Pearlington is not where I usually find myself on a Friday night — it’s a long drive for me — but there’s a first time for everything.
How did I get here? We got an email from Angela Shurden. She and her husband, Mark, had bought Turtle Landing Bar & Grill in January and she was wondering if we might be interested in trying out their offerings. Putting more emphasis on grill than bar, I left the office that Friday after work and headed into the sunset.
I go to Eats destinations as much undercover as I can so I can experience the full Jane Doe treatment. I had a feeling this was going to be a challenge. They might not say, “Aha! She must be from the Sun Herald” but there definitely would be a “you’re not from these parts” aura in what I gathered is a locals’ hangout.
Turtle Landing is right on U.S. 90 in Pearlington, which is right at the Louisiana line. It’s in a two-story cinderblock building with some pretty weeping willows along the shoreline of Cowan Bayou behind the gravel parking lot.
If you don’t see the sign (which would be difficult), you’re sure to see the random red-painted metal steer standing firmly in front of the place. I entered the bar, letting my eyes adjust as everyone turned around, smiled and gave me a “welcome!” nod, then resumed whatever they were doing.
“What can I get for you?” bartender Tracy asked as I sat down.
“What do you have?” I asked before I realized it made me sound like one of those fish-out-of-water movie characters who automatically order a double latte with no whip at a small-town diner.
Tracy gamely started rattling off labels until she landed on something a little celebratory and fun.
“I’ll have the Straw-Ber-Ita,” I boldly said, deciding Bud Light’s answer to ’80s wine coolers would be a good pairing with a hamburger.
She popped the cap off the bottle and handed it over as I surveyed my companions. Most of them were regulars, familiar with each other, but a couple of others, I deduced, were just passing through and stopped for a cold one or two.
Straw-Ber-Ita is very sweet and malt liquor-y, like adult strawberry soda. I saw no judgment in anyone’s eyes. I settled a little more into my seat and enjoyed my pop with a kick.
By the glow of the TV behind the bar, I perused the menu. I went with the cheeseburger fully dressed and chose fried okra as an accompaniment for $7.09. Tater tots were my other option for an accompaniment.
A few minutes later, my burger arrived hot from the kitchen. It was on a sesame bun and came with pickles, onions, lettuce and tomato. It was big, good and juicy, and the fried okra, a longtime love, was a delicious sidekick. Bar comfort food, if you will. I enjoyed my burger while taking in the conversation, occasionally joining in.
The Shurdens moved to Pearlington from Texas.
“My husband is from Mississippi, and we’ve lived on the Coast before,” she said.
The opportunity to buy Turtle Landing came along as the Shurdens were looking for retirement property.
Angela Shurden has been doing some sprucing up as well as adding daily specials to the menu. They include hamburger steak smothered in onions and gravy, with mashed potatoes and salad for $7.99, or a shrimp, tasso and penne pasta dish with salad and French bread.
“Our hamburgers are half-pound burgers,” she said, adding “a lot of people like the fried okra.”
She recently found out Turtle Landing is a Pokemon Go stop.
“Right over there in the corner, next to the jukebox,” she said, pointing to the internet jukebox. “But it’s listed as Alligator Cafe because there’s an alligator (painted) on the side of the building.”
Out back, tables and chairs welcome sitting and relaxing in more temperate weather as the bayou sounds fill the night and those little bare light bulbs bounce softly in the evening breeze.
Turtle Landing Bar & Grill
Where: 16463 U.S. 90, Pearlington
Hours: The kitchen is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; bar hours are 9 a.m. to close Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Monday.
Details: Cold beer as well as burgers, sandwiches, plates and daily specials.