Last month I discovered Chowhound and came on here for the first time to ask where, from Jackson MS south to the Gulf Coast, along US Hwy 49, could one get a nice lunch now that Revolving Table in Mendenhall MS is closed. For Jackson, I wanted it to be near I-55. And some of you gave us a few suggestions for Jackson, but nothing south along 49 to speak of. NEXT, I asked for good restaurants in the Biloxi/Gulfport area and McElroy's seemed to be a consensus.
It was an unusually hot day going down, so we opted to stop north of Jackson and pulled off to a Subway (mainly because gasoline at that location was about 10 cents a gallon cheaper than any place else). Turns out, that Subway was located inside the petrol station and it was noon hour and the line was 20 people deep, so we took the cheap gas and headed South along 49.
A friend at Mississippi State University (Cow College, Moo U) had said of "good restaurants" along our route: "49, south of Jackson, is a culinary desert."
And it was. But by the time we reached Magee, MS, growling tummies took their toll, so, we stopped at Western Sizzler, mainly because they have those great soft ice cream machines. I had taken my chicken and 2 veggies by the time I got to the end of the line and there were the BBQ ribs. No sauce. Just plain ribs. I took 2 of them. I'm telling you -- those were two of the tenderest, tastiest BBQ ribs I have ever tasted and I've travelled the USA (or flown it in small planes).
BILOXI: Tried McElroy's first evening. Had my favorite -- flounder stuffed with crabmeat (or so the menu said). Wife had flounder filet. The flounder arrived covering the entire oblong plate! Instead of being stuffed, the crabmeat was ice cream scooped on top. No room for anything else, so they put the baked potato, side dish of slaw, side dish of butter on top of the fish. And my fish had ALL it's bones in tact! Never had stuffed flounder with all the bones. Needless to say, not impressed. But returned couple of nights later and had the flounder filet (no crabmeat) and it was excellent. Also had breakfast at McElroy's. Nothing earth-shaking, but better than the buffet at Beau Rivage casino next door.
BEAU RIVAGE: They advertise 200 items on buffet, and I didn't count them, but don't argue the number. Had an array of lots of things. ALL very institutional. NO taste to speak of at all. And WAY too overpriced.
FOUNTAIN RESTAURANT & BAR (111 rue Magnolia). Had discovered this little gem, next to Mary Mahoney's, in 1997 when researching a book. New owners now, however. Walked in at 2 p.m. wanting a chef's salad and iced tea. One waiter and all he had working was one table of 6 seemingly rich old women. Only one other table in the restaurant was clear. All the others long overdue for busing. Waiter brought food to the 6 biddies and lo and behold, he had brought ALL SIX the wrong order ... and the 6 orders he brought were not just mixed up. NONE of the 6 fit what any of the 6 biddies said they had ordered! Meanwhile, I'm sitting there 15 minutes waiting to order a chef's salad. Got up and walked out. No one even noticed -- not even the biddies.
Walked across the sidewalk to Mary Mahoney's Le Cafe Po Boy (138 rue Magnolia). Sign on door said they closed lunch at 3 p.m. It was now 2:20 p.m. Was seated. One other table had customers. Woman seating me said, "You know we close at 3?" Hey, that's 40 minutes away! Four servers sat/stood at a table near the cash register telling jokes and watching the clock. FINALLY, at 2:35, one came by and asked, "Do you want something?'
"Yes, a menu might help. But I think all I want is a chef's salad."
"You KNOW we close at 3?"
Got my salad, ate it, and was gone with 10 minutes to spare, feeling had I stayed until 3, might have gotten locked in.
ITALIAN: Alberti's (2028 Beach Blvd, with the big gorilla standing over the restaurant sign outside -- the gorilla used to belong to a friend of mine down there and decorated his miniature golf place). I'd say Alberti's is as good Italian as you can get in the BXI/Gulfport area. Great, friendly service; moderate prices.
BUT THE GEM of the trip was across the bay in Ocean Springs. It's called Phonecia (1223 Goverment) and very easy to locate. Cross the water, first traffic light, turn right. 2 blocks down, 1st stop sign, turn left. 2 blocks down on left. Rather dark in the immediate area, but place is decorated (?) with what looks like strings of Christmas tree lights, so it's like an oasis in a dark desert.
We had about 20 in our party for that dinner. (Were scouting restaurants for a November conference down there). Here the stuffed flounder came without bones, but again, the crabmeat was scooped on top. A "local thing" ?? People had steaks, mahi mahi, pasta, salads ... and not one complaint from any ONE. However, be sure to bring your credit cards! Still, worth every dollar -- the portions, the variety of the menu, the service (with white table cloths). Definitely this restaurant will get loads from the conference come November.
Otherwise, up and down Beach Blvd. in BXI/Gulfport, every franchise known to mankind since Krystal made the scene back in the early '40s can be found -- in abundance. My best in & out snack was some soft ice cream at the Keesler AFB exchange !!