Food Ideas During Tough Times

To say that times are tough and uncertain would be an understatement, especially in the restaurant industry. The pandemic that is scaring everyone, is keeping folks from going out, and social distancing has become a way of life.

I have visited a handful of restaurants and cafes in the past couple weeks, and business is definitely down. Some, like Orchid Indian Cuisine in Gulfport are offering 20% off take out meals, and temperately stopped offering buffet service. They are also offering a vegetable plate for $6.99 and a meat plate for $7.99. That is one heck of a good deal.

The newly opened Greenhouse Biloxi has on-line ordering, making it easy to place your order and stop by to pick it up. If you have not tried the hand crafted biscuits, delicious sandwiches, coffee, tea and beers offered there, you are really missing out.

The Fillin’ Station in Biloxi is still doing what they do, offering perhaps the best lunch special in town, with a price of just $8.95 and generous portions. Wednesday’s hamburger steak with mashed potatoes and gravy is my favorite, followed by Monday’s pork chop special and Thursdays country fried steak. Of course, take out is available, and if you are interested in hearty food, this is the spot.

Of course, the casinos are closed, and many thousands of meals, from the buffet to fine dining, are being missed. But other fine dining restaurants are doing their best to stay open. Recent James Beard nominated Chef Austin Sumrall, owner of White Pillars in Biloxi, said, “I don’t think the general public realizes how bad this could be for some restaurants, our losses already can be counter in the tens of thousands of dollars.”

Sumarll emphasized that he and his staff have not given up, and are doing all they can to stay open,  removing tables in the dining room so that guests will be further apart, and offering take out dining as well.  Sumrall also said “Our primary responsibility is to make sure out employees get a pay check.”

Chef Alex Perry, the Coast’s other James Beard nominated chef, said, “to be blunt, it is crippling the industry and some small businesses will close. I have never seen the industry in worse shape.”

If you have not already stocked your pantry, like folks down here do every hurricane season, here are a few tips. The most economical way to go is rice and beans. A pound of dried beans can be had for a dollar or two and makes a meal for a whole family. Soak them overnight, or cook them according to the instructions in your crock pot or Instapot. Add a ham bone, hock, or bacon, chopped onions and a jalapeno or two. When you make rice, toast it in garlic butter before steaming it, and you will have a meal all will long remember.

Pasta is another economical choice. Pasta with a little garlic butter and parmigiano reggiano is one of my all time favorites. Add a fresh chopped tomato, olive oil and chopped basil to your favorite pasta and I think you will love it. Try buying one of the better canned pasta sauces, add Rouses fresh made Italian sausage (grill it first), and it makes for a very hearty meal.

Another top choice of mine is ramen noodles. I don’t care much for the seasoning packets, but love to make them by adding one cup of water, boil until the water is gone, then add olive oil, parm and a fresh egg. They go well with crispy bacon, and, just in case you are really down and out, a chopped hot dog that has been sautéed crispy brown. Delicious, cheep and quick. You can get a case of ramen noodles at most Asian markets for around ten dollars that has thirty servings.

But, my friends, here is the real deal. The situation is bad, but it is temporary. No one knows how long it will last, but it will end and we will all recover. Please, please, do not post or share things that cannot be substantiated. If you hear that the national guard is coming to close up everything, check a paper first. There are so many exaggerations out there that do nothing but make things worse. Be prudent, be careful, get take out from your favorite place, call orders in first, or find a table that is not too close to others.

See you on the other side.


Written by Julian Brunt

Julian Brunt is a food and travel writer that has been writing about the food culture of the Deep South for over a decade. He is the eleventh generation of his family to live in the South, grew up in Europe, traveled extensively for the first fifteen years after graduating from the University of Maryland, University College, Heidelberg, Germany. Today, he's a contributor for multiple publications, including Our Mississippi Home. He's also appeared on Gordon Ramsay's television show, "To Hell and Back in 24 Hours."


Leave a Reply

What do you think?

Five Rocking Gulf Coast Bands – Listen on Spotify – Part I

Getting Out and About in Nature – In Search of Carnivorous Plants