By Kara Kimbrough
Last-blast-before-school trips and other reasons to hit the road in search of fun and sun caused readers to reach out asking for my favorite dishes around the state. Looking back, I realized the same places and their signature dishes are often on the list. I’m happy to share these tried-and-true places if you want to drop me an email. However, it’s time to branch out and include a few others.
The list is so long I have to divide the list, focusing first on the state’s southern region. The remainder of my picks will be shared in future columns.
In no particular order, here are a few can’t-miss dishes in the southern part of the state. As with any restaurant these days, it’s best to call before you go to check days and hours of operation.
1. Thorny Oyster in Bay St. Louis is perhaps better known for its fresh, innovative seafood dishes, but it’s the post-dinner peach-blueberry crisp that keeps calling me back. The crisp might sound like an ordinary dish, but when you taste the dish filled with fresh fruit with a brown sugar oat topping with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, you’ll understand why it made the list. 104 N. Beach Blvd., Bay St. Louis; 228-688-0401.
2. J’s in Waveland is a humble place tucked into a strip mall, but don’t let the exterior keep you from stopping in. I sampled J’s fried shrimp stuffed potato years ago during a media tour and have been going back for more ever since. Don’t expect gourmet food or fancy surroundings; instead, you’ll get friendly, down-home service from the twin sister servers and delicious, hearty dishes like grilled steaks, pasta and po’boys. 304 US-90, Waveland; 228-467-9176.
3. Burger Burger’s burgers…sounds like alliteration, but it’s actually a great culinary option when seeking an old-school Gulf Coast experience. Don’t expect a normal round bun with a similarly-shaped patty. Instead, expect grilled burger pieces topped with a secret sauce lining a po’boy bun. Make that a very long bun, freshly-baked and delivered straight to the restaurant. Enjoying this unusual treat while sitting on the veranda as ceiling fans twirl overhead and large oak trees provide additional shade creates an unforgettable meal. 1039 E. Howard Ave., Biloxi; 228-432-5183.
4. Downtown Bistro in, as the name suggests, downtown Gulfport, was new on my culinary radar when a friend and I stopped by recently to listen to live music and enjoy a meal. I gravitated to the appetizers on the menu and spotted the grilled cheese, blackberry jam and smoked bacon sandwich. Learning the accomplished chef considers it one of his signature dishes, I anticipated an above-average sandwich. My expectations were raised even higher when I tasted what I can easily call one of the best sandwiches of my life. 1307 25th Ave., Gulfport; 228-284-4531.
5. Finding great pizza on the Gulf Coast is not at hard as you might think. There are many locally-owned pizzerias from which to choose; one of my favorites remains Tony’s Brick Oven Pizzeria. I simply can’t get enough of the gumbo pizza topped with shrimp, crab meat, sausage, tomatoes, okra, cheese and spices. Running a close second is the spicy shrimp pizza. 2417 14th St., Gulfport; 228-868-9877.
Next week, I’ll reveal some of my favorite dishes in central Mississippi before traveling to the state’s northern region.
Speaking of traveling north, the 30th anniversary of NYC Restaurant Week is in full swing through Aug. 21 for those enjoy dining out – and who doesn’t in the culinary capital of the world? Meals are offered at the set price of $30, $45 or $60 at 600-plus restaurants. If you’re headed to NYC, take the opportunity to sample 60 cuisines in over 80 neighborhoods in the five boroughs during the special promotion. For detailed information, check out: nycgo.com.
Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer from Mississippi. Email her at [email protected].