OCEAN SPRINGS -- The city needs a seafood restaurant downtown, people kept telling Tim Wold. So he and his wife, Lisa, opened Off the Hook Fish House on Monday in what for years had been Henrietta's.
The restaurant at 1013 Government St. just east of Washington Avenue has a split personality. Customers who wander in off Government enter the air-conditioned dining room decorated with fish and Coast nautical items. On the DeSoto Street side, a new entertainment bar and dining deck sits under four tall sycamore trees that shade the area by day and are wrapped with lights at night. A parking lot is just across the street. The menu at the fish house is Gulf Coast fresh and features dishes South Mississippi kids grew up eating.
"It's family recipes," Tim Wold said, dishes he learned from his mother and grandmother such as marinated seafood salad. Fish House dip is one of his own concoctions. The restaurant's gumbo is cooked in a cast-iron pot at the Wolds' Cast Iron Cafe, which they opened two years ago at the Vancleave/Gautier exit off Interstate 10.
Who in South Mississippi serves New England clam chowder? Wold said he does, because Ocean Springs has so many tourists. Other dishes not seen on many Coast menus are available at Off the Hook -- oyster salad, shrimp or crab rolls and crabfinger basket. The menu also has "the best rib-eye there is," he said, and a grilled chicken breast. Instead of many varieties of steak and chicken, "we pick one item and do it well," he said.
"We also want to be known for our desserts," Wold said, and their own key lime pie and bourbon New Orleans pecan pie are always on the menu. Other times they'll add his grandmother's banana pudding or bread pudding with rum sauce.
"It's wonderful," customers told Wold after they dined Tuesday on Fish House dip, shrimp tacos and oyster po-boys served with the restaurant's own potato chips.
He suggested next time they try a veggie taco made with lightly fried avocado and stir-fried veggies, and said they'll also like his jalapeno ranch dip with those chips.
In January, Wold retired from F.E.B. Distributing after 28 years with the company and 44 years in the business. He's also cooked at many business and community functions. He said retirement wasn't for him.
"I wasn't done," he said. "I'm 62 and I'm not done."
Their travels have taken the Wolds to the Florida Keys, Costa Rica and Mexico and he incorporated the color and fun of these places into the design of Off the Hook's deck.
"It makes a nice tropical setting out here," he said, and Bushwhackers and Margaritas add to the tropical flavor. Tables are arranged so friends can gather in one area and share piles of local peel-and-eat shrimp while listening to acoustic entertainment. Coast musician Hank Berumen will play on the deck for 11 weekend nights this summer. The Rochelle Harper Band will be perform outdoors from 7 to 11 p.m.Friday for the first official weekend.
Wold brought on Ginger Coolman, who has 21 years of experience at Outback Steakhouse and Buffalo Wild Wings, as general manager to keep the restaurant operating smoothly and open daily for lunch and dinner.