An August 2003 trip
to Ocean Springs by Irene
Quote: Brushed aside to the east of sparkling Biloxi and Gulfport on the Gulf of Mexico, Ocean Springs and Pascagoula offer a breath of fresh bayous and old-fashioned Southern comfort.
Remember you're in the south and around lots of water, so brings lots of insect spray for outdoor activities. Lots of cool clothes and hats are in order, the sun can be murder in the summer months, although the winter can be lots of fun. If you are a casino fan, they also offer some good bargains for stays at their hotels, just check their websites or the Tourist office.
Hotel | "La Font Inn"
While taking a look at a room we discovered the local institution of a restaurant and Hotel is under renovation. Thank goodness they decided to start with the guestrooms. Newly painted and decorated in cool blues and greens, the rooms are a trifle on the small side but a lot of little things helped: head boards on the beds, real wall paper, a tiny fridge, TV, telephone, coffee maker, iron and ironing board, and a now unheard of metal bottle opener mounted on the wall near the sink. Remember when all sodas came in glass bottles, not just beer? Our bath was really snug, but there were plenty of lush towels and lots of little amenities, shampoo, lotion, etc.
From our lowly 2 full beds to elegant 3 room business and family suites complete with dinning rooms, La Font offers a selection of accommodations with a selection of prices to match. Nestled on the back 40 of their lush 9 pine studded acres is even a southern mansion called the Magnolia House. Maybe it's waiting for your next formal affair?
La Font's is one frontage road away from Highway 90, giving easy access to all the sites, restaurants, and shopping. There is no public transport and the taxis are expensive and slow, so bring your car.
Service, friendliness and attitude, from the prompt waitresses at the full buffet breakfast to the swift repair man, the employees are what make this shabby elegant hotel a stand out. Everyone, even the maids and waiters, were always helpful, polite and quick to respond. Finally becoming annoyed with a small noisy fan in our bath, we had to have two tries at getting it fixed but all work was completed with a smile.
What do we remember? The wonderful restaurant, breakfast, lunch buffet and full dinner menu with wine list, gleaming pool, tennis courts, hot tub, fitness room, sauna, The Reef Lounge, and Shawn, our dinner waiter.
La Fonts has a good location, lots free parking, takes all your credit cards and has a website. www.chappyslafontinn.com
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 23, 2003
Lafont Restaurant & Grill
Ocean Springs, Mississippi 39567
Glancing from side to side, we noticed the lack of other patrons and were instantly curious. Quickly we were approached by helpful waiters, assistant manager and busboys at our disposal. Sunday is a quiet night and all had tucked themselves in a corner for a quick coffee break. Shawn, our waiter, splendid in his white shirt, black pants and black tie, offered us any table in the house and we chose the crescent-shaped couch with the tiny candle aglow, semi-facing the bar. Drinks were served in massive cut glasses, of water size, not cocktail size, and were icy and strong.
A loaf of warm bread appeared before we even decided what to order and beside it a platter with three large rounds of butter. Butter is the signature at Chappy's. Three kinds blended in their own kitchen, garlic, strawberry, and whipped butter, all served with the soft full loaf of their house-baked bread. Yum! I chose the sautéed shrimp with angel hair pasta ($12.95) and tossed in a dab of the garlic butter for good measure. Pink shrimp all tangled with tiny pasta filled an entire bowl trimmed with chopped green onions and loads of mushrooms. Robert inhaled his broiled seafood -- fish, shrimp, scallops, and oysters -- doused with more mushrooms and crisp green beans ($13.95). Dishes do not include salad, but do come with side dish of the day except the pasta dishes. Chappy's is heavy on coast seafood including snapper, flounder, shrimp, and seafood gumbo. They also include a great steak on the menu with a price to match, 16-ounce prime rib with crab and Hollandaise ($23.95).
Make room for dessert! All those tempting desserts on the lunch buffet ($8.95) 11am-2pm are still available in the evening if they left some. However, there is always Chappy's house specialty, bread pudding, a Southern staple, and Mississippi mud pie. This you've got to try!
Atmosphere is quiet and elegant with the lights low and movements hushed. Shawn hovered, recommended and visited. He was not over-attentive, just in earshot and always in anticipation of what we wanted. Greg would nod from the bar to make sure the drinks were satisfactory and the assistant manager dropped by to inquire about our pleasure. Hours are 7am-10pm Sunday-Thursday, and 7am-11pm Saturday and Sunday. For the complete menu, visit their website at www.chappys.net. They take all credit cards, debit cards and cash. You can even charge it to the room.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 28, 2003
La Font Inn Restaurant
2703 Denny Avenue
Ocean Springs, Mississippi 39567
Buffet was generous hot or cold, with stream shrimp, sushi, lobster rolls, shrimps with veggies, egg rolls, teriyaki chicken, crabmeat wontons, steamed rice, stir fried rice, lo mein, beef with veggies, and veggie delight with tofu. My hot and sour soup was just a little on the vinegar side, however I ate all the steamed shrimp I could to make up for it. Egg drop soup was thick, yellow, and tasty with chopped green onions. I loved the crisp green beans stir fried with garlic. Eat! Eat! Eat!
A well equipped salad bar and desert table completed the buffet with southern favorites of ice cream, cookies, pie, and fruit (oranges, pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew). Menu dishes included a wide range of chicken, beef, pork, and shrimp with different combinations of veggies and sauces in the $7-$8 range. It seems from what our neighbors were having from the menu steamed crab claws are the favorite. Stacks of them for both people and we listened to the sap and crunch, but were to stuffed to care.
Small brown booths lined two window-studded walls with square clothless tables in an additional room from the three six foot long buffet tables. Service was quick and polite, if not indifferent, due probably to the after lunch slowdown. Extremely casual describes the décor and atmosphere. No formal dinning here, just lots of tasty tidbits and wholesome desserts served with gallons of southern sweet tea. This is Chinese with a gulf coast seafood flair. All day buffet is $6.50 and they are open Sunday and Thursday 11am-9pm and Friday and Saturday 11am-9:30pm. All credit cards are acceptable. My fortune cookie said I was going to take a trip.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 21, 2003
China Rose Buffet
1415 Bienville Blvd.
Ocean Springs, Mississippi 39564
Our path snaked deeper into dense shrubs and trees, when suddenly the road made a sharp right turn and we were staring at the Colmer Visitor Center. We had just entered the Mississippi Mainland District portion of the park. The outer barrier islands (West Ship, East Ship, Horn, and Petit Bois) 10 miles offshore can only be reached by boat, from Gulfport to West Ship Island -- $18.
But we had Davis Bayou. What a delightful surprise! We jumped from the car and raced toward the water, to find it was only marshland--oops! No beach. However, it did have a wonderful paved walking path, and out over the swampy bayou, raised wooden walkways finally leading to the rear of the visitor center. Closer to the water, a dock led over the marsh to a wooden gazebo with benches. Great place to rest, fish, admire the view of the coast islands, and let the gulf breeze brush away the sand or deerflies.
Now what are deerflies? Well, they are somewhat akin to horseflies. Robert was exploring the picnic grounds and began flailing his arms around his head and racing toward the parking lot. He rushed toward the visitor center and I investigated. As I entered the dense overgrowth of trees along the self-guided nature trail near the concealed restrooms, something buzzed near me and I swatted, and then there was another and another, and then I took off my cap and swatted, and that was worse. So I also escaped to the visitor center.
Inside I found Robert happily watching an orientation film in the auditorium. I browsed wildlife exhibits and relaxed in the lounge in the back. I found the water fountains and restroom, and also the drink machine. Out back I discovered scads of multi-leveled decking surrounding the center, giving access to dense tree growth and an expansive view of the saw-grass marshland. No concessions! At the main desk, a knowledgeable rangerette filled us in with all the information about the campgrounds, picnic shelters, ball field, boat launch, and access to the Gulf barrier islands that are the largest part of the National Seashore. That is where the white-sand beaches are! The visitor center is open daily March to October 8:30am-5pm, November to February 8am-4:30pm. Admission is free.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 8, 2003
Gulf Islands National Seashore
3500 Park Road
Ocean Springs, Mississippi 39564
Immediately there was confusion, delight and then awe. Spread before my eyes was the mightiest of Anderson's Murals painted in 1951 for the sum of $1? From floor to ceiling, wall to wall and windowsill to doorframe, Anderson filled this entire center with his love of color, nature and flight. In Six Seasons of the coast he has in 2500 square feet of mural shown Native American culture, the landing of the French in 1699 and some of the gulf coast history and it environment. Trees shine as though decorated for Christmas while flocks of birds are flung across the walls to collide with a geometric design spread around the chandelier. He has even depicted himself as the helmsman of a skiff.
In the foyer, high above hang more of his murals commissioned in 1934 and painted for the auditorium of the public schools. They are square, geometric, with sharp corners, and dull hews of brown and ochre. To me they had a slight resemblance to cave drawings.
His best secret, hidden in his Shearwater cottage on the family property where he lived and painted in solitary, is the "little room". It was moved from the Shearwater Pottery compound after his death and brought intact into the museum in 1991. Unpainted plank walls are alive with his impressions of nature and the mermaid sitting above the mantel of the brick fireplace has inspired many interpretations. Birds swoop in flocks from corner to ceiling in a burst of brilliant blue and flowers flash like roman candles on the Fourth.
Before entering the secluded "little room" I passed through two multi windowed galleries of Ceramics of Shearwater Pottery. Walter practiced his delicate work there with his brothers painting designs for the pieces. I admired minute designs splashed on bowls and plates of his work as well as that of his two brothers, Peter and James.
Down the bright pine paneled main gallery on right, behind the Museum store, amid various samples of his cat work tilts the skiff Anderson used to explore Horn Island in his solitary jaunts. From the sky lit main gallery to the, little room, and into two more galleries the museum holds 550 works by Walter Anderson and his brothers in the permanent collection including watercolors, oils, ceramics, block prints and carvings. Hours Mon.-Sat. 9:30am-4:45pm; Sun.12:30 - 4:45pm.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 22, 2003
Walter Anderson Museum of Art
510 Washington Avenue
Ocean Springs, Mississippi 39564
In the center of this almost 400 acres of former tree farm stretches a well-laid-out, slightly scruffy rambling disc golf course, said to be fun for the entire family. Left past the log cabin entrance to the park ($2 per vehicle), where you buy your discs, is the first hole or tree of the course. Carved from hordes of pines and sawgrass are fairways with mighty steel baskets hanging from the sturdiest of lofty pines instead of little hole on a green. Well, not always - sometimes the baskets are mounted a steel pole. My understanding is the Frisbee-like disc of wood is to be thrown into the baskets. Of course, the lowest score for the number of throws is the winner. Never underestimate Southern ingenuity or hospitality.
Easing past the disc-golf range to the left was the group camp area nearby to marshy Lamotte Bayou. Atop a knoll overlooking the swamp was a dense pack of live oaks sheltering a cluster of picnic tables. A great place for a snack and respite amid the humming skitters (mosquitoes). Do not forget your insect repellant! Nearby several hiking trails of the 5 miles available disappear on the top of small levees among the bushy cattails.
Established in 1976 as a gift from native Mississippian, Horace A. Shepard, the park is a quiet escape with the spacious picnic pavilions for rent and a perky rangerette who pointed out the nature trail to the right of the visitor center and furnished a map to all the flora. However, we did find the footing a little mushy, damp, and overgrown from all the recent rain, while roads leading to the boat ramp had partially washed away.
Despite its slightly untrimmed and neglected appearance, I liked this haven of shady evergreen forest peopled with local wildlife. This is a land of legends - the Biloxi and Pascagoula Indians roamed these extended banks of the "Singing River" (Pascagoula River today). In the yarns of history, the tribes often did battle, and the Pascagoula tribe walked into the river singing and holding hands instead of being defeated. Just maybe, the primitive wilderness camping ($5) might give a clue to lifestyles once played out here.
Shrouded in loblolly pines at the gate, the tidy visitor center with gift shop, park office, and restrooms is open from 8am-5pm daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. Of the 28 RV camping sites ($13), only four can be reserved, and then first come, first served.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 12, 2003
Shepard State Park
1034 Graveline Rd.
Ocean Springs, Mississippi 39553
What do you think is the secret ingredient that makes this Mohler family tradition a sensation since 1960? Well there is lots of speculation, but we do know that these delights for the palate are made from potato flour. Unusual and tasty. Whatever else that singles these treats out is the family secret and no one is talking, just eating.
From the first door clang at 5am until all the shelves are empty, which usually is around 11am, the shop is alive with the donut gourmets. We rushed in to grab a dozen on our way from the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, just around the corner. It seems like you needed a traffic cop in the middle of the block in front of the splashy yellow Tatonut Shop. Cars lined both sides of the street for blocks and customers scurried out guarding their treasures. By the dozen, by the box, by the bag, donuts, twists, chocolate cake donuts, blueberry donuts, cream-filled, cinnamon rolls as big as my husband’s hand.
If you by chance have a few minutes, you can savor a particular favorite from the kitchen with your favorite coffee concoction. Inside the swinging glass doors a dozen or so ice cream parlor chairs and tables are scattered about painted the same brilliant yellow that adorns the outside walls. A helpful counter person in the back will take your order to go or to take to your table.
Even with all the specialty donuts, the all time favorite still remains the original. The old fashioned glazed donut, you know the one you pick up in the grocery deli. Well it might look like this donut but just you take a bite of the Tatonut glazed donut. Tatonut is filled with donut, not air and the color is a dense yellow with a healthy body. It does not melt in you mouth, you must chew to engage the full flavor with the thin coating of glaze. I even whimper just a little. Everything I have tried here has the same intensity of flavor.
A dozen will set you back about $5 but if you want to buy them individually then you can get them for 69cents. Coffees run between $1.50-3.50 depending on how many things you want to put in it and how long the name is. You can also buy gourmet coffee by the pound. Tatonut stays open until 5pm, but you just might not find anything left by then. They only bake so many and when it is gone it is gone.
Address is 1114 Government Street, Ocean Springs and phone # is 228-872-2076
The Tatonut Shop -- The Only Real Donut.