residents who still hanker for a loaf of Bobbi Anne's French Bread.
- by Pat Murphy
The 1915 hurricane severely damaged the Manieri building. According to Mr. Buster, Andrew ”Dad” Manieri tore the building down, bought and renovated an existing building (the Gilmore Hotel located at Kellar and Blaize Ave. across from the train depot) using the salvaged materials. This location burned in 1933, but was renovated and Manieri’s continued to operate in the depot area location. In 1940 the restaurant was relocated to the location at Beach Boulevard at Main Street. This would be the restaurant that I knew as a child growing up in downtown Bay St. Louis. “Dad” Manieri died in 1945 with the business being run by his daughters, Dutch and Vee.
Manieri’s had a very classic Southern/New Orleans style seafood cuisine and décor. There was a separate room for the bar with a separate entrance on the front sidewalk and an entrance from inside the restaurant. I remember the food being very good, the shrimp creole and oyster poboys being outstanding.
There is one mystery that I haven’t been able to solve so far, even with the help of the Manieri family. At some point in the mid 1940s, it appears that the Manieri’s location was occupied by a restaurant named The Gem Café operated by one L.J. “Frenchy” Barras. My proof is in a photo, which is in my collection. There are also several ads for the restaurant in various publications. I think that the establishment was only located in the Manieri building for twelve to eighteen months (possibly immediately after Mr. Manieri’s death) and then the Manieri sisters reopened the restaurant in the same location. The mystery continues because I just found out that the yearbook ad from the Bay High Scroll was from a 1940 yearbook!!!
After the building was destroyed along with everything else in 1969’s Hurricane Camille, the sisters moved the business into a family home next door to my grandfather’s building on Main Street. But in most people’s minds, it was never the same. The Manieri sisters closed the business and retired in 1981 after 111 years of operation.
Manieri’s Café/Restaurant was founded in 1870 by the grandfather of the Manieri sisters, Dutch (Ione) and Vee (Veronica). There is some question as to where the original establishment was located but it seems that it was on Dunbar Avenue close to the Dunbar Oyster Factory.
By the turn of the century, the establishment was being operated by Dutch and Vee’s father, Andrew “Dad” Manieri, in a building at the end of Washington Street at South Beach Boulevard on the water side. This location was next to Stokie’s Wharf which was one of the main ports of trade in Bay St. Louis. At the time, there were other businesses located on the water side at Washington Street.
Some of my earliest memories of growing up downtown was in Bressler’s Café. This place was in the downstairs part of this funky old two-story building at 134 Main Street on the courthouse side of The Bobbi Anne Bakery. Mr. Tom Bressler ran the place and it was a classic greasy spoon. It seems to me that you actually stepped down off of the sidewalk on Main Street into it. There were pinball machines and tables and a jukebox with a lunch counter across the back. The kitchen was behind the counter. Old man Tom and his wife lived upstairs in the building. I remember the plate lunches being pretty good, featuring the standard working man’s menu of red beans and rice, beef stew, hamburger steak and the like.
What sticks out most in my mind was the thirty-five cent roast beef poboys. You could get a roast beef and a root beer and get change back from fifty cents! Those were the days! I also remember that Mr. Tom used to pay off on the pinball machines, which was a pretty common practice in my youth.
At some point in the early nineteen sixties, attorney Bill Frisbie, bought the building and tore it down and Bressler’s moved to another location on the water side of South Beach Boulevard close to Demontluzin’s Drug Store. Mr. Tom Bressler was a bookie and took sports bets. This was a great unkept secret in Bay St. Louis, but no one seemed to mind, including the local law enforcement people. My dad loved to play the horses and football pools so, much to my mother’s chagrin, my old man and Mr. Tom Bressler were close buddies!
Mr. Russell Maurigi’s café was a short-lived endeavor. I don’t remember it being open more than five or six years in the mid-1960s, but the food was excellent and the lasagna was beyond compare. Mr. Russell had a business for a long time baking cakes, pies and pastries out of his home. He was a short, heavy set, jovial older guy and the restaurant was just a funky little café on one side of the downstairs in what is known as The Sea Coast Echo Building.
I don’t remember there being many tables but there was definitely a long lunch counter. Mr. Russell also put on a huge St. Joseph’s alter in his home on Main Street. This building that housed his cafe is located on the corner of State Street and North Beach Boulevard. Later Mr. Russell’s nephew, Ronnie Maurigi, ran a bar named The Sandpebbles in the same location in the mid 1970s. The building that housed Maurigi’s still stands today and is the location of 200 North Beach Restaurant.
Ray “Daddy Ray” Kidd was always either in the bar or restaurant business. Mr. Ray had been a bartender for Bennie French across the bay in the 1940s. Mr. Ray had a drive-in type restaurant on Ulman Avenue, but moved to a location out on Highway 90, close to where the entrance to Zuppardos Shopping Center is now. I have a very cloudy memory of being in that restaurant as a very young child. They made a mean hamburger.
Later, Mr. Ray opened a restaurant and bar further down Ulman Avenue, almost across from where the Greyhound Bus Station was located at the time. In the 1940s, this location was previously operated by Charlie and Bernice Flink as a praline and gift shop, featuring rental tourist cabins. This was when Ulman Avenue was still Highway 90. Mr. Ray always served great fried seafood, outstanding hamburgers, excellent roast beef poboys, and very, very cold beer.
Later in the early 1970s, Mr. Ray’s son “Lil Ray” opened his famous seafood and poboy restaurant out on highway 90 in Waveland. Daddy Ray continued working out at Lil Rays in the kitchen and especially cooking his signature roast beef for the poboys.
Daddy Ray’s son, Davy Joe Kidd continues to run his “Lil Ray’s” in Gulfport on Courthouse Road and Lil Ray’s son, Trey, operates Lil Ray's on Jeff Davis Avenue in Long Beach. I’m sure that Daddy Ray is smiling down on the tradition of great restaurants that he created and passed on to his children and grandchildren.
Sunshine’s Café & Ice Cream Parlor
The building that housed Sunshine’s is remembered by most as The Eatery and later Trapani’s Eatery. This building started life as a grocery and market run by the Monteleone family in the early nineteen hundreds. Later it housed a drug store operated by a Doctor Cassidy and J.D.“Doc” Roland. Doc Roland was a druggist in this community for over fifty years, with later residency at both Dixon’s Drug Store and Beach Drug Store. In the 1930s, before being purchased by Jean and Gordon Gliem, the building was a pool hall with a bookie and gambling operation in the rear.
Mr. And Mrs. Gliem operated Sunshine’s on North Beach Boulevard next door to Ramsey’s Department Store. Jean and Gordon Gliem started business in a Waveland location at Central Avenue and Terrace. Mr. Gliem manufactured his own ice cream (the cherry-vanilla is supposed to have been excellent) and ran a route truck delivering the product. The Gliems also operated a snack shop and ice cream parlor in this Waveland location for a time.
I’m not sure exactly when Sunshine’s on North Beach opened but Mr. Tony “Trap” Trapani told me that he knew for a fact that it was open by December of 1941 because he was walking from his parent’s bar over to Sunshine’s when someone in the street started yelling that the Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor.
Sunshine’s was the downtown teen hotspot of my youth, and had been so for quite a while. Mrs. Jean Gliem sold gifts from a counter on the right as you walked in. There was a soda fountain and lunch counter along the entire left wall. Tables and chairs filled the rest of the room and the jukebox was against the back wall. At some point Mrs. Gliem sold toys out of the back room where the bookie had operated when the building had been a pool hall. Mr. and Mrs. Gliem were an elderly couple who were about my grandparents age and they were all good friends. I remember that they attended my grandparents fiftieth wedding anniversary party.
The Gliems lost their only child, a son Richard, in an automobile accident before I was born, and I think the experience hardened them. Most of the local teens thought of them as being short-tempered and cranky, but they were always very nice to me. I can remember that Mr. Gliem had something like Parkinson’s disease because he would shake and twitch. Kids being kids, some took to calling Mr. Gliem “Shakey” behind his back as a nickname.
Sunshine’s was a typical malt shop-type teenage hangout and all of the kids would hang out there after school drinking cherry cokes and eating hamburgers, etc. As I said before, the jukebox was on the back wall and all of us kids knew how to reach behind it and turn the volume knob up. The music would get louder and louder until Mr. Gliem would come shuffling around from behind the soda fountain, walk to the rear and turn the jukebox down. He would turn around and shuffle back up behind the counter. The place would be jammed with kids and before he could get turned around at the soda fountain, the jukebox would be blasting out The Rolling Stones again.
This happened about two or three times during one afternoon until Mr. Gliem slowly shuffled back one last time to the jukebox. He bent over and unplugged it and then pulled out a pair of wire snips and cut the electrical plug off of it without saying a word. I remember that like it was yesterday!
Watkins Broadview #2
Watkins Restaurant was located in the triangle where Old Spanish Trail met Highway 90 in Waveland just west of the Phillips 66 Truckstop.The restaurant was named The Broadview #2 because the Watkins family ran a Broadview Restaurant in New Orleans. This restaurant opened around 1952 and really was the nicest place in the area along with the Hotel Reed restaurant. There was a private dining area for parties and receptions. The restaurant was famous for steaks and seafood. The building that housed The Broadview is still at this location but now houses a silk-screening business and over the years has been totally renovated.
The Inn by the Sea (AKA Frosty Inn)
Mr. Wilson Webre opened The Dairy Dream at the corner of North Beach Boulevard and the new Highway 90 car bridge about 1954. He started this business in a little concrete block building and it grew quickly from there. Mr. Webre did attempt to start up a franchise operation, which was a big business in those days (McDonalds, Burger King, Dairy Queen, etc.). Mr. Wilson kept adding onto the original little building, constructing a dining area on one side, with a kitchen and storage area in the rear.
When I was a youngster this was where my folks and grandparents would take us to get ice cream, malts and sundaes. On weekends and hot summer nights they would just pile us into the car and take us down to “Wilson Webre’s” to go get ice cream. Eventually the name was changed to “Inn By The Sea”. This place was the classic small town Americana drive in with a drive that went all the way around just like in the movie “American Graffiti”. It was the same kind of scene. Once you reached the driving age (15), the rite of passage in Bay St. Louis was cruising The Inn By The Sea. This was definitely the place to see and be seen for teenagers. The hot-rodders could usually pick up a drag race by circling the place several times and I have lots of really great memories of cruising in and out of this place - sometimes twenty times in a night.
Hurricane Betsy in 1965 heavily damaged the building because it was literally on the beach. Mr. Webre moved the roof of building out to the property in front of his house on highway 90 and renamed the business “Murphy’s.” It enjoyed some success, but it was never the same as the old place had been on the beach.