While I’ve been blessed with the good fortune of traversing the Mississippi Gulf Coast and sampling some truly delicious food, sometimes all the pomp and circumstance surrounding a meal can be a little daunting. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love dining out at restaurants. Decadent meals crafted to perfection, using only the finest ingredients, and presented in a truly artistic fashion, well, that’s always a win. But y’all, at heart I’m a simple girl from East Jackson County with a pure love for fried food and white flour. I’ve a prowess for seeking them out. Fried chicken. Pizza. Egg rolls. And, of course, biscuits. Nowadays, these culinary staples can be found at the finest of establishments, often presented in ways that might just leave you scratching your head. Luckily, my laid-back roots never falter, and I know just where to find such enticing delicacies in their purest of forms: my local gas station.
Gas station cuisine is truly remarkable. There’s something special about the sound of wax paper or butcher paper crunching and unfolding, revealing the beauty of a fresh-out-of-the-oven sausage biscuit or a fully-dressed bacon cheeseburger. It’s sometimes a hodgepodge of things that you might not necessarily pair together. Think pizza sticks and turkey legs. Other times, it consists of basic culinary ideas, such as poboys or breakfast items. Even some gas stations boast full-on buffets of catfish, greens, and mashed potatoes and gravy. Regardless of the food du jour, gas station delicacy will always have a few important notions in common: affordability, deliciousness, and most importantly, convenience.
Because I’m hometown proud, I’ll start with one of Gautier’s finest – Dodge’s. Set off near the city limits, Dodge’s is a great stop for last minute items before making that so very long trek into Pascagoula. Whether it’s mixed pieces, strips, or wings, Dodge Store fried chicken is unparalleled. It’s served best with three or four JoJo potatoes. Corn dogs, egg rolls, and fried corn are easy Dodge Store go-tos, but the real MVP is the pizza stick. Think pizza roll, but next level. If you don’t have a serious love for cube-shaped pepperoni, then this article isn’t for you.
Not to be outdone, Vancleave is home to The Honey Hole, a one stop shop for fuel, beer, ice cream and a southern-style buffet that will easily make your grandmother blush. Fried catfish, fried chicken, peas, potatoes, and more are served up hot and ready daily. Boiled shrimp and crawfish are seasonal staples that are the perfect addition to that Saturday afternoon boat ride.
Harrison County is no stranger to its own share of gas station fare. Fat Baby and Alise’s in Biloxi is a prime example of true gas station delight and is the home of some of the best poboys you can find. In addition to poboys and burgers, Fat Baby’s offers a variety of take-n-bake options, such as casseroles, shrimp dip, and even hog head cheese. Fresh beignets are a breakfast favorite, and no stop would be complete without fried chicken livers.
Some gas stations are even getting in on the pop-up food action. Just visit Bayou View Quick Stop in Gulfport where you can pick up some of the best BBQ south of Memphis. Daddy’s BBQ is an ode to the late James Russel Bates, whose small rib shack in Jayess, Mississippi, was a beacon of smoked meats for several years. His son, James, wanted to continue the family tradition of serving up slow-smoked BBQ and hearty sides in a quick and easy fashion. House-blended secret recipe rubs and sauces hug whole rib slabs, brisket, pork butts, and smoked sausage. The Bayou View Quick Stop serves as a meeting point for Daddy’s BBQ two to three times a month, so make sure you get your orders placed in advance.
Gas station food is nothing new. It’s nothing groundbreaking or innovative, and it’s definitely not anything fancy. But that is precisely what makes it so special. It’s the simplicity. It’s the warmth. It’s a delicacy all its own, celebrated daily by weary travelers, early risers, and working moms. Gas station fare is in a league of its own, so be sure to pull over and treat your self to a Mtn Dew or tall boy and bask in the glory of all things fried, good, and pure.
Fat Baby and Alise’s
1757 Popps Ferry Rd., Biloxi
874 Hwy 90 W, Gautier
The Honey Hole Convenience and Deli
11001 MS-57, Vancleave
Bayou View Quick Stop and Daddy’s BBQ
4802 Washington Ave., Gulfport