Located below the brand-new Pearl Hotel, Thorny Oyster serves up Gulf-fresh seafood, craft cocktails, and other delicious dishes in the heart of downtown Bay St. Louis.
Just steps away from water views and nestled in beautiful downtown Bay Saint Louis, the Thorny Oyster has quickly become one of the Coast’s premier dining locales.
Located on the corner of Main Street and Beach Boulevard in the newly built Pearl Hotel, the Thorny Oyster brings a refined taste with an edgy vibe by serving modern renditions of traditional coastal cuisine.
With food that feels fancy, but not fussy, the Thorny Oyster is the brainchild of Chef Jeffrey Hansell and his wife and business partner, Amy Hansell. After years of working in highly acclaimed restaurants around the country, they jumped at the chance to be part of the boutique hotel.
“The downtown area is such a unique place,” Chef Hansell says. “It has a great vibe of its own and is quickly becoming a destination for locals and travelers alike. We are just so excited to be a part of the downtown Bay Saint Louis area. It’s such a special place for me.”
Having grown up in Waveland, Chef Hansell’s love of crabbing, fishing, shrimping and oystering inspired him to pursue a career in the culinary field. The University of Southern Mississippi Culinary School graduate always had the urge to come home and open a restaurant in the area, so when a hometown friend reached out about being part of the Pearl Hotel development, it seemed like the ideal opportunity. With Amy overseeing the restaurant’s design and branding, beverage program and menu development, Chef Hansell serves up food that is a celebration of local ingredients and creative dishes made to excite the senses, featuring bold, strong and nuanced flavors from aroundthe world.
“The incredible bounty of the local waters is center stage on the menu,” Chef Hansell says. “Seafood is what I love to catch and cook. We are showcasing these fresh ingredients, with our take on seafood mixed in, with favorites from the region. We keep it simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves.” Upon walking in, you’ll notice the large, open kitchen along the back and a simple, yet elegant, ambiance throughout. With the creative chandelier lighting and cool, custom designed botanical wallpaper of thorns and oyster shells, my girlfriend Lauryn and I immediately were excited to see what the meal would bring. The raw bar portion of the menu offers a nice selection of both raw and steamed items. Oysters, smoked fish dip, crab claws, gulf shrimp and grouper ceviche, snow crab and royal reds can be ordered individually or together in half- or full-tiered seafood plateaus. The half plateau was plenty for the two of us, and an order of hamachi crudo, raw fish prepared with olive oil, yuzu, and grapefruit, did well for cleansing the palate.
Next, our server, Karrikka, brought out some fried ginger scallion shrimp toast with chili aioli, bacon, sweet-and-sour sauce and sesame seeds. It was a great combination that showcased the Thorny Oyster’s bold approach to fresh coastal fare. Our entrees arrived, and Lauryn and I eagerly took turns eating off each other’s plates. I had a large bowl of middleneck clams, which came with house sausage, braised peppers and grilled bread to sop up the rich juices. Lauryn had a perfectly prepared red snapper almondine served with brown butter, toasted almonds and garlicky baby bok choy. You can’t go wrong with either.
While we both were quite stuffed from all the fantastic food, the dessert menu was too tempting to pass up. We went with what multiple employees said was their favorite, the campfire, which is a mound of toasted meringue filled with chocolate ganache, graham crackers and vanilla bean ice cream. Each bite melted in your mouth, and it is up there as one of the best desserts I’ve had on the Coast.
“We have everything locals and tourists are looking for — coastal cuisine done right in the heart of downtown with an upscale, yet fun, atmosphere,” Chef Hansell says. “If you’re coming in off the boat for a great burger, oysters and a cold local beer, or you’re celebrating a big anniversary with family, you’ll feel right at home.” The Thorny Oyster is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5-10 p.m. Due to the popularity, reservations are highly recommended. Also, be sure to try Chef Jeffrey and Amy’s restaurant located next door in the hotel, Smoke BBQ, which serves traditional barbecue mixed in with specialty sandwiches, salads, daiquiris, milkshakes, house-made sides and more.