To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi. – William Faulkner
Imagine the most sweltering heat, frizzled hair, and bare legs that stick to leather car upholstery.
Imagine slow talkers and well-wishes from strangers.
Imagine deep southern traditions and impeccable manners from locals and transplants alike.
Imagine falling in love with an accent, falling in love with a sunset, falling in love with a coast.
That’s what it’s like to live and love in Mississippi.
The gulf coast of Mississippi will probably always be my most favorite place on earth, simply because of all the beautiful memories made there. I moved to the coast when I was 19 years old, completely unaware that it would become my heart’s true home.
I remember my first night alone in Mississippi. I went to Wal-Mart pretty late, on the hunt for cleaning supplies for my new apartment. I must have had a confused look on my face because an old man came up to me with his own cart and asked what I was looking for. My response is lost on me, but he immediately replied “Ma’am, you’re the first Yankee I’ve ever met!” We shopped together and he asked me questions about what brought me to the south and where I called home. In New York, I never would have found myself shopping and chatting my way around Wal-Mart with a complete stranger. In the south, stuff like this happened to me almost every single day. Before we parted ways, he said, “God bless you.” I was floored.
People in Mississippi did that to me all the time–they constantly surprised me. I was always taken aback by their kindness, their generous spirits, their love of fun and their ability to have it as often as possible.
And even if the coast wasn’t so beautiful and the food wasn’t so good, I’d still love it just as much because people make a place, and I met the best friends I’ll ever have in that sweet southern city.
The following are my most favorite spots on the coast.
The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint – ShedHeds of the world UNITE. OK, so this isn’t the best choice for the vegetarians out there – but for my fellow meat lovers, this barbecue cannot be beaten. There are tons of dishes to choose from, all beautifully dressed with the Shed’s award-winning sauces. Plus, there’s live music on Fridays and Saturdays. The pulled chicken with slaw and potato salad cured all my ills — mostly hangover ills, but still.
The Fillin’ Station – Be prepared to experience the cutest, cramped, most-delicious converted gas station ever. Seafood doesn’t even begin to touch the wide variety of foods offered at The Fillin’ Station. Yes, the seafood is worth raving about, but so are the steaks, po’ boys, drinks, the patio, the happy hour – the list goes on and on. Not to mention, there’s an all-you-can-eat crawfish boil on Sundays, which you have to experience because it’s the most quintessential southern thing ever.
Shaggy’s on Biloxi Beach – Shaggy’s on the beach doesn’t have the best food on the coast, but it does have one of the best views. These beach shacks have large windows open to let the salty breeze wash over you while you’re enjoying a cold beer. Shaggy’s is just fun. It’s the perfect beach bar to spend an afternoon drinking and bullshitting — the two most-adored pastimes in the south.
IP Casino Resort and Spa Hotel – Space isn’t an issue here. IP Casino Resort sits 32 stories high and offers more than 1,000 rooms. The institution was recently awarded the elite AAA Four Diamond Award, proving its premier status among lodging options in the area. There’s eats, entertainment, and full amenities – what else do you need?
Beau Rivage Biloxi Resort and Casino – Thursday night is ladies night! Grab some dice, a drink, and your pajamas because you can do it all at the Beau Rivage Biloxi Resort. Get your gambling on and then head to bed. If that convenience doesn’t sell this place, then maybe you’ll be tempted by the deluxe ocean view.
The Hard Rock — Because you just have to.
Crooked Letter Brewing – Interested in microbreweries, tours, and tastings? Stop in at Crooked Letter Brewing on Saturdays from 1 to 3 p.m. in order to reap the joys of all three! $5 gets you a tour and a few tastes. Plus, you can find some of the brewery’s yummy creations – Crooked Heffy, yes please! – at local restaurants and bars.
Trax – Home to $1 shots every time the train passes, Trax is a dirty hole in the wall with the most questionable patrons. I always left this place smelling like booze and french fries. If you’re looking for cheap drinks and people that tell long tall tales, Trax is the perfect place to go.
Government St. Grocery in Ocean Springs – This is a one-stop shop for anyone seeking food, music and spirits. While it’s best known for its burgers and sandwiches, Government St. Grocery is the perfect place to gather friends, enjoy brews – or anything else from the full bar – and sway to some live tunes. You can even bring your dogs onto the patio, so you know it’s a good place to be.
Government Street in Ocean Springs — I love Ocean Springs because it’s the cutest little town and Government Street is the highlight. It boasts cute little boutiques with eclectic shop owners that really overshare, awesome bars and my absolute favorite, Tato-Nut — the best donut shop in the world.
Mezo’s Juke Joint — Mezo’s late night is just awesome. They have live music, an awesome venue, and great food. I’ve got no idea what it looks like in daylight, as I’ve only ever been there after 10 p.m., but it’s absolutely worth a visit
Beauvoir – Calling all history buffs! The Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library takes you back more than a hundred years, offering the closest thing to a time machine in the Biloxi area. In case you don’t know, Jefferson Davis served as the President of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. If you didn’t know that, you should probably go to Beauvoir and learn a thing or two.
Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art – The museum serves as a tribute to George E. Ohr (1857-1918), a talented Biloxi potter. It also displays the unique, versatile cultural heritage of the Gulf Coast. Although Hurricane Katrina devastated the museum campus that was designed by famous architect, Frank Gehry in 2005, it has been rebuilt and offers a source of inspiration, relaxation and food for thought.
If you ever get the opportunity to visit the coast, don’t be surprised if you stay longer than you intended. The south has a way of turning a vacation destination into a home.
Photo: Jimmy Emerson