Joshua Lord has a real passion for food. He’s a self-described big foodie. After years of experience in the restaurant industry as a manager, he opened the Blue Dog Bistro in Ocean Springs and will soon open a Blue Dog in Gulfport.
My inspiration comes from having an extreme love for food. I was blessed to travel the world with my parents, trying different cuisines so I had a mature palate as a child.
The son of Madeleine and the late David Lord, he grew up in Gulfport. “Nothing I did was possible without them,” he said.
That advanced palate and some celiac and crohn’s disease health issues in his wife Amber’s family were the guiding lights of Lord’s approach to offering healthy food choices in his restaurants. The Ocean Springs Blue Dog specializes in brunch food and serves gluten, keto, and vegan choices. “I don’t know of other restaurants offering those options,” he said. “About 35 percent of our menu items are for special diets and they’re very popular.”
The Gulfport Blue Dog will feature the same food options. It will be located at 8829 Lorraine Road, Suite 100. Lord expects it to open in late summer of this year.
If you’re wondering about the origin of the restaurants’ name, it’s in remembrance of the Lords’ Blue Staffordshire Terrier, Blue Bell. “She was our child,” Lord says. “She had a long struggle with cancer but it didn’t break her spirit.”
Blue Bell’s spirit lives on in the business as well as with their current two blue Staffordshire Terriers and one American Bull Terrier. Those are the fur babies of the Lords, who’ve been married 12 years and together 21 years. “My wife is my rock and I couldn’t do this without her. I’m one man who will admit it,” he said.
Amber says she knew many years ago that Joshua had the talent, drive, and knowledge to have his own restaurant. “He would work so hard and treated past restaurants he ran as if they were his own, so I knew he had what it took to have a successful restaurant. If you have eaten with us, you can taste his love and passion in the food. I am beyond proud of him and will continue to support him anyway I can.”
At age 38 Lord already has years of restaurant experience starting at age 15 at Red Lobster. He continued working for the Darden company and opened several restaurants. He was managing partner of the Half Shell restaurants, selling out in 2018 to follow his dream.
Asked if there’s a difference in managing and being the sole owner of a restaurant, Lord answers a resounding yes. “There are drastic changes, pros and cons,” he said. “When you’re not the only owner, there are some things you don’t see. Now it comes down to me and I don’t have the other guys. But I wouldn’t change a thing; I love what I’m doing and have the skills and ability to do it.”
Lord is opening the Gulfport Blue Dog to be able to serve another community a real product, something that’s new and healthier than a lot of Coast food. “I know Coast cuisine and most of it is all the same,” he says. “With my concept, people ask if I’m from the East or West Coast. This cuisine and concept are new to the community.”
Blue Dog’s blueberry ricotta pancakes are a crowd pleaser. The dish comes from a favorite childhood book, Sheldon’s Lunch, complete with the recipe in the back, that Lord’s mom read to him. The Blue Dog Breakfast is also popular. “It’s an all-star breakfast, like Waffle House on steroids. It’s a really big plate.”
All of these favorites will be offered at the Gulfport location. The new location will seat 150 diners and have 35 employees.
“It’s exciting and scary at the same time (opening a new location),” Lord said. “We need to get control of food costs, and it’s still difficult to get employees because a lot of people are not coming back to the service industry. Dealing with people and the different personalities can be challenging, but there is nothing more rewarding to me than serving people. It feeds what I need to be fed.”
Blue Dog Bistro
1801 Government St., Ste. A, Ocean Springs
8829 Lorraine Rd., Ste. 100, Gulfport (coming soon)