I pass The Shrimp Basket almost every time I’m in Orange Grove. Often I’m busy being a defensive driver in that area of U.S. 49 and not thinking about food. Then one day, I realized, hmm, Eats has never stopped here in the eight years it’s been there.
Perhaps I kept picturing fried everything, hard lumps of hush puppies and a lingering smell of grease inside this cinderblock building. Tsk, tsk, Judgy McJudgment. I cast aside my judgment and stopped in one recent weekday for lunch. It was close to 1 p.m., but people were still coming in. I was taken to a four-seater, with the menu placed at the chair that would give me optimum people-watching opportunity. Good job. Once I went into a nearly-empty restaurant and, because I was alone, I was put at a two-seater next to the kitchen door. Picture an angry emoji right here.
The menu is huge. If you’ve never been before, you’ll need to study it a bit — or, like me, you can look it up online ahead of time. Appetizers, salads, grilled or blackened platters, fried baskets, house specials, burgers, sides, po-boys, soups, desserts, a kids’ menu. Some of those house specials include Coconut Shrimp ($13.99), Low Country Boil for Two ($29.99) and Shrimp Etouffe Platter ($13.99).
I decided to try the Crab Cake Dinner ($16.99), another of the house specials. It includes three grilled lump crab meat patties served with remoulade sauce, shrimp slaw, hushpuppies, a corn fritter and an additional side. Whew! My additional side was cheese grits. Everything was washed down with water with lemon.
I noticed that most people who came in knew what they wanted. I assumed this meant they were regulars. That’s always a good sign. Most of the tags outside were from the three Coast counties.
I also learned that The Shrimp Basket is part of a regional chain. There are two locations in Mississippi (Gulfport and Hattiesburg), one in Louisiana (Baton Rouge) and one in Georgia (Columbus) and several in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. The Shrimp Basket started in Gulf Shores, Alabama, in 1993, when two guys opened the restaurant in a former yogurt shop. The Gulfport location is across the highway from and south of Walmart Supercenter.
When my meal arrived, my first thought was, I definitely have dinner here, too. The grits came in a separate bowl. There were three good-sized crab cakes, two hush puppies, the cup of shrimp slaw and a little oval thing I realized was the corn fritter.
My first job was to cut into a crab cake. Would it be mostly binder? Or flaky crab? I wasn’t disappointed. There was plenty of crab. I checked out the container of remoulade sauce, which was a much deeper shade than the remoulade I know. I found out later they use their own hot sauce in it, hence the color. I smeared a bit of it on a bite of crab cake. It was a delicious combination.
Now about that little corn fritter. Bless it, I thought, picking it up. Again, judgment. What it lacked in size, it made up for in taste. It was packed with whole-kernel corn and fresh flavor. The hush puppies, also, were good. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. Those cheese grits were creamy and slightly smoky.
The shrimp slaw is familiar coleslaw with tiny salad shrimp added, creating a twist on the classic side dish. And yes, I did have plenty for dinner that night
I learned later that my order is one of the most popular at the Gulfport location, as are their etouffe and the shrimp basket ($11.99).
The Shrimp Basket
Where: 9265 U.S. 49, Gulfport
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week
Etc.: Menu includes appetizers, salads, grilled or blackened platters, fried baskets, house specials, burgers, sides, poboys, soups, desserts and kids’ selections. You also can order online at shrimpbasket.com or call to place an order. The Shrimp Basket offers seasonal drink specials, both alcohol and nonalcohol.