I decided to try S&B Bar and Grill after a neighbor recommended it.
“Where is it again?” I asked as we stood in his front yard in Bay St. Louis.
He pointed toward a small street that runs parallel to the railroad tracks.
“Just take that right there and drive down it a few miles, then take a left.”
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I didn’t know there were any restaurants down that way.
I looked it up on Google Maps and pulled up to S&B’s a few minutes later. It’s the only restaurant in those parts. It’s a neighborhood restaurant — as in, it’s in a neighborhood. And as in, the people in the neighborhood like eating there, and have been doing so, I found out, for more than two decades.
Reverence for the Gulf’s edible creatures
I visited on a Saturday morning in November, just as two SEC football games were starting up. The restaurant seemed empty at first. Then I noticed that most of the customers were sitting at the bar, watching South Carolina trounce a deflated Florida.
On the walls were paintings of redfish, trout, blue crabs and oysters. The paintings seemed to have been placed there out of reverence for the Gulf Coast’s particular edible creatures.
I looked over at a whiteboard on another wall and saw the same creatures represented: blackened redfish, fried shrimp, stuffed crab.
I went with the stuffed crab, which came with a cup of gumbo, a piece of buttered French bread and a scoop of potato salad ($13.95). I also ordered half a roast beef po-boy ($6.95).
The food arrived ridiculously fast, a sign that these were popular items. I haven’t eaten that many roast beef po-boys, but this one seemed different.
Rather than being topped with brown gravy, the thin slices of roast beef had been wholly tossed in the stuff. It came dressed conservatively with shredded lettuce, slices of tomato and mayonnaise.
The relatively small amount of toppings ensured that the roast beef and gravy were stars of the show. The French bread the sandwich came on (from Leidenheimer Baking Company in New Orleans, I later learned) had that almost flattened look that the real stuff has.
Biting into the sandwich, I first noticed the balance of crunch and chewiness of the French bread — a quality surprisingly elusive. Next I tasted the salty, rich brown gravy. I took a couple bites, gave up trying to hold it, and finished the rest with a fork.
The stuffed crab came on faux shells made of aluminum. They had been nicely browned on top, and the bright red of chili pepper hinted that the crabs might be packing heat. The heat was there — substantial, but not overpowering. The strings of crabmeat had been mixed with garlic and onions. They were steaming hot and still moist. The gumbo had that silky quality that comes from roux and okra. Okra seeds, shrimp, tomato and rice made up the stew, along with a rich brown liquid.
A Waveland tradition
I spoke with Scott Peterson, the owner of S&B’s, after my meal.
Peterson, a Waveland native, said he buys his blue crabs — one of his customers’ favorite items — from a fisherman down the street.
“Those same crabs,” Peterson said, pointing to the plate of stuffed blue crabs I’d just eaten, “were swimming this week.”
His customers expect fresh seafood, he said, and they known the difference.
Peterson’s association with S&B’s began when he was a kid. The tin-roofed building that houses S&B’s is nearly 70 years old. He’d work helping to stock the restaurant — then a bar. When the building came up for sale in 1994, Peterson bought it. He ran it as a bar for a few years, but decided he’d rather be a restaurateur.
Peterson’s culinary influence is his mom, Sylvia Peterson, also a Waveland native. Though she is 75, she still helps him in the kitchen.
S&B’s is tucked away in a quiet corner of Waveland, but the Peterson family’s seafood-centric menu calls regulars like a beacon.
“If you have good food,” Scott Peterson said, “they’re gonna find you no matter where you’re at.”
S&B Bar and Grill
814 Sears Ave., Waveland
Wednesday-Saturday 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m.