Blind Tiger nearly ready for its first taste

A sampling of shrimp and crawfish boil flavored the air Thursday as dolphins could be seen off the deck surfacing in the Mississippi Sound and crews carried on readying The Blind Tiger for its debut in a few weeks.

The target date for the new restaurant on the beach at Harrah’s Gulf Coast is the end of January or early February, said chef and owner Thomas Genin.

“We drove the pilings right before Cruisin’ The Coast,” he said. That was in early October, and the restaurant has gone up quickly.

City officials say the building’s architecture gives it the look of the seafood factories that once stood along the waterfront in East Biloxi.

“I love the location,” said Genin as he watched the sky turn pink. “By far this is the finest place to watch the sunset.”

There’s nothing to block the view that also looks out at Deer Island and will provide a front-row seat to the Independence Day fireworks, the Christmas on the Water boat parade and the concert series returning to Harrah’s Great Lawn this summer.

Kennedy Smith, vice president of marketing, hotel and spa at Harrah’s Gulf Coast, said parent company Caesars Entertainment is a large corporation teaming up with a local operation that is expanding.

“That’s a fun environment,” he said, and Genin’s roots and reputation give it a sincere appeal for locals and visitors.

“Total Rewards members use their comps here at the restaurant,” he said of Harrah’s loyalty program.

The restaurant will be open daily for lunch and dinner and Smith said he expects it to generate excitement and have people asking, “What’s next?” at Harrah’s.

They plan to build a dock near the restaurant so people can arrive by boat. Until then, customers can park at the restaurant or in the hotel section of Harrah’s parking garage and use the elevated crosswalk over U.S. 90 that leads to the restaurant.

When guests come into the restaurant from the crosswalk they pass directly by the prep kitchen, where staff will be smoking tuna and preparing fish or the chicken wings that are marinated for three days and then smoked on site.

Developer John Felsher said the restaurant will be able to seat 160 indoors and out. The building was designed to provide 360-degree views from the indoor bar with its lighthouse and outdoor bar and decks. Picnic tables and volleyball nets near the water will be a place for families, he said, and kayaks, canoes and paddleboards will eventually be available to rent.

What customers won’t find at The Blind Tiger are freezers. Scott Sutherland, the restaurant’s director of operations, said everything is fresh and never frozen.

The Blind Tiger concept began in 2013 on the premise of “Keep it simple. Make it fun.”

“That’s been the challenge,” Genin said.

His talented chefs want to add to the menu. Genin keeps them focused on eight key dishes, including their special fish tacos and hamburgers made with their own hamburger patties, and the three or four chalkboard specials daily.

The concept has been a success at The Blind Tiger in Bay St. Louis, where Genin has 65 employees.

Genin said, “2016 was the best year we’ve ever had.”

He expects to need 75 employees in Biloxi and already has promoted or hired several, including general manager Lori Mims.

While Genin is preparing to open in Biloxi, Genin said, the Blind Tiger in Bay St. Louis is closed for a refresh and will be expanded for the fourth time. Another Blind Tiger is being built in Slidell and Genin recently opened Hotel Whiskey in Pass Christian.