This West Coast couple is bringing a taste of wine country to a new Bay St. Louis bistro

Martinis and an iPad got Janice and Jim Hall to move from Palm Springs, California, to Bay St. Louis.

"We didn't want to retire in the desert. I mean, we love the desert, but we wanted to be closer to the water," she said. "So I opened up my iPad and started looking at Airbnb and found Bay St. Louis."

Two days later, they were on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and fell in love. And just two days later, they bought a house. Now, they and their two dogs live in Diamondhead.

Yes, they are now Coastians, but they did bring a piece of California with them: the desire to have a restful wine bar reminiscent of wine country.

Central Station Bistro is at 205 Central Ave., right across from the train tracks, next to a spreading Live oak offering dappled shade in the front. There's parking in the back, and along the fence, young muscadine grape vines are curling their way up the wire. Janice has plans for those grapes.

The Bistro, she said, is estimated to open Memorial Day weekend. The menu will feature 36 wines, with individual servings or flights of three labels in a varietal. Charcuterie boards, cured meats, cheese plates with cheeses from St. James Cheese Co. in New Orleans, baked brie wheels and fresh baguettes with French butter will be available to accompany the wines.

Longtime residents of the Bay will be amazed by the transformation of what had been a shell to a cozy, homelike setting for the wine bistro.

"We looked in the window, and the inside was basically just down to the studs. There was no plumbing, no electricity, sewerage, HVAC. But it was so cheap, we knew we could do something with it," she said. "We knew what we wanted to do with it — something wine-related, but we didn't know what. We got the approval from the ABC, and left it there for a while."

Janice is a former master commander of the Knights of the Vine, an American wine brotherhood, and opened a chapter in Savannah, Georgia.

At first, the Halls planned to have more tables and chairs inside, more like a restaurant.

"Then we just did a complete change of direction," Janice said with a laugh.

Now, Central Station Bistro has more of a relaxed, homelike atmosphere. There are a couple of tall tables with attention-grabbing copper chairs, but most of the seating is inviting sofas, ottomans and cushioned chairs in two rooms, with the Halls' office area available for overflow or special events. Creative lighting and personal mementos add to the decor.

"These are two of my mother's Dinah Washington albums," she said, pointing out two framed records in what she calls the "Mississippi blues room."

Outside, a fire pit and Adirondack chairs will offer a feeling of being in a friend's backyard. The rustic bench and sign in the front, reminiscent of a train depot sign, are nods to California wine country. Even the trains passing through remind Janice of that area. Lagniappe Presbyterian Church is just down the road, its bucolic setting in an old barn surrounded by lush green grass adding to the "out in the country" feeling.

"He was one of our huge supporters," Janice said, referring to Carey Hammett, the church pastor. Don't expect bands at Central Station. Instead, the atmosphere will be soft jazz or acoustic blues, with maybe acoustic musicians performing for special events.

"We want an atmosphere where people can talk and hear each other and enjoy themselves," Janice said.

Central Station Bistro's hours will be 4-8 p.m. Thursday, and 4-9 or 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1

If you go

What: Central Station Bistro

Where: 205 Central Avenue, Bay St. Louis

Hours: 4-8 p.m. Thursday; 4-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Details: 228-342-5832