Every time I get the chance to travel, I start by plotting my map with the eateries I want to visit on my way. Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to Biloxi for a conference and not having had too many opportunities to visit the area in the past, I wanted to make sure I took advantage of all that the Gulf Coast area had to offer. I’ll be the first to say that when I’m near the gulf, I always take advantage of the tasty fresh seafood options, so many of the dishes I had were as such. Right now there are people out there who are concerned about eating gulf seafood, worried about its safety due to the oil spill. I can’t make that decision for you, but I will tell you that I work for an incredible environmental organization and have lots of info available at my fingertips about the spill. None of it has stopped me from eating seafood.
So, after scouting some websites and magazines, we plotted stops at The Shed in Ocean Springs, The Blow Fly Inn in Gulfport, and McElroys in Ocean Springs.
The Shed – Ocean Springs
On our way into Mississippi, we stopped at the original location of the The Shed at the recommendation of Guy Fieri from Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” (video). Now I’m no stranger to a dive, but boy was this one for the books. To call this place a shanty was a gross overstatement. But the food made up for the facility. After all, it is called The Shed. The two of us shared the Jumbo Sampler which was more food than we could eat. And we both had a quite an appetite. The platter came with 7 meats (yes — 7 as in s-e-v-e-n — beef brisket, pulled pork, chicken, chicken wings, beef ribs, pork ribs, and sausage) and 3 sides (we chose the G-Maw’s Famous Beans, Chuck’s Baked Potato Salad, and the Mamamea’s Mac Salad that Guy raved about). We’ll start with the latter. The Mac Salad had been featured on Triple D and to say the least we were disappointed. It lacked flavor and seemed nothing more than some pasta shells with mayo and some veggies. The beans were average. The potatoes salad, though, was our favorite side. If we were to do it again we’d order more than one side of potato salad. The ranch flavored dressing was awesome. On to the meat… The ribs were falling-off-the-bone tender and though the pork ribs were our favorite of the two, the beef ribs were tasty as well. The sausage was our favorite thing on the plate – smoky, delicious, juicy, perfect. The chicken was good but a little mealy. The chopped pork and brisket were both good too… we just tend to like a more vinegar based sauce rather than the sticky, sweet sauce they serve at The Shed. Overall the meal was good and the atmosphere was very shed-like. It is certainly an experience everyone should have. Just don’t have your expectations too high.
McElroy’s Seafood – Ocean Springs
To satiate our craving for seafood, we went off of a hint from a friend to try McElroy’s Harbor House Seafood. We went to the original location to find that it had still not been rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina but followed the instructions on the sign there for their alternate location, McElroy’s on the Bayou, in Ocean Springs which is only about 10 minutes away. A little under-impressed with the generic decor, we were seated in the separate bar area with a nice view of the bayou. We both are big gumbo connoisseurs, so we started with a cup to test it out. It was good, though not as dark of a roux as we like. With a little hot sauce, it was good to go. We each ordered the fried Seafood Platter with shrimp, oysters, fish fillet, scallops and crabmeat dressing. The food was all good, served piping hot and crispy, but the fish fillet was outstanding. It was a fillet of Swai and was delicious. The shrimp was slightly over cooked and a little rubbery. In the end it was a good meal despite the slightly overpriced options.
Blow Fly Inn – Gulfport
One of the highlights of our trip was our visit to Blow Fly Inn. Having been featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive Inns, and Dives” (video) also and in Southern Living Magazine, we just had to try it. We were not disappointed! We started our lunch with a cup of gumbo. Again, not a very dark roux, but tasty. The real delight was in our entrees. We both opted for specials that day. I ordered the Shrimp and Grits. The presentation was far from what I expected, but it was quite a nice departure from normal. In the middle of the plate was a square of deep fried grits that was surrounded by shrimp, mushrooms, peppers, and onions in a delicious sauce. It was outstanding! My companion chose the special snapper dish that had a delicious cream sauce with rice. It was divine too! Our meal was topped off with some of their famous banana pudding. Yum!
Thirty-Two, Imperial Palace Casino, Resort, Spa – Biloxi
It is true that it’s not always about what you know, but who you know. This is certainly is the case with this one-of-a-kind dining experience. We had the exclusive opportunity to check out this eatery because of one of my companions dear friends. We owe her a huge thanks for the experience! This southern boy isn’t always about grits and greens… I fancy some high-class dining when I have the opportunity and this place certainly rivals anything I’ve been to in recent years. The location of the AAA 4 Diamond rated restaurant on the 32nd floor of the Imperial Palace Casino, Resort, Spa offers breathtaking views of the Biloxi coast… that is, of course, if you can take your eyes off of the food. The place boasted quite an extensive menu for a first-class restaurant. Our server arrived with a bread basket of unparalleled beauty. It was filled with more than8 different kinds of bread and a bulb of roasted garlic. Being a huge garlic lover, I was in heaven! We started our meal with the Steak Tartare. It was phenomenal boasting capers, shallots, and topped with fried onion straws and a beautifully displayed quail egg. Next we were presented with a token from the chef of an incredible potato salad that was topped with perfectly fried crawfish tails. Three of us at the table opted for the Chilean Sea Bass entree but each of us chose a different topping… The Spicy Tasso Cream: Crispy Fried Oysters, Cajun Tasso Spiced Cream Sauce; The Renoir: Lump Crab Meat, Gulf Shrimp and Fresh Herbs in a Chardonnay Beurre Blanc; and The Gulf Coast: Sautéed Mushrooms, Artichoke Hearts Crab Meat, Topped with Sauce Hollandaise. Each was unique and completely delectable. The fish was expertly prepared and was beautifully flaky. It was such a sad moment when I looked down and there was nothing left on my plate. And I do mean nothing. Our other companion opted for a steak special that he raved about as well. For dessert we chose the Bananas Foster prepared table-side by our incredibly attentive server, Tom. The show was just a delicious as the dessert. It was an incredible meal with incredible company. I would probably rank it in the top five meals I’ve ever had and that’s saying something knowing the way this boy can put away some groceries! If you’re in Biloxi and don’t mind the splurge (and I do mean splurge), it will completely be worth it — I assure you of that!