Foodie. Epicure. Gourmand. Connoisseur…a person with a particular interest in food. Pick any label and it's suited to all fans of the tri-county region of Coastal Mississippi. The generous Gulf supplies over 200 species of fish, not to mention proudly serves as the leading source of the nation’s oyster and domestic shrimp industries, a title in progress since the mid-19th century. The subsequent influences of Eastern European and Vietnamese cultures on a native seafood-centric diet have rendered a beautifully layered coastal culinary identity. And despite hundreds of iterations of po-boys and gumbo presented over the years, our area chefs are committed to presenting innovative coastal dishes with locally-sourced ingredients, proving that longstanding favorites will never lose their luster. A few of these creative minds have founded unique culinary opportunities that every visitor needs to experience.
Dinner on the Lot
Husband and wife team Michael and Stephanie Paoletti created Dinner on the Lot in Ocean Springs to unite community through food and fun. Their mission to showcase local farms serves a dual purpose: to educate diners on their food source and to contribute to the growth of the coastal food culture. Homeplace Pastures and Rabbit Man Farms are two of the Mississippi-based farms utilized for creative spins on coastal classics. Through their company, Food, Booze & Hiccups, Dinner on the Lot is hosted on a bi-weekly weekend basis, usually presenting between 5-7 courses prepared by the duo onsite. The communal seating style ensures that food is enjoyed by new neighbors, sparking conversation over - what else - the love of good food. In the words of Michael, “It is mysterious, adventurous, and educational all at the same time.” Visit their social pages to book your seat at the next Dinner on the Lot, and visit the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center to enroll in their cooking classes!
Photos by Jesse Johnson
Cook Your Catch
We have a saying here in Coastal Mississippi: you can catch your fish and eat it too (but someone else can cook it for you). Due to the popularity of fishing charters, several area restaurants permit you to bring your catch to their kitchen, and they will prepare your bounty for you. Popular beach front properties like McElroy’s, The Blind Tiger, and Shaggy’s promise to sauté, fry, grill, or bake your catch. The Ole Biloxi Fillin’ Station in downtown Biloxi, a former - you guessed it - gas station in a previous life, asks that you filet your fish and call ahead prior to bringing in your catch. Research area restaurants prior to bringing in your ice chests to ensure the kitchen can accommodate you.
Lunch with Julian
The only thing better than savoring your favorite dish is learning how to make it! Now routinely offering cooking classes on the third Wednesday of each month at the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum, food and travel writer Julian Brunt will reveal his secrets to perfect quintessential coastal dishes like seafood gumbo and shrimp and grits. The classes stress technique and historical connections for a more in-depth look at Southern cooking. A seasoned writer and chef, Julian explains "Coastal cooking, what I call Coastal Creole, has roots in French, Spanish, Creole, Cajun, African and Native American cuisines. While many other modern influence can be found in home and professional kitchens, historically these recipes were unique to this part of Mississippi, and differ substantially from the country cooking found in most of the state." You can option to lunch and learn for $30 and witness the entire creative culinary process, or simply join for food and conversation at $20. Only locally sourced seafood is used for classes, and if grits are on the menu, then Mississippi grits are what you'll get.
Photos owned by Coastal Mississippi
For a dining experience that gives back to the community, visit Starfish Café. This Bay St. Louis gem serves as a saving grace and educational center for each of its students, providing both culinary and life skills in hopes of securing future employment. According to their vision, they are committed to “minister to, facilitate and equip each Starfish student with tools to fully and completely reach their potential.” Students can enroll in training programs lasting from 8 – 20 weeks, learning every skill from food preparation, service, and financial literacy. The restaurant also possesses a strong commitment to wellness, sourcing foods from local farmers and businesses as well as pulling from their own gardens, and frequently hosts health related workshops and cooking classes. Visit their website to learn more.