Great seafood is expected and anticipated when planning a trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but as a surprise, there are great chefs preparing seafood and other dishes in remarkable ways. When you add amazing steaks, flavor influences from New Orleans, a cafe in a very unexpected place and a hearty community atmosphere, dining in the area is worthy of checking out for yourself. After both natural and man-made disasters, this part of the Gulf Coast has fought back and emerged better than ever. From a fine dining restaurant in a bustling casino to a laid-back cafe which served as the gathering place for survivors of Hurricane Katrina, food is exceptional in and around Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
1. Jet Away Cafe
Let’s start our exploration of the Mississippi Gulf Coast eateries with one of the most unlikely - the small cafe of a regional airport. To be completely accurate, the airport is called Stennis International Airport, and the cafe is Million Air Jet Away Cafe, located in Kiln, Mississippi, right outside of Bay St. Louis. The cafe is located on the second floor inside the terminal and is open for breakfast and lunch, Monday through Friday.
Airport food is not generally considered to be the best place to find truly good food, but that reputation flies out the door at Jet Away Cafe. Breakfast sandwiches and omelets are popular early in the day, but a fuller menu is offered at lunchtime. From personal experience, I can say that the salads are huge, and the gumbo is rich and flavorful. And, also very atypical of airport food, the menu items at Jet Away are priced in a reasonable, almost economical, way.
Also near Jet Away Cafe is the Lazy Magnolia, which happens to be Mississippi’s oldest brewery. Take a tour of the operation, taste a sample of their products or enjoy a live music performance.
2. Two Casinos: Silver Slipper and Hollywood
Casinos and buffets go hand in hand, and the Jubilee Buffet at the Silver Slipper lives up to expectations for bountiful offerings. In fact, Dungeness crab, Snow crab, Jonah crab and jumbo shrimp are a part of the buffet every night. The Blue Bayou Bar and Grill and the Palm Court Cafe at the Silver Slipper are also happy to provide great meals for their hungry diners.
Bogart’s inside Hollywood Casino provides a stunning waterfront setting for its guests, along with an exceptional menu. Open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday evenings, you will taste the freshest possible seafood and fork-tender steaks accompanied by delicious sides and desserts. Scallops, blackened redfish and lobster tails are popular, as are the pecan and sweet potato casserole, asparagus with hollandaise and the New Orleans-inspired bread pudding.
3. 200 North Beach
With a name and an address that match, 200 North Beach on the corner in Old Town Bay St. Louis is a great place for a fabulous dinner, a chance to mingle with like-minded people on the upstairs balcony or to celebrate a special occasion. Chef Keith Becton is especially proud of the steaks and seafood he serves and loves it when he has a chance to display the culinary training he received in France. Although many visitors may come in for tried and true preparation methods, the Bay St. Louis locals have learned to trust that Chef Becton’s dishes will be truly remarkable.
Consider duck pizza, sauteed crab claws, oysters Rockefeller, truffle mac and cheese, speckled trout almondine or a Cuban sandwich before moving on to the white chocolate bread pudding or an old-fashioned brownie sundae. Maybe your friends will share a bite or two of their entrees, so you can sample even more of the delectable choices.
4. Mockingbird Cafe
At Mockingbird Cafe, you will experience an intriguing mix of free-thinking individuals who come in for yoga classes, for an opportunity to peruse the work of local artists, for a cup of Coast Roast coffee or tea, for a homemade morning or afternoon baked treat, or for a light breakfast or lunch where the emphasis is on fresh. Waffles, scrambles, frittatas and granola grab attention for the early meal, while fun hints of the book and movie title, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” are mingled throughout the lunch choices. You can try a Scout, an Atticus or a Mockingburger, for example.
Mockingbird Cafe is located two blocks from the beachfront in Bay St. Louis and has a strict “No Plastics” policy in force. With their proximity to the water, they have a heightened awareness of the harmful effects of plastic in the environment.
Mockingbird Cafe is a natural gathering spot for locals, but the staff is happy to accommodate visitors who find them near the dozens of attractive shops and boutiques.
5. Cuz's Old Town Oyster Bar and Grill
Located directly across from the bay and in the heart of Old Town Bay St. Louis, Cuz’s Oyster Bar and Grill is a casual gathering place for locals and visitors providing all of the tastes most associated with the Gulf Coast, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast in particular. Cuz, also known as Melvin Barnes, has been a fisherman and a part of the seafood business for many years. He knows where to get the freshest catches, and he understands how to satisfy his hungry customers. Raw oysters, fried platters and boiled shrimp, crabs and crawfish in season keep people coming time after time. Catfish, steaks and chicken make their appearance on the menu offerings, but for the most part, it’s seafood of every variety, including tuna dip as an appetizer and a fried oyster salad.
The breading on the fried entrees is light enough to be able to really taste the seafood, and Cuz does a great job with hushpuppies and even a couple of pasta dishes.
6. Jourdan River Steamer
Several things set Jourdan River Steamer in Kiln, Mississippi, apart from other seafood restaurants in the area. For one thing, the dining room and kitchen are situated high off the ground because of previous experience with storms and flooding. If the steps are too much, feel free to grab the elevator. For another thing, there is no fryer in the kitchen. You will not find a boiling vat of hot grease at Jourdan River Steamer. Instead, they are true to their name in preparing steamed, fresh seafood, while also serving amazing steaks and a number of pasta dishes, salads and an oyster bar.
Live Maine lobsters, Royal Red shrimp, Dungeness crab, King crab, Snow crab, clams, mussels and oysters could conceivably appear on one huge platter. There is one on the menu, in fact, called The Titanic that serves 8 to 10 people.
Jourdan River Steamer is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday and for lunch on Sunday. It’s worth the short drive out of Bay St. Louis.
Eat your way through the Mississippi Gulf Coast with gusto
For seafood lovers, it would be hard to beat the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but steak lovers will be mighty happy, too. From great chefs to skilled, self-taught cooks and from small diners and cafes to lavish restaurants, there are plenty of options in terms of ambiance and menu choices to create a memorable foodie experience when you visit this part of the United States. Go for the food but stay for the shopping, the attractions and the beautiful water. Bay St. Louis and its surrounding towns will show you a great time.
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