“We’re not the Tiki, but we hope to be just as memorable.”
That is the sentiment felt by Karen Horn who is the owner/operator of the Horn Island Grill located in the former location of the Tiki Restaurant in Gautier, MS.
For years, Karen and Gregory Horn ran a bar and grill in downtown Ocean Springs but had decided to close it down once their lease was up. They were considering their options for what to do next, whether to stay in the restaurant business or get out of it.
And then they heard that the Tiki property was for sale.
The Tiki had been a historic staple in Gautier for over 50 years and was located on prime real estate on the water.
“I had so many memories of coming here as a child. I told my husband, let’s just look at it and see what we can do,” Karen Horn said.
She states that the Tiki’s location was their ideal place in the beginning, and if it had been for sale years ago, they would have settled there instead of in Ocean Springs.
So knowing that the property was available, the Horns didn’t waste any time purchasing it.
Now that the property is theirs, the Horn feels very emotional about it.
“Once we took possession of the property, the first thing I did was rip off the ‘For Sale’ sign on the fence downstairs, and then I cried as I walked around. I had experienced so much here and never thought in a million years that this place would be mine.”
The Horn Island Grill opened in January 2022 and has been going strong since. They are a seafood and steak restaurant with daily specials such as Taco Tuesday (3 tacos for $9.95 and $5 well margaritas); Ladies Night/Wing Night on Wednesday ($1 wings, buy one, get one for the ladies); and Steak Night on Thursday (ribeye steak and baked potato for $20).
The Horns have been working on the property and making changes bit by bit trying to make it their own and make it a safe place for others to come and enjoy.
The Tiki was such a prominent fixture in the community and everybody who ever went there still feels nostalgic about it. And the Horns are no exception.
One thing that Horn really appreciates about the property is watching the sunsets.
“The colors are orange and red, and it’s amazing. You just look out on the water and you see the boats and it’s gorgeous out here. It’s so beautiful.”
And there are the catfish.
“I remember when I was younger throwing french fries off the bottom deck and the catfish, their heads would just bounce up out of the water. It looked like they were almost hitting each other to get the fries. They still do that. It all just amazes me, and it’s still happening. It’s a really neat tradition.”
Besides the catfish, they also have turtles that frequent the water looking for snacks, and also an occasional gator.
People can drive their boats up to the restaurant, go in and eat, and then sail off back to wherever they came from.
Good food, good atmosphere, and good people. That’s what the Horn Island Grill serves up.
Horn wants everyone to know that Horn Island Grill is here and wants everybody to come and enjoy their food. That’s what she tells her staff – that the customer is always right and you have to treat them like family, and if you do, they’re going to come back. She also tells people that if something doesn’t taste right or if it’s not what they wanted, to let them know and they’ll fix it.
“That’s what we want. We want people to know we’re here and we want people to come back. We’re not the Tiki, but this was the Tiki’s home for a long time.”
Horn Island Grill has live events such as local bands usually on Friday and Saturday nights, or they’ll have karaoke if a band isn’t available. On Sunday afternoons they have standing entertainment by Wayward Jones.
“It’s down-home fun stuff. We’ll even have customers get up on stage and sing with the bands.”
Horn has long-range plans for the restaurant.
“I want Horn Island Grill to become a place that is remembered like the Tiki was. I want people to remember us like that. That it’s a good place to come and it’s a good place to have parties.”
Horn Island has already held graduation and retirement parties, as well as birthday and anniversary parties, much like the parties Horn remembers celebrating in her youth at the Tiki.
“I want people to remember us with love and for us to be like that. I want people to cherish the place.”
Horn loves all aspects of ownership of the restaurant.
“I love it here. It’s like home so it’s not hard to come to everyday. I always want to come and be here. I like to see people and meet people and just be a part of something.”
Horn Island Grill is located at 3212 Mary Walker Drive, Gautier. Phone 228-205-0891.
Hours: Tuesday – Thursday, 11am-2pm and 5pm-9pm; Friday & Saturday 11am-midnight; Sunday 11am-8pm. They are closed on Monday.