When Chef Austin Sumrall and his wife, Tresse, moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast from Birmingham, AL., it wasn’t simply because she’s from the area. It was because they knew how much potential the Coast had, and that it’s “poised for a breakout”. That’s why they’ve just opened White Pillars this week: to make a difference on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Many Coast residents remember the White Pillars of old (1969-1989), with its world-famous “Eggplant Josephine”, the massive white columns that faced the beach and for which the restaurant was named, and the overall quality of the food. Those who still reminisce about the old White Pillars will be pleased to know that the new one has much of the original décor, and will also feature some of the original dishes when seasonal. That’s right, when eggplant comes back into season, Eggplant Josephine will be right there under the “Vintage” section of the menu.
For now, guests will have to make do with a tri-tip steak, stuffed with oysters, bacon and blue cheese (insert drooling emoji), wood-grilled red snapper, lump crab avocado toast, mac & cheese with fried chicken skin crumble, or any of the other delightful options on the menu.
Sumrall has also gone to great lengths to locally source all of his ingredients, from baby romaine to pure-bred Red Wattle pork, as well as the plates and tables used in the restaurant. Also featured in the restaurant are some beautiful paintings and chandeliers from the original White Pillars, as well as the original 34-foot bar, which was built in the 1850’s and came from the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago.
An alum of Ole Miss and the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Sumrall worked his way up at a great Birmingham establishment called Hot & Hot Fish Club (I'm a Birmingham native and love this place), and served as the chef de cuisine before moving to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Now that he and his wife are here, and with White Pillars finally open to the public again, fine dining on the Coast just got that much better!