Food & Drink

I ate my way across the Mississippi Coast on my first visit. Here are my favorites.

I’ve wrapped up my first week on the Coast, and I drank way too much Barq’s root beer in the glass bottle.

Hi, I’m Nick Wooten, and you readers will see my name pop up down here from time to time. You probably already have.

I am McClatchy’s Southern Trends and Culture reporter. I’m a Georgia native who is based in Columbus, Georgia.

Sometimes my work will bring me down to the Sun Herald.

I arrived in Biloxi last Sunday evening and bounced all around the Coast. Few things better represent a place than its food. Food operates as an expression of cultural identity. It is an embodiment of civic pride and a physical snapshot of a region’s history, values and beliefs.

I ate a lot of food last week, and here are four dishes that I really enjoyed. There were also a lot of places I didn’t have a chance to visit. I’ll have to wait until next time.

My company only covers $50 for meals each day, and I’m broke. So, this is a cheap eats list by default. Hopefully, I’ll hit swankier spots on my next stop.

Here’s what made the cut.

Hell in a Bucket Oysters at RAW Bar, Ocean Springs

It was my last meal on the Coast, and it was the best.

On my way out, I decided to stop in Ocean Springs to eat some oysters one last time. I’d eaten chargrilled oysters at Adventures Pub and the oyster sampler at Half Shell Oyster House. The meals were good but I still hadn’t had my fill.

I sat down outside at RAW Bar and drank my beer as I waited for my oysters to arrive. I got a half dozen raw and six others were hell in a bucket oysters that were topped with chili butter, pepper jack, tasso ham, jalapenos and sriracha before roasting.

The tasso and pepper jack gave the oysters a nice smokey kick before the spice of the butter, the jalapenos, and the sriracha hit. I could eat them over and over again. I used the bread provided to sop up any spicy butter that puddled at the bottom of the shells.

The raw oysters were good too. The ketchup and horseradish come to the table separately, so you can make your own cocktail sauce. I like a bit more ketchup that horseradish, so this was perfect for me.

I’ll be back again. That’s for sure.

Crawfish & Pepper Piroux at The Ole Biloxi Fillin’ Station

This was my first meal here. After a five-hour road trip, I checked into my hotel and flopped onto the bed to rest my eyes for a spell. My growling stomach didn’t let me rest long, and I began searching for food close to me.

Sun Herald editor Justin Mitchell recommended the Fillin’ Station along with a few other spots.

I parked the car and grabbed an open bar stool. I ordered my first glass bottle Barq’s Root Beer of the trip as I waited for my sandwich.

The fried crawfish tails and banana peppers were piled so high on the toasted french loaf that I accidentally knocked some of them into the bottom of my basket. The tails and peppers were topped with a sweet and spicy sauce that should be trademarked, bottled and sold.

It’s hard to say what the base of the sauce was — probably mayonnaise, or perhaps French dressing? It starts off sweet and tangy that builds slowly and steadily toward a spicy sendoff that hits you right in the back of your throat.

The crawfish were well-seasoned and fried golden brown. The peppers played up the sauce’s early sweet notes. It was a messy eat but it wasn’t anything that a fork couldn’t fix.

Brooklyn Pizzeria in Bay St. Louis: Two slices of pepperoni with Catalina dressing

When in Rome, right?

I didn’t even try a bite of my slices before I coated them in a thin layer of Catalina, a vinegar-based version of French dressing that is popular on the Coast.

The dressing’s sweet notes are the first thing you taste. Then, quickly comes the cheese, then the sauce and then the little spice of the pepperonis. The two slices and a medium Barq’s was about $6 with tax.

That’s a steal.

Pop Brothers in Bay St. Louis: Brazilian lemonade pop

After a long afternoon of driving around the Coast and interviewing, I decided to stop by Pop Brothers in Bay St. Louis.

I ordered the Brazilian Lemonade, and it was a glorious decision. Just to be clear, recipes for this drink call for the use of limes rather than lemons. The popsicle is no different.

The fresh cream and condensed milk give a strong and sweet taste that balances out the usually overwhelming tartness of the lime. It was my second stop to the coastal popsicle company. I first visited the Gulfport location earlier last week, where I had the Barq’s Rootbeer Float. It was another excellent choice.

I ended my trip finishing six bottles of Barq’s — well, seven if you want to count the popsicle.

Tell me what I ate wrong and where I should eat next time. Email me at nwooten@mcclatchy.com.

Nick Wooten is the Southern Trends and Culture reporter for McClatchy’s South region. He is based in Columbus, Georgia at the Ledger-Enquirer but his work also appears in The (Macon) Telegraph and The Sun Herald in Biloxi.Before joining McClatchy, he worked for The (Shreveport La.) Times covering city government and investigations. He is a graduate of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.
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