On a beautiful day like the ones we’ve been seeing lately, who wants to eat lunch inside? I didn’t.
I mean, Cuz’s Old Town Oyster Bar & Grill is in a great new building near the water in Bay St. Louis, but the patio and its umbrella-topped, oak-shaded tables were calling me to sit outside and enjoy early November on the Coast.
Cuz’s moved from its location on Mississippi 603 to 108 S. Beach Blvd. and opened there Sept. 28, the week before Cruisin’ The Coast. It’s much more visible now for tourists and in walking distance for folks who work on Main Street and its environs.
It’s popular with locals, as evidenced by an exchange I witnessed. A young man and woman, on their first visit, had just gotten their order when a woman at a neighboring table kept glancing longingly at their food.
“Oh, I’m just having order envy,” she said, laughing. “I’ve worked my way around the menu and back.”
I couldn’t see what the two ordered, but I was looking forward to my own selection. I had gotten one of the lunch specials, half a catfish po-boy, dressed, and a cup of bisque for $9.95. It’s not often I see catfish on the menu here, and, while I love my seafood, sometimes my interior part of the state heritage comes through and I crave some catfish.
Cuz’s has a list of “favorites” that all sounded good, especially the Fried Green Tomatoes ($10.95) with shrimp and crab toppings, Crawfish Ettouffee ($9.95), and crab claws, fried or sauteed ($13.95). Other po-boy choices (full size) include shrimp ($13.95), oyster ($15.95) or soft shell crab ($18.95). Shrimp, oyster, trout and catfish baskets ($15 to $19) are served with fries, slaw, hushpuppies and garlic bread.
The bisque was hot and creamy, with plenty of shrimp and bits of crab lurking under the surface topped with shredded cheese. As delicious as it was on a perfect cloudless fall day, I could imagine how satisfying it would be inside on a cold, wet, overcast day. A bowl of bisque at Cuz’s is $8.95.
As for the po-boy half, it was two seasoned and fried catfish fillets along with the “dressed” part of shredded lettuce, tomato, pickle slices and mayonnaise in a French bread bun. As it should be, the French bread was crusty and chewy. It’s not pretty when I eat a po-boy. The result looks like a combination of a puppy wrestling with a toy and being on the losing end of a fight with a mayonnaise jar. Nevertheless, there is nothing like a good po-boy, and who cares what you look like when you’re that far in with your food?
Cuz, I learned, is Melvin Barnes, who earned his nickname through his gregariousness.
“I call everybody Cuz,” he said. The restaurant first opened in 2004 and had been on 603 for 12 years. “It’s pretty much what we had on 603, but we’re hoping to add some pastas and some grilled items.”
He credits “Miss Cynthia” Williams, who has been a part of the restaurant’s crew for about seven years, with good things coming out of the kitchen, such as the popular fried green tomatoes and shrimp dishes.
“And people love the gumbo and bisque,” he said. “We sell a lot of the soft shell crab and a lot of charbroiled oysters.”
Barnes smokes his own tuna or redfish for the housemade dip.
“Everybody loves it,” he said.
Cuz’s Old Town Oyster Bar & Grill
Where: 108 S. Beach Blvd., Bay St. Louis
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday