The Mississippi Gulf Coast is loaded with good restaurants, and if you started counting, you would soon be in the hundreds. There is also great diversity, from po-boy shops to Jamaican, Vietnamese, steakhouses, and fine dining too. I am often asked what my favorite restaurant is, and I always give the same answer: “You have to give me a category as it isn’t fair to compare a po-boy shop with an Italian place.”
So, here are what I think of as the best of the best on the coast. It is not a concise list, and I will leave an awfully lot of good places out – just because of the brevity of this column. In the fine dining category, I have to start with the two James Beard-nominated restaurants on the coast: Vestige in Ocean Springs and White Pillars in Biloxi. Both are amazing and are also quite different from each other. White Pillars has a lot of southern influences; Vestige is really in a category of its own, but expect a few Japanese touches. There is a new place in Bay St Louis that is stunningly good called the Thorney Oyster. Try their bouillabaisse and you will have a life-changing experience. All of the casinos have steak houses that fit into the fine dining category and my favorites are Thirty Two at the IP, BR Prime at the Beau Rivage, and Minon’s at the Palace.
All of the Vietnamese places are very good, but Henry’s Cafe and Bakery in D’Iberville is my favorite. Nothing beats a bowl of steaming pho or Vietnamese beef stew on a chilly day. Henry’s also has what I think is the best French bread around and they bake all day, which means you can snag some freshly baked bread even in the afternoon.
There are so many po-boy places, it’s hard to choose, but for a pot roast beef po-boy, I always go to Quave Brothers in D’Iberville. It is amazing, but all the po-boys are good there too. Po-Boy Express in Ocean Springs also gets top marks. Make sure to try their shrimp and roast beef po-boy, but remember to ask for extra gravy. Check out the cheeseburger po-boy at the Marathon gas station of Pop’s Ferry Road in Biloxi, and the po-boys at the Fayard’s gas station in St Martin, just off the interstate.
I wish I had more to report on Italian dining, but the pickings are slim. The Sicilian II is very good in Biloxi, as is Stalla at the Beau, but that is about it. Most of the pizza places are OK, but nothing approaching the great pizzas I have had in other places.
My favorite Mexican place is La Nortenia in Biloxi. It is not Tex-Mex but real Mexican. Grandma is in the kitchen, and most of the customers are men in work boots and jeans. The food is fresh and delicious. You may laugh at this one, but I also like Taco Sombrero, both in Gulfport and in Biloxi. It is classic Tex-Mex but it just hits the spot sometimes.
There really are a lot of good places to eat on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and my apologies again for all those I have missed. Get out there and see for yourself!