There was a time when Biloxi was a seafood town. The town hummed with activity, all related to seafood factories harvesting shrimp, crabs and fish from the waters of the Mississippi Sound that surround Biloxi and its eastern extreme, Point Cadet.
Most of the boatyards are gone, as are the sailmakers, machine shops, ice makers and master boatbuilders who made this part of the world famous.
Nowhere else in Mississippi — or the Deep South for that matter — was there a community like this. It was ethnically diverse and economically independent from the rest of the state, and the culinary traditions were unique.
The cultural influences that went into making the food of the Mississippi Coast different are amazing and diverse.
French, Creoles, Cajuns, Italians, Africans, Native Americans and more stirred this unique pot.
Dubious? Go to Jackson and ask for a Vancleave Special, or ask for shrimp boat spaghetti in Tupelo. Baccala, boat bread, shrimp toast, pusharatas — all are unique to Biloxi.
Old-school Biloxi restaurants?
Now here’s today’s dilemma. Drive around Biloxi and see what kind of restaurants you can find. Italian? Sure, there are several good ones.
What about a good steak house? The casinos offer world-class steak houses. Vietnamese? There is a bunch to choose from. Korean? Check! Mexican? Bunches. Sushi? Sure. OK, what about old-school Biloxi? Whoa! Wait a minute. You’ve got to scratch your head on this one, right? How many can you think of?
A great restaurant that incorporates a wonderful view of Back Bay and old-school Biloxi-style cooking is the Biloxi Lugger. It was a lifelong dream of Dr. Felix James Allen, who grew up on Oak Street, right in the heart of The Point, to open a restaurant.
“It was his dream to open a seafood restaurant that featured amazingly fresh seafood, served in generous portions and at reasonable prices that the average guy can afford,” said Louis Allen, the doctor’s son and the restaurant’s general manager, “because Doc Allen grew up on The Point, and he wants to be a part of the revitalization of the seafood industry and the area.”
Unique for a couple of reasons
The Biloxi Lugger is not only unique in its menu offerings, but also because the doctor has his own Biloxi-style shrimp boat, the Bayou Bell.
It is moored on the pier just north of the restaurant and is used to harvest shrimp for the restaurant, heading out at least once a week into the Mississippi Sound. No place else on the Coast will you see kitchen staff just walking outside, climbing into the hold of a shrimp boat and bringing baskets of shrimp to be cleaned and served as fresh as possible.
Felix James Allen bought the boat in North Carolina and took two weeks to sail it around Florida and back to Biloxi. If you are thinking that old Biloxi is in Felix James Allen’s blood, then you won’t be surprised to know that when he retires he says he wants to take up shrimping full time. Medical doctor to shrimper?
Back Bay Biloxi menu
The menu at the Lugger is everything you might expect from a restaurant on Biloxi’s Back Bay, but particular attention should be given to some of the old-school classics. Ever had a crab meat and cheese po-boy ($13.95)?
It was invented at Rosetti’s Restaurant, the forerunner of the Old Biloxi Schooner, which was on Oak Street before Hurricane Katrina. You also will want to pay attention to the loaded fried shrimp po-boy ($10.95) or oyster po-boy ($12.95). They are a deal for the price.
The gumbo also is a house special (bowl $8.95, cup $5.95), and nothing could be more Biloxi than this Creole and Cajun special.
Some items on the menu depend on the season and what fishermen catch. Check out Biloxi Bacon, perhaps the most famous Biloxi recipe ($12.95 as a platter). In the old days, pop-eyed mullet was smoked, thus the name Biloxi Bacon, but in the years since, fried mullet has taken the name as well.
When flounder can be had, you will find it on the menu at the Lugger. Traditionalists would serve it fried, but the improved version has it stuffed with a crab cake like mixture. What could be better?
Other house specialties include fried green tomatoes with remoulade sauce ($5.95), debris fries ($9.95), daube spaghetti ($13.95), BBQ shrimp ($12.95) and a great surf and turf burger with shrimp and crab meat ($13.95).
There is nothing in the world wrong with the great diversity of restaurants that grace the Coast like culinary jewels.
We welcome all fusions of cultures featured on menus, such as California cool fish and shrimp tacos or pizza imported from New York, but if you have a hankering for old-school Point Cadet, head to the Biloxi Lugger.
The Biloxi Lugger
Where: 200 East 8th St., Biloxi
When: Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Crab meat po-boy
This is as classic Biloxi as you can get, and it is amazingly simple as well. Some prefer it served with melted cheese, some like it plain, but if you do use cheese, please use the good stuff.
2-3 cups picked crab meat
1/2 cup diced onion
1 chopped stick celery
1 chopped green bell pepper
Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
Sauté the vegetables in butter for 5 minutes, season aggressively. Toss in the crab meat, mix well and form into oblong crab cakes. Fry in butter until brown, add to a po-boy loaf, dress with tomato and lettuce and serve at once. If the crab mixture is too dry, add a small amount of mayonnaise. Serve with a Barq’s root beer in a glass bottle.