Harrison County

Big Mike’s Speakeasy making the big move in Gulfport

Big Mike’s Speakeasy is moving to the first block of 25th Avenue in downtown Gulfport. Owner Amy Tennyson is busy getting the new place ready to open around mid-November in the building where Irish Coast Pub was located.
Big Mike’s Speakeasy is moving to the first block of 25th Avenue in downtown Gulfport. Owner Amy Tennyson is busy getting the new place ready to open around mid-November in the building where Irish Coast Pub was located. amccoy@sunherald.com

Big Mike’s Speakeasy, a popular restaurant and bar near the waterfront, is moving to make way for the city’s planned Mississippi Aquarium.

Big Mike’s was on a month-to-month lease because it is one piece of the property the city assembled for the aquarium, slated to open in 2019. Big Mike’s owner Amy Tennyson jumped at the chance for a smooth transition when the Irish Coast Pub gave up its lease in the first block of downtown’s main street, 25th Avenue.

“We'll be right in the mix of things, so we're excited,” Tennyson said. “Right now, we're in the process of cleaning, decorating and transferring licenses to open.”

She hopes to make the move in mid-November. The current restaurant will close when the new one opens.

There’s a lot to love about the current Big Mike’s. It’s in a rambling two-story building with a balcony that overlooks the harbor.

The new space is smaller, but has the feel of a speakeasy. Big Mike himself, aka Mike Brown, was sprucing up the new building Friday afternoon.

“He tries to say that he's the pretty face behind the name, but he just drives me crazy, basically,” Tennyson said of her boyfriend.

Brown owned the restaurant’s current building before the city bought it. When he lost the previous tenant, he talked to Tennyson, a real estate investor and former school teacher.

“He asked if I wanted to open a restaurant and I said, ‘No,’ and kind of fought it,” she said.

She soon relented. Six years later, she’s an experienced hand with a staff that feels like family.

The new building has a long dining room and a wooden oak bar in one corner. At the entrance, Tennyson has hung mementos from Prohibition days: A photo of men pouring a barrel of alcohol down a manhole and several prescriptions for alcohol issued under the National Prohibition Act.

Tennyson also plans to hang black and white photographs of Big Mike’s regulars.

Big Mike’s will be open daily from 11 a.m. until. Food will be served until 1 a.m. weekdays and until 2 a.m. on the weekends.

The menu will be smaller, but Big Mike’s will continue to serve all the favorites: Daily lunch specials, hamburgers, the roast beef sandwich with real Chicago beef, macaroni and cheese and Pokey wings. General manager Pokey Bennett created the wing sauce, which is sweet with a spicy kick. The recipe is, of course, a secret.

For the first time, his wife, Beverly Bennett, will have a dish on the menu: Roast beef. Tennyson tried it the other day and it was so good she had to add it.

Big Mike’s also will continue to serve mahi-mahi sandwiches and platters.

Ben Kaufman, who owned the Irish Coast Pub, will have his going-away party at the new Big Mike’s. Kaufman closed his business for a director’s job at Margaritaville Resort in Biloxi.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99

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