Jackie Brown and Bill Best of California were looking for lunch with a view Thursday when they chose the new Baja Beach Biloxi on Restaurant Row.
Sipping Margaritas on the deck overlooking the sparkling water as pelicans skimmed by, their impression of Biloxi was, "What a beach."
"We've both been all over the world," said Brown, a former Pan American Airline hostess who's lived in Paris, London and Australia. Biloxi was a first stop on their road trip from New Orleans to Savannah and she said the beach view from the deck Thursday was as pretty as any she'd seen.
Tourists and residents have many more choices of places to dine than at any time since Hurricane Katrina struck 10 years ago and a smorgasbord of new restaurants has opened this summer and fall. Downtown Gulfport's restaurant scene is flourishing, Fisherman's Wharf is back after a 12-year absence, and new restaurants, sandwich shops and bakeries are opening.
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"It's nice to see the rebound. There's a lot of movement and momentum in the economy here," said Dennis Trochesset. He and Rob Stinson own three of the four eateries on Restaurant Row, including Baja Beach Biloxi, but they said the restaurants aren't competing with each other.
"They're all different," Stinson said.
"We're making it a destination," Trochesset added.
A boardwalk that will run along the water, from about Veterans Avenue to Rodenberg, will help connect Restaurant Row and encourage people to wander among the restaurants, lodging and retail. Stinson said construction may start in November 2016. "It's a long process but it's approved and financed," he said.
Baja Beach Biloxi on the west side of Restaurant Row is a Tex-Mex restaurant with a special machine in the center of the room turning out fresh tortillas for lunch and dinner as customers watch. Diners like that everything is made fresh, Trochesset said. The burritos and fajitas are big enough to share, he said, and the stacked enchiladas are baked in a casserole like lasagna with layers of flavors.
It's a different kind of Mexican restaurant, Stinson said, with lots of grilled dishes and a mix of hot and cold. After the sun sets, the large dining room takes on an elegance with warm colors and shadows while customers sip a specialty cocktail or one of 28 tequilas on the menu "and growing."
Fisherman's Wharf, a family-run business that started in Ocean Springs and was last in Biloxi, reopened this week at 15701 Lemoyne Blvd. in the D'Iberville-St. Martin area.
Owner John Aldrich has on display an original chalkboard menu in his mother's handwriting, and a wall of fame showing Fisherman's Wharf was written up in Southern Living and other publications.
Still on the menu, although at a different price, are shrimp remoulade and shrimp salad. Then there's the famous Fisherman's Wharf Pie made with a secret recipe not tasted in South Mississippi in a dozen years.
"It's just family recipes," said Aldrich, who with his son Joseph, brother Jay and nephew Jason are serving their family's famed West Indies salad with marinated crabmeat and eggplant au gratin. The restaurant just opened this week and the menu is still being tweaked but will feature seafood, steaks and po-boys. It's open for lunch and dinner daily except Monday.
A Jimmy John's franchise opened on Pass Road at Beauvoir in Biloxi last week and already its sandwich No. 9 -- the Italian Night Club -- has emerged as the favorite, employee Candice Middleton said.
Some of the customers have eaten at the national chain sandwich shop in other areas, she said, but to others it is new. A grand-opening celebration is planned in a couple of weeks.
Apron Strings at 434 Porter Ave. is a sweet addition to Ocean Springs. Jacquelin Ladnier will be baking cupcakes, brownies, cookies, cakes, petits fours, cannoli, cakes, éclairs, Danish and muffins. She'll also serve chicken salad croissants and soup to add to South Mississippi's ever-growing diverse menu.