Guest blogger Julian Brunt shares suggestions on the great culinary offerings of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
From Julian Brunt
If you have never visited the Mississippi Gulf Coast, you may be in for a surprise. You may not be surprised at the white sand beach, baseball stadium, fishing charters, museums, and even the tourist junk stores, but what just might get your attention is the gumbo-rich food scene: spicy, full of the unexpected, and made with a passion that is the hallmark of this diverse coastal culture.
Sure, it is Deep South, but you will find more Creole, Cajun, African, Native American, Vietnamese, and some pretty interesting local twists than you might expect. If you are looking for farm to table, you’ll find folks here calling it farm and Gulf to table. That amazing pork you loved just might be from the nearby Sand Ridge Farms, heritage breed hogs, free range, of course. The mushrooms might be locally grown and foraged, the grits and polenta ground last week, the vegetables and herbs USDA certified organic, not to mention the lovely shrimp, oysters, fish and crabs that come out of the salty waters just across the highway.
So, maybe you are a bit picky and are a fan of Thomas Keller, of French Laundry fame? Then you should head for Vestige, in Ocean Springs. Chef Alex Perry’s menu is farm to table, seasonal, and based on the best ingredients available. Check out the minimalist ambiance, stunning platings, and his razor-sharp technique. If you want a little upscale Creole with that farm to table, Check out Chef Austin Sumrall’s White Pillars in Biloxi, he is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and has worked for three different James Beard award winners with the title of “Best Chef: South” and did a stint at Birmingham’s famed Hot and Hot Fish Club under Chef Chris Hastings. BR Prime, an upscale steak house, has a great wine menu and one of the best-known sommeliers around, Harry Hall, Stalla has amazing and truly authentic Italian food, Thirty-Two has house made charcuterie, in-house aged beef, the best cheese cart (not a tray, mind you!) and a great wine cellar.
A steaming bowl of pho, made from scratch, of course, can be had at Henry’s Bakery and Café, along with some pretty amazing French bread. If you want a killer good pot roast beef po-boy or, the local favorite, crab meat and cheese po-boy, head to Quave Brothers. Want to dig your toes in the sand and enjoy a good burger or hot dog and a cold beer? Sea Level is the place for you. Want to hang out with the locals and watch the football game, the Fillen Station or the Biloxi Brewing Company would be good choices. The Wilber in Ocean Springs is the place for a craft cocktail and if you are after upscale biscuits, coffee, beer and friends, then the Green House on Porter in Ocean Springs is the place for you.
And that’s not half the list! The food culture is vibrant on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and if ever a food scene could be described as a gumbo, this is it. European, Native American and African cooks have all stirred this pot. Its spicy, rich and delicious. Come and stay a while.
BB’s and Po-boy Express, Ocean Springs
Carter Green, Island View Casino, Gulfport
Charred, Ocean Springs
The Fillin Station, Biloxi
The Green House on Porter, Ocean Springs
Henry’s Bakery and Café, D’Iberville
Jourdan River Steamer, Kiln
La Nortena, Biloxi
Mignons, Palace Casino, Biloxi
Pop Brothers, Gulfport
Quave Brother’s Po-boys, D’Ibeville
Stalla, Jia, BR Prime, Beau Rivage, Biloxi
Thirty-Two, IP Casino and Resort, Biloxi
Water Line, Pass Christian
White Pillars, Biloxi
The Wilber, Ocean Springs
About the Author
Julian Glenn Brunt has been writing about the food and culture of the Deep South for more than ten years. He has logged countless miles on dusty back roads, interstate highways, and city streets from Memphis to the Gulf Coast, and can talk with some authority about collard and turnip greens, chow-chow, sorghum molasses, shrimp boats, immersion circulators, and the proper roux for a gumbo. His favorite place in the world is the kitchen, whether it is his own in Biloxi, Mississippi, or that of a restaurant he is writing about for a magazine.
Julian is the eleventh generation of his family to live in the South, but as the son of a military man, he grew up in Europe, then traveled the southeast and southwest USA, and Caribbean for sixteen years, settled in Biloxi in 1992, and was temporarily diverted to Thailand before Hurricane Katrina. He has regular columns in the Sun Herald News Paper, eat.drink.Mississippi Magazine, Mississippi Magazine, and has contributed countless restaurant reviews to other publications. He has appeared, briefly, on Gordan Ramsey’s TV show, 24 Hours to Hell and Back. Julian teaches cooking classes at the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport and the Mary C. O’Keef Cultural Center in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.