Visiting Coastal Mississippi, the Secret Coast, provides the perfect opportunity to use that familiar phrase to full advantage. Eat all the seafood you can see for the ideal see-food diet.
I “shellfishly” binge on shellfish whenever I’m on the Secret Coast. Read on, and you’ll find plenty of options to be “shellfish,” too. So come with me to a world of deliciousness, touring the shellfish lovers’ paradise from Ocean Springs to Kiln.
Coastal Mississippi hosted me, but all opinions are my own.
Being “Shellfish” in Ocean Springs
Downtown Ocean Springs is supremely walkable, with shops and restaurants nearby. The live oaks form a tunnel over many of the streets. I felt as if the Spanish moss-draped trees were reaching out to embrace me and welcome me to their neighborhood.
Getting “Crabby” at the Lady May
I am a snob about crab cakes and the crab cakes at The Lady May in Ocean Springs. At the Lady May, I sat at the patio bar and listened to the fountain until my order arrived. Abita strawberry lager pairs perfectly with crab cakes.
Eating the crab cakes was an Annie’s Song experience: “You fill up my senses.…” I had to hold each one in my mouth and let the flavors percolate. No breading detracted from the crabs, and the texture was sensual.
Gumbo & Music at Mosaic Tapas and Restaurant
At Mosaic and The Beer House, centuries-old live oaks welcome you on the patio. I sat on a high table, listened to live music, and dined on their gumbo paired with Second Line Old Fashioned. The gumbo was full of Andouille sausage, shrimp, and chicken blessed by the Gulf Coast holy trinity, onions, bell peppers, and celery.
The World is Your Oyster at Charred
I dined with the Coastal Mississippi folks at Charred, a Steak and Oyster Bar. I started with their charbroiled oysters. The oysters were a heavenly mix of smokiness and saltiness. Then came the blackened seafood pasta. Charred did not overload the pasta with the cream, allowing the Gulf shrimp, crab, and spinach flavors to shine.
Goldilocks Loves Bagels at Lil’ Market
I’ve never had bagels as tasty as those I tried at Lil’ Market Deli & Bakery. The bagelry offers at least 11 kinds of bagels. They’re all hand-rolled and boiled in a kettle, then baked in-house. The staff blends the cream cheese spreads. Many times bagels are either too chewy or too crusty. I ordered the Oye Vey on an Asiago bagel. This was a Goldilocks bagel, just right.
Stock up on bagels and deli products to make sandwiches at home.
Become Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed at Bright Eyed Brew Co.
People raved about Bright-Eyed Brew’s waffles. So, of course, I had to eat one with my morning coffee. I ordered a waffle with Nutella toppings. The accompanying coffee was beautiful with hints of chocolate. The company steeps its coffee for 24 hours for higher caffeine content to produce more “bright-eyedness.” Delicious.
Pro tip: The market offers no inside seating but does have picnic tables outside. Seating is limited at Bright-Eyed, but many customers hang out on the porch.
Being “Shellfish” in Biloxi and Gulfport
The world’s longest man-made beach stretches from Biloxi to Henderson Point Beach in Pass Christian. Wiggle your toes in the white sand or walk on the sidewalk for miles.
Visit Shaggy’s For Your Scooby Snack—and More
You won’t meet Scooby-Doo at Shaggy’s Biloxi Beach. But you will find enough delicious food to satisfy even Scooby and Shaggy’s appetite. Shaggy’s charbroiled oysters are enveloped in their savory spice blend, with lemon, garlic, butter and Parmesan cheese. Squeeze the charbroiled lemon over the oysters before eating. Take your time and enjoy the coastal view.
Pro tip: Pose for a selfie in the giant Adirondack chair at the entrance and measure how far you are from home at the mileage post.
Eating Po’ Boys at District on the Alley
Gulfport’s Fishbone Alley is like a spine with restaurants spreading outward like ribs. As you walk the alley, look for the murals. When I went there for lunch, I had just finished visiting the Mississippi Aquarium. I had attempted to pet a shrimp. I had been entranced while the fish danced in their multi-story tank. After that, I couldn’t eat a water creature. So instead, I devoured a po’boy in The District on the Alley. The French bread delivered a satisfying crunch before my teeth sank into the soft interior and the meaty Andouille sausage.
My hesitancy about seafood lasted only one meal. Then, when I saw the automatic shrimp peeler at Biloxi’s Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum, I returned to “shelfishness.”
Being “Shellfish” in Bay St. Louis
Downtown Bay St. Louis is an easy walk from the beach. Look for a profusion of murals and other public art throughout the area.
A Shellfish Spectacular at Thorny Oyster
In Bay St. Louis, I found the epitome of a date night restaurant, the Thorny Oyster. It’s across the road from the beach, and the food and service are top-notch. I started with a cauliflower appetizer coated with delicious breading and covered with sesame seeds. The flavor exploded in my mouth. And that was the first of many flavor explosions throughout the evening.
The restaurant could bottle the bouillabaisse broth and sell it. It’s that delicious. Every time I shucked a fish, clam, mussel, crawfish, or shrimp, I dredged it through that savory broth to soak up every morsel of flavor. Then, I saturated the bread with more broth and let the flavor permeate my mouth.
The Thorny Oyster’s bouillabaisse is a worthy inheritor of the French tradition, and it pairs well with French white wine.
The restaurant said the dessert was a king cake. I expected the traditional version. Instead, I received a creamy dessert with raspberry filling. Oh, my. Another flavor explosion to finish my meal.
Pro tip: Ask for seating next to the windows for a spectacular view.
Fill Up at Buttercup on Second Street
When I walked into the Buttercup, the waitress asked if I wanted the special, a seafood quiche topped with crawfish etouffée. I said yes. It was scrumptious. Drink the Irish coffee made with Buttercup’s signature blend. Eat a biscuit topped with house-made peach jam.
When you visit the café, browse the artwork. I loved the fish and the pelican head. On the exterior, look for the Sunny Side mural.
Listen to the Mockingbird (Café)
Sit on the Mockingbird Café’s wraparound front porch (or gallery), and eat to your heart’s delight. I’d never seen a breakfast muffin before, so I tried it. After a few bites of the savory muffin, what to my wondering eyes did appear but an entire hard-boiled egg, like an elongated sphere. Local coffee roaster Coast Roast Coffee & Tea provides Mockingbird’s coffee. If you’re caffeinated enough, grab a glass of strawberry lemonade.
Order to-go without guilt because all of Mockingbird’s containers are biodegradable, including the straws.
Being “Shellfishly Lazy” in Diamondhead and Kiln
Because I needed a seafood snack, I found the Lazy Gator Sports Bar and Steamer near Interstate 10 in Diamondhead. I enjoyed a lovely shrimp cocktail. The shrimp hung over a cocktail glass rim with one on a bed of salad greens inside the glass. The mimosa paired well with the shrimp and the view of the bay.
Small magnolia trees shaded a small building near Kiln (pronounced “Kill”). Unfortunately, the soil did not favor the trees, and they struggled. Because of that, they always bloomed late, and their owners named them “lazy magnolias.” Eventually, the trees gave their name to Mississippi’s first post-Prohibition brewery. Our favorite Lazy Magnolia beer, Southern Pecan, is also named for a tree. Sample their beers with a meal in their taproom, The Porch.
Where to Stay in Coastal Mississippi
When I opened the door to the Mackey Suite at the Inns of Ocean Springs, I sighed in delight. The light colors and the botanical prints provide a soothing vibe. Cushy pillows embrace your body with luxury.
Pro tip: The inn’s off-street parking is on the building’s north side. Watch for discreet signs on an arbor adjacent to Bright-Eyed Brew and on its porch. From the parking slots, walk behind the building to the south side.
The view from my Pearl Hotel window will live forever in my memory. I watched the sun ascend above Bay St. Louis while lying in bed. Plus, the staff went above and beyond to help me. Kudos.
Be Free to “Shellfish” in Coastal Mississippi
Yes, I am a fan of Secret Coast “shelfishness.” Follow my example and be “shelfish,” too.
Pro tip: To enjoy more adventures on the Secret Coast, read our guide.