Chicago Finally Returns the Favor to Mississippi

9 Dec

A mass migration from Mississippi once brought the Blues to Chicago. All these years later, the Windy City has at last repaid the Magnolia State by giving them Lil’ Italy. Lil’ Italy, serving authentic Chicago Italian food, is located just off I-10 in Ocean Springs, MS. My good friend Lloyd Hebert lives nearby and has been raving about the place for several months now.

It was a cold, blustery Chicago-style day along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Lil’ Italy does not offer any kind of inside, temperature controlled seating. But Lloyd and I have both spent a good bit of time in Illinois and we were not to be denied this day.

The traditional Chicago Italian Beef sandwich is obviously the star of the show at Lil’ Italy. The warm, slightly spicy sliced beef was a perfect foil for the winter chill. The hot green peppers also added a fiery kick in the pants. The accompanying fries weren’t bad — but the beef was without question the first order of business.   

Chicago-style Hot Dog (above) — fully dressed with neon green relish. It’s a unique flavor combo of wiener, chopped onion, mustard, sliced tomato, dill pickle slices and, of course, the poppy seed bun. It’s probably a good thing we weren’t being drug tested on this day. Cholesterol too, right?

“Gyro Gyro Gyro!” They make a good one at Lil’ Italy. Tony, the friendly owner, brought one out for us to try — on the house. What a guy! It was very tasty. The meat was fresh and appropriately seasoned. The yogurt-based sauce just right.

www.lilitaly.netDrop by and tell Tony that DixieDining sent you!

Lloyd also took time to run me over to another of his favorite haunts. Burger Burger may be redundant, but this place is legendary in these parts. The historic joint changed it’s location about a decade back, yet it still retains the ambiance and warmth you woud expect.

The entry at Burger Burger has an old school, neighborhood tavern feel.

I still had enough room in my belly for a nice slice of Apple-Raisin pie. Lloyd had some dessert too. A burger was out of the question after our all-out assault at Lil’ Italy. My pie was an excellent choice. It was served warm and I didn’t even have to ask. Gotta love that. The crust was flaky and the pie’s interior was an ideal blend of chunky apples and fat, juicy raisins. It tasted of home and the holidays.

The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi is a hot new tourist draw. We took a break from all the eating and spent an hour or so checking out the museum’s latest exhibits. George Ohr was widely known as “The Mad Potter of Biloxi” and his works receive due reverance here.

This image of George Ohr (above) is almost as iconic as his pottery works.

The museum was featuring a colorful collection of Warhol lithographs. Subjects included the likes of Geronimo, Howdy Doody, Mick Jagger and John Wayne. How’s that for a foursome? Lloyd tells me the new museum — a very costly project — has drawn a great deal of criticism from many locals. Especially in light of the recent economic woes driven by Katrina and the BP oil mess.

Talk about someone having a big head!

The steps that lead to — nowhere. Well, it’s fun to look at! Lloyd snapped this image of me as we climbed this eye-catching stairwell. We anticipated it leading to another art exhibit, but it just led us to an small, open-air terrace and an elevator to take us back down to earth. Strange, yes, but the terrace does offer some sweeping views of the Gulf of Mexico.

This out building on the museum grounds was decidedly less contemporary.

Admission is $10 for adults. Discounts are offered for seniors, vets and children.

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