Restaurant News & Reviews

A Coast chef is turning this historic space into an organic, vegan-friendly marketplace

The second floor of Century Hall still bears reminders of its past.

Stamped tin on the walls and some remaining stamped tin squares on the ceiling, rusted with age, are remnants from its days as a Woodmen of the World hall and gathering place for locals, as well as the studio and ballroom for a local dance instructor.

Right now, the circa 1909 building's bones are showing in this area, but by August, a good portion of the upstairs will be transformed into The Ugly Carrot, Chef David Dickensauge's developing green market.

The shop will offer sustainable local produce, vegetarian and vegan sandwiches and salads, organic juices and homemade kombucha, he said.

Dickensauge said he will continue to serve pasta, pizza and osso bucco at his C&C Italian Bistro on Main Street, but The Ugly Carrot answers a calling he has felt for a long time.

"The Ugly Carrot started off as a juice bar idea I had several years ago," he said. "And South Mississippi doesn't really have a sustainable market."

The idea, he said, is to offer produce from farmers within a 100-mile radius in one location as well as several convenient to-go meal options, such as grain or green salads, sandwiches and the juices, which can be bumped up with vegetarian or vegan protein powders.

"My goal is to have everything packaged," he said. Prepping will take place in the C&C kitchen.

"We may do sushi," he said. "I'm checking with the health department on their requirements for that."

If it's a go, he'll use cauliflower rice for keto diets. The kombucha, which is a fermented tea that's growing in popularity, would be flavored with seasonally available fruits and other ingredients.

Dickensauge said the building's owner, developer Jim MacPhaille, is planning to install a more centrally located flight of stairs to the second floor during the renovations of the interior. The second-floor balcony will hold some tables and chairs, but The Ugly Carrot's main purpose will be to provide readily available, healthy food options in an accessible atmosphere, he said.

"'Organic' has this snooty, isolated, bad image with a lot of people," he said. "I'm not calling this a grocery, because it's not really a grocery store, but it's like a grocery. There will be no meats and no seafood, though."

The name came about from a conference Dickensauge attended.

"I belong to a farm, Chef's Garden in Ohio," he said. One year when Dickensauge attended the farm's annual Roots Conference, Chef Jamie Simpson drew a carrot that represented one that is naturally grown.

"Carrots and squashes don't grow straight down," Dickensauge said. Similarly, heirloom tomatoes are not perfectly round or oval.

"They're kinda ugly, but that's good. They weren't forced into a shape," he said.

Ultimately, Dickensauge hopes to own five Ugly Carrots, from Mobile to Baton Rouge, to include 150 farmers and "do our own farmer co-op," he said.

The Ugly Carrot will be the second business Dickensauge has owned, adding to C&C's. He returned to the Coast about three years ago to design food for Corks & Cleaver Bistro and 27th Avenue Burger Bar in Gulfport, having served as executive chef at Bin 77 in Baton Rouge.

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1