Mary Mahoney’s, Biloxi, MS

The best New Orleans restaurant outside of New Orleans, Mary Mahoney’s has been the favorite of locals and Biloxi visitors – including President George W. Bush – since it opened in 1964. From the courtyard to the ivy covered walls to the menu, you would think you were at one of the iconic New Orleans eateries like Antoine’s or Arnaud’s, with specialties such as blackened redfish topped with lump crabmeat and the like, but the reality is that Mary Mahoney’s is actually better than most of the top classics in New Orleans. It has everything going for it: history, character, charm, and great food. It shocks me that it is not better known outside of Biloxi. While they are famous for their gumbo, the signature dish is the St. Patrick. Imagine traditional escargot, served in a baking dish full of little recesses each packed with a snail in rich garlic butter. Now imagine a customer comes in and likes the way it looks but doesn’t want snails, so they substitute shrimp – and a legend is born! Today the St. Patrick is the fresh shrimp stuck into pasta shells swimming in decadent garlic butter, covered with melted cheese and topped with a huge pile of fresh lump crabmeat. This is one of the only “new” dishes I tried this year so moving that I attempted to replicate it at home.