Coast Cuisine - November 2019
– story by Lisa Monti
– photos by Ellis Anderson
Several things stand out on any visit to The Sycamore House, the white-tablecloth restaurant in Old Town Bay St. Louis. The historic setting in an 1850s structure (actually two Acadian cottages combined) was long known as the Mauffray family home and boarding house way back when, and it has served as a restaurant since the 1970s.
There are the grand oaks that stand out front on Main Street and in back next to the patio seating. The “Come Casual, We’ll Supply the Elegance” dress code sign outside frames our expectations for the experience ahead.
The outstanding food, of course, is the main draw, which chefs/owners Stella LeGardeur and Michael Eastham prepare as you would expect, since they’re both graduates of the storied Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. The couple chose the historic building for their restaurant and home in 2002 and named it after the British home of Michael’s grandmother.
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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