Pierre Le Moyne Sieur d’Iberville claimed the territory known as Ocean Springs, Mississippi, in 1699 for France. The influence on the cuisine and culture is still strong today.
Ocean Springs became famous a hundred and fifty years later when Dr. William Glover Austin discovered healing mineral springs flowing from the earth. He knew the springs could help patients for medicinal purposes. But the Native Americans took to the springs years before Dr. Austin’s discovery. They believed the waters to be a holy gift of the Great Spirit and called the areas around them ‘E-Ca-Na-Cha-Ha’ or sacred ground.
In 1854, when Dr. Austin built the Ocean Springs Hotel on Jackson Avenue, the town also assumed the name. The hospitality industry grew up around the springs due to their healing powers, the fantastic climate, and the beautiful shoreline. Many of the best Ocean Springs restaurants were created soon after.
Not long after that, the Civil War took a toll on the Coastal economy. The Union Navy came ashore from the USS Hartford and confiscated guns and any supplies they could find. The local men joined the Live Oak Rifles, Company A, 3rd Mississippi Regiment in 1861, and many families fled north to become farmers.
Around 1870, the completed L & N Railroad brought northern guests and wealthy southerners back to use the spas. The small hotels were open. Ocean Springs experienced a land boom that attracted rich business people to build resorts and golf courses. The railroad brought northern clientele to vacation away from the cold, and improved roadways brought southerners to escape Yellow Fever.
One of those roadways, the War Memorial Bridge, connected Biloxi to Ocean Springs, making it faster to reach the city by car.
The art community was also growing in Ocean Springs. Artist Peter Anderson founded Shearwater Pottery which attracted international fame. His brother Walter Inglis Anderson, a talented watercolor painter, worked with Peter at Shearwater but never received proper recognition for his work. Today there’s a museum dedicated to Walter’s art that opened in 1991.
Ocean Springs has much to offer. A charming downtown, boutique shops and live music venues dot downtown where you can take your cocktails to-go throughout the entertainment district. A nod to Ocean Spring’s past, you’ll also enjoy several diverse ethnic restaurants, some with French, Cajun, and Creole influences.
They range from a beloved donut shop to upscale dining. Of course, there’s the beach with stellar views of the Gulf of Mexico, teeming with the freshest seafood served in restaurants all along Coastal Mississippi.
Visiting other destinations in Mississippi? Check out our other delicious guides:
- 5 Best Biloxi Restaurants
- 18 Must-Try Jackson, MS Restaurants & 15 Fun Things To Do In Jackson MS
- 7 Must-Try Bay St. Louis Restaurants
- 10 Best Must-Try Oxford Restaurants, Mississippi
- 5 Best Natchez MS Restaurants
The 7 Best Ocean Springs Restaurants
715 Washington Avenue //+ 1 (228) 818-9699
Vestige is small and unique. Getting a table here is like scoring tickets to your favorite concert- hard to get, but once seated, each dish is mind-blowing until the next course arrives. Native Alex Perry and his wife Kumi Omori opened Vestige in 2013 in a modern minimalist space that feels elegant, like their tasting menus.
Perry was a James Beard Foundation’s semi-finalist–Best Chef in the South award winner in 2019. Perry didn’t set out to become named as a James Beard semi-finalist; in fact, he didn’t plan to be a chef at all. Alex planned to become an epidemiologist at the University of South Alabama in Mobile.
But he changed directions and attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Miami. His prior training comes in handy, but his creativity led him to follow a path better suited to his passions.
His evolving vision is to showcase local products and purveyors, and include flora and fauna native to his Gulf Coast region. The fusion with his version of Japanese Cuisine makes each dish a revelation. The presentation is like a work of art. Kumi creates all the bread and desserts, which are gorgeous and delicious. A native of Japan, she is inspired by nature and is an inspiration to her husband.
The meal is a tasting menu that changes seasonally and what the purveyors have that inspires the chefs. It begins with an amuse, a first, second, a bread course, third, and then a dessert. The service is excellent and includes descriptions of each plate. It’s priced around $76.00 per person plus tax and gratuity.
The evening I dined at Vestige, I enjoyed a menu starting with a foie gras mousse, preserved cherry leaf, compressed strawberries, with a strawberry fluid gel. Everything was edible, and the coaxing of flavors from the technique was incredible. You’ve never tasted strawberries like this.
Small plates of marinated cherry tomatoes followed, pan-seared wild gulf caught red snapper with roasted and pickled beets. Then milk bread with strawberry butter, wagyu beef with sea urchin, and finally, a cacao génoise with Ponchatoula strawberry, ginger, almonds, and orange diplomat cream.
It was an unforgettable experience using the best of what’s available in Coastal Mississippi. Alex and Kumi are artists, and their palette is food.
604 Porter Avenue //+1 (228) 217-7160
Eat Drink Love is a light, bright restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating on the ground floor of the beautifully restored Roost Boutique Hotel. The best part about this casual eatery and market is the fresh foods that caterer and owner Lauren Taranto lovingly creates daily.
She’s choosy about her ingredients, and scratch makes everything for her catering and restaurant clients. Her morning offerings include those favorites you enjoyed when you were a kid – but elevated.
You could grab Lauren’s version of a pop-tart or giant cinnamon roll or a simple house-made buttermilk biscuit. If you were looking for a bigger meal, there’s a full selection of breakfast ‘sammies’, plates or bowls. If you visit for lunch, choices include small bites and gourmet sandwiches.
The chicken salad made with cranberries, pecans and pepperoncini on your selection of bread with spring mix is a favorite. Or homemade soups or signature salads with add-ons, including chicken or salmon make for a delicious option.
I tried to be healthy and ordered the Signature house salad with feta, red onion, tomato, cucumber, artichoke hearts, pepperoncini over a mix of romaine and spring lettuce with a perfectly grilled piece of salmon. But I couldn’t resist one of Lauren’s giant chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
If you plan a picnic at the beach, you can order a boxed lunch, or for a more significant event, the catering menu for lunch or brunch is perfect for a crowd. It’s a must-stop when you visit Ocean Springs.
910A Washington Avenue // +1 (228) 215-1160
In the words of Chef Julia Child, ‘A party without cake is just a meeting’. Chef and Owner of French Kiss Pastries, Jaqueline Ladnier, embraces this quote wholeheartedly and hopes her patrons do, too. That’s why she fills her shelves with the most delicious pastries, cookies and cakes, to tempt anyone who walks in the door of her charming bakeshop.
Ms. Ladnier’s passion is baking and it shows in the quality ingredients and the craft. You can stop in for breakfast pastries, sandwiches, fresh soups or quiche, a sweet treat, or a decadent dessert. Everything is made from scratch and baked fresh from the kitchen. The incredible array is breathtaking.
I popped in for a sweet treat and selected a fruit tart from the case. The delicate, sweet shell filled with a vanilla bean custard and topped with fresh fruit (in season) tasted light and satisfying. I was in heaven.
If you aren’t a fan of fruit, the Chocolate Mousse Cake would be my recommendation. The buttermilk chocolate cake on the bottom is layered with a light Belgium chocolate mousse and is topped with a mirror glaze of chocolate and chocolate curls. Everything, from the cannoli to the maple pecan roll, is so compelling you must stop yourself from ordering it all.
Ms. Ladnier also creates special request cakes for birthdays and weddings. The incredible flavors and the beauty of her work make this the place for anything cake-related.
1114 Government Street // +1 (228) 872-2076
When owner David Mohler passed away due to complications from Covid-19 in early January, the entire town felt the loss. Not only was David part of the community, but his family business is also one of the favorites in town. The handmade, fresh TatoNut Donuts, known as the ‘Only Real Donut’, has been a must-stop for locals and travelers alike for years. This summer, his daughter Katelyn, along with her mom, picked up the mantle and re-opened the shop to the delight of everyone in Ocean Springs. The store needed a remodel and some renovation to add more room inside. Still, the recipe for the famous donuts remained the same.
This humble shop remains an institution on Government Street in Ocean Springs because of its delicious gourmet coffee and hot fresh donuts made daily. The donuts attract long lines outside of the store, but they are worth the wait. The people’s favorite is the blueberry cake donut and the donut holes.
Still, you’ll find glazed, twists and specialty donuts advertised daily on the Facebook page. All love these handmade donuts; make sure you get yours before they run out.
1010 Government Street //+1 (228) 818-9885
Mosaic is a tapas bar and restaurant with a funky, chic vibe inside and an enormous patio for outdoor dining. The weather in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, is the perfect environment for a place like Mosaic. It’s the kind of bar where you can grab a few small plates, a craft cocktail and listen to live music any day of the week.
The menu at Mosaic is international, with small plates that are perfect for sharing. The tapas options range from dips to empanadas, with more significant portions including fresh salads, tacos, gyros, burgers and gumbo. The craft-cocktail menu is impressive, with a list of specialty mojitos, frozen concoctions, cocktails and wines.
I stopped in for one of those specialty mojitos, and since I am a purist, I had an original: white rum, sugar, lime juice, club soda and mint. I had to pair my refreshing cocktail with the Argentinian Empanadas, deep-fried, crescent-shaped pastries filled with beef (a house recipe) and a chipotle aioli dipping sauce. The four empanadas were golden brown and crisp, and the pastry dough was flaky. The filling of beef and vegetables was spiced perfectly but not too spicy. I dipped my empanadas in the dipping sauce to add more heat, which gave the perfect kick to my appetizer.
I would have loved to stay and try more choices off the menu, but I had more spots to discover on Government Street. I loved the patio and the ambiance inside. It’s a very cool cocktail bar. Mosaic also offers a Jazz Brunch on the weekends.
1210 Government Street // +1 (228) 818-9410
Government Grocery is that casual neighborhood bar where everyone knows your name. They also serve delicious food at reasonable prices, and live music plays regularly. The homemade lunch and dinner specials pop up on Facebook. Still, the regular menu has some terrific seafood and southern options that are locals favorites. Vegetarian options and burgers are staples here.
The atmosphere inside gives off serious club vibes. Bands play here regularly, so you know this is the place to hear live music. The best part is that the food is fantastic too. You can get southern favorites like Po’boys. If you follow the Facebook page, you will notice that Cajun dishes such as Jambalaya often appear. I had to try a Po’boy here, and I took my seat out on the spacious outdoor patio to enjoy it.
My choice of side was fried okra, and while I know that’s a lot of fried items for one plate, I didn’t care; I had to try it.
The fried shrimp sandwich came dressed with lettuce and tomato, but I ordered the shrimp smothered in a spicy jerk sauce (an option). It was a terrific topper to lift the traditional version. The fried okra was crunchy and crisp, and while I couldn’t finish it all, it was delicious. I ate all the shrimp off my sandwich because the portion was huge. I couldn’t believe the fair price as well.
This restaurant is a fun spot, and since you can take your drinks with you along Government Street, you must visit Government Grocery while in town as you travel from place to place.
626 Washington Avenue // +1 (228) 875-0032
The tag line for this fine dining restaurant is ‘Stylish food for stylish people’. And while they offer attractive lunch options from soups, salads, and sandwiches, the dinner hour is remarkable.
The ambiance at their Washington Avenue restaurant is intimate, with French-inspired cuisine prepared by Owner/Chef Luann Thornton Ellis. Chef Ellis transplanted to Ocean Springs after working for eighteen years at The Frenchtown Inn in Frenchtown, New Jersey. She never looked back.
At her establishment, you’ll savor local seafood transformed into delectable dishes both as starters and entrees and a famous salad that she reprised from her days in New Jersey. The salad comprises mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, bacon and goat cheese, then topped with hot apple beignets tossed in a white balsamic dressing.
It was my starter, and it was fabulous. While all the dishes are fantastic here, I came for the signature lamb entrée. I wanted to enjoy it outdoors on the spacious patio.
After my salad, I ordered the New Zealand Rack of Lamb. The chops are sliced and served with a sauce of the day and a choice of sides. I chose the twice-baked cauliflower, a lower-carb offering, and the roasted mushrooms and onions, which were all delicious. The lamb was cooked to order and was so tender and flavorful.
The restaurant has a full bar and an excellent craft-cocktail list, but I selected a glass of Bordeaux to pair with my perfectly prepared lamb. The evening was a winner in all categories. I loved the ambiance outdoors, the service and the food. Maison de Lu is an excellent choice for an upscale dining experience in Ocean Springs.
You can’t go wrong dining in beautiful Ocean Springs. Just make sure to leave enough time to eat your way through this adorable town.
Which of these Ocean Springs restaurants do you want to try first? Let us know in the comments section below!
Jeanine Consoli is a freelance travel writer, photographer, and foodie based in Washington Crossing, PA. A retired elementary school teacher used her summers to feed her passion for travel and kept journals of all the destinations she explored. Today, Jeanine is working as a writer full-time. She loves uncovering the history and understanding the culture of each location, including the local flavors of each place. She has traveled extensively in the United States and Europe and is excited to keep adding to the list, finding special places that are off the beaten path both at home and abroad.