Cuz’s Old Town Oyster Bar and Grill: Local Favorite in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Situated conveniently across the harbor and holding down a popular corner in Old Town Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, Cuz (known legally as Melvin Barnes) serves favorites to locals and tourists alike at his Old Town Oyster Bar and Grill.

Location: 108 South Beach Boulevard, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Menu: If you scour the menu of Cuz’s Old Town Oyster Bar and Grill hard enough, you can find a burger, a steak, a pasta dish or some grilled chicken, but you’d be much wiser to order what Cuz and his crew know best –seafood, as fresh as possible and prepared to everyone’s liking in this part of the Gulf Coast.

Oysters can be ordered raw, chargrilled, atop a plate of pasta or a salad, as a garnish for a steak, fried and tucked into a seafood platter or piled onto a Po’Boy. No wonder “oyster” is included in the name of this beachy eatery. I found them to be a plump, two-bite size with just a hint of saltiness.

Cuz’s boiled seafood is something that draws locals by the hundreds. When the shrimp, crabs and crawfish are in peak season, Folks in the area know that Cuz’s is the place to be.

Cuz’s menu also has a definite New Orleans influence, as evidenced by items such as gumbo, red beans and rice, crawfish etouffee, shrimp remoulade, redfish dip, and alligator bites. There is an abundance of fried seafood listed, but those who prefer can order grilled shrimp, blackened fish or seared tuna steak. The breading on the fried seafood is light and very flavorful.

Thoughts: Owner Cuz (Melvin) Barnes takes a very hands-on approach to his kitchen and his customers. Stopping to chat with packed tables of happy diners, his folksy demeanor creates an instant connection. I laughed when he told of living in a house full of females — his wife, five daughters and even a female dog! Cuz formerly owned a seafood market and restaurant where he caught his own fish. That version of Cuz’s opened in 2004 and was located on Mississippi Highway 603. The present location opened in the fall of 2016.

The atmosphere is family-friendly and casual, nothing pretentious in the decor or the furnishings. A large outdoor patio accommodates dozens when the weather is mild enough, and the breezes from the bay can be felt by the inside crowd, as well.

Bay St. Louis has weathered some immense challenges since 2005. First Hurricane Katrina came ashore destroying everything in its path, then the BP oil spill in 2010 scared tourists away. The resilience of the Bay St. Louis people is remarkable. They have rebuilt their homes, the infrastructure and their businesses. Cuz’s Old Town Oyster Bar and Grill is one of the gathering places for the community, but they eagerly welcome visitors. After all, they know how to appreciate the benefit of tourist dollars and good publicity. Cuz is serving dishes people truly enjoy. Nothing fancy, just delicious.

Price range: Appetizers are $6-15, and soups range from $5-10. Burgers and Po’boys are $6-16. Grilled entrees are $21-22, and fried seafood plates are $16-22.

Connie Pearson

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