On the Road: Oysters and So Much More in Biloxi
To see all posts from my July 29-30, 2015 visit to the Biloxi Shuckers (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.
2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!
Before visiting the Biloxi Shuckers home of MGM Park, there was one thing I was certain of:
There will be oysters.
I mean, if this is your logo, then there better be oysters:
MGM Park’s concessions are overseen by Mike Brulatour, general manager of Ovations Food Services for the Shuckers. On this blog, which I aspire to write in a light-hearted and conversational tone, I usually refer to people by their first name. But I will refer to Mike Brulatour as “Brulatour,” because it’s a cool-sounding surname and allows us to imagine him as some sort of all-powerful Minor League food god. The Mighty Brulatour!
Brulatour had previously held a similar position with the Memphis Redbirds (whom I visited in 2012), where Barbecue Nachos are king.
“In Memphis, we claimed that we were the only ballpark where hot dogs weren’t number one,” he said.
It should come as no surprise that, under Brulatour’s watchful eye, the Shuckers offer their own take on this Memphis specialty: Shuckers Barbecue Nachos. The cheese sauce is actually made in Memphis, while the pulled pork is local (more on that in a moment).
The Shuckers’ iteration is the result of a partnership with The Shed, a barbecue joint in nearby Ocean Springs. Here, The Shed co-owner Brad Orrison poses alongside his ballpark kiosk with his three “Little Shedheads” (check the shirts).
Oh, Cale. He was so young then, so innocent, so entirely unaware of the culinary challenges that awaited.
Cale, an insurance agent who lives in Gulfport, recently returned to the Mississippi after a stint living in Houston. He’s a proud advocate of the Mississippi Gulf Coast region, which he says does not conform to the rural backwoods stereotypes that are often associated with the state. Cale’s also proud of his alma mater, collegiate baseball powerhouse Mississippi State University.
“You’re not gonna find bigger baseball fans than MSU, and don’t let LSU tell you something different,” he said. “You can print that.”
Cale is also a fan of the Shuckers, of course, whom he embraced as soon as they arrived.
“In the South, being outside in the Summer is what it’s all about,” he said.
And as for the Shuckers barbecue nachos?
“The pork is delicious, not just run-of-the-mill,” said Cale. “I like the sweet sauce. I’m not a mustard or vinegar-y kind of person. I’ve always loved [The Shed’s] food.”
Next up: Po’Boys.
And here’s the team’s Oyster Po’Boy, in its natural state.
Fortunately, Cale’s college buddy Turner was able to lend a helping hand with this (and many other) concession items. Turner lived in Washington D.C. for the past four years, but returned to the Biloxi area to help manage a casino construction project.
“What you’re eating was fished out of these waters yesterday,” said Brulatour, just before the above photo was taken. He also noted that the Po’ Boy sandwiches utilize “good to the last crumb” bread from New Orleans-based Ladenheimer Bread Company.
Cale said that he’s “Not a huge Po’Boy fan” and that he “doesn’t do lettuce.” Turner, perhaps more well-versed on the subject, said that “these are as good as you’ll find anywhere.”
Meanwhile, did you know that Barq’s Root Beer was founded in Biloxi?
“The people here drink it like it’s going out of style,” said Brulatour.
Therefore, it was imperative that Barq’s be served at the ballpark.
Cale, clearing the palate with a Barq’s Root Beer float.
“It’s not frozen,” he said. “We use fresh meat, and you can tell.”
“With pimento cheese, you can’t go wrong,” said Turner, again ably assisting in concession consumption. “I don’t understand why it’s not used more. I’ve never seen it on a burger, and it’s great.”
Brulatour, meanwhile, was plotting his next move. This is the only photo I have of him.
At Aw Shucks, one can get fresh oysters, fresh off of the grill. The oysters, provided by local Crystal Seas Seafood, are shucked offsite, shrink-wrapped and delivered to the stadium. This makes sense from an operational standpoint — on-site shucking would require additional space and resources — but it was disappointing to find out that no actual shucking goes on during a Shuckers game. I was naive enough to believe that it might.
This Vine appears to have been shot in reverse, I have no idea how that came to be.
Shuckin’ with the Shuckers https://t.co/bD2UbaYkoN
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) July 30, 2015
The Aw Shucks Grill also features, among other things, Bayou Jambalaya served in a helmet. Cale enjoyed some.
But those oysters! Though pricey ($15 for 8), these garlic butter bivalves are one of the best things I’ve ever seen (and tasted) at a Minor League Baseball game. They are served “on the fly” (as in “atop a Frisbee”) and accompanied by a hunk of French bread. In deference to my gluten-free reality, we forwent the French bread.
Designated eater checks in, Biloxi Shuckers https://t.co/Eoa4bMf3c1
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) July 30, 2015
The Aw Shucks grill also features boudin, a Cajun specialty which is, essentially, a rice-stuffed pork sausage.
This, meanwhile, appears to be the grilled Italian Sausage.
After an impromptu upper-level ballpark tour, Brulatour led us into the Shuckers main kitchen area. This is the domain of head chef Bob Barlow, an old crony of Brulatour from his Memphis days.
Here, Cale, have a cookie. Brulatour said that it’s called “The Royale” and that “its got everything in it.”
While in the kitchen, we were also presented with deep-fried cheese curds. These, a suite-only delicacy, do not scream “Mississippi Gulf Coast.” But keep in mind that the Shuckers are a Milwaukee affiliate and general manager Buck Rogers is a Wisconsin guy. So, why not?
— Buck Rogers (@BiloxiGM) August 13, 2015
With the weather having cleared up and the game ready to resume, Brulatour led us back to the concourse and promptly handed Cale a BBQ Shrimp Pizza.
“Two hours ago, I was sad not to be eating the shrimp pizza,” said Cale. “But now…”
He didn’t even finish his sentence. He looked like he might pass out.
“I’m not eating anymore! I’m a small man!” Cale yelled into the unforgiving abyss of night.
He did, however, consent to pose with the corn dog.
Cale and Turner, both shell-shocked, stood dazedly on the concourse as Brulatour bid them adieu. When I came upon them again, nearly an hour later, they were being regaled by Shuckers GM Buck Rogers with the sort of story that only Buck Rogers can tell. From my notes:
“Buck is talking about drinking beer in Central America to stay hydrated for rabies shots after getting bit by a vampire bat.”
“I made a mistake. I ate a bunch of nachos right at the beginning,” he said. “But no regrets. I’d been looking forward to this, and it was first class.”
Cale had survived his brush with the mighty Brulatour, and has the souvenirs to prove it.