Another Beach Bust

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris March 01, 2024 17:02 in Dining Diary

When we travel to the Gulf Coast for a dining adventure, we don’t veer off the beaten path. We always take the beach road because…we’re at the beach! Yes, the water is black but the sand is white. We deal.

On a recent trip, we intentionally left the coast road to dine at Flamingo Landing, a one-year-old addition to the ever-expanding Creole Cuisine group. I’ve lost track of the sheer number of restaurants and venues owned, but they are now expanding the footprint outside the city east, to the Gulf Coast, and west, to Houston. A new Boulevard is on the drawing board in Houston, and Flamingo-A-Go-Go spawned Flamingo Landing in Gulfport. There is also a newly-opened Coterie in Pass Christian.

I have often said that the Gulf Coast is a frustrating dining nothing so close to New Orleans, and openly called for chefs feeling crowded in NOLA to see what might await them a little east. (Hint: people desperate for good food on the Gulf Coast.) Decent food on the Gulf Coast is so rare even Felix’s looks great.

We had never been to Flamingo’s-A-Go-Go in the Warehouse District, mainly because there are real places to dine in NOLA, but it seemed appealing for the Gulf Coast. The Creole Cuisine group at least knows good food, and they sometimes offer it. I hoped that this new place might be better than the rest. (Excepting: Thorny Oyster, Sycamore, Field’s Steakhouse, Doe’s Eat Place, Beau Rivage, and Mary Mahoney’s.)

Flamingo Landing is located north of the beach in Gulfport on a stretch of new development. I was expecting it to be waterfront, and it was, on a miscellaneous bay amidst other patches of water. It worked. There were palm trees and water, gulf breezes mixed with air-conditioning through open windows. It was delightfully pleasant.

The place is beautiful and fun. Brightly-colored tiles clashing against each other with a heavy dose of white lent a beachy vibe to a location devoid of beach. The menu was interesting enough. I called ahead to see if brunch was the only option on this Sunday afternoon, but I was told the lunch menu was also available.

Management seems to be a problem. The place was empty when we arrived but I was told there was an hour wait. The kitchen had to catch up. From what? I wondered. Luckily I had called for a reservation outside, but it seemed too hot. Also, I decided on arrival that we would sit inside, and that decision is firm for less ambulatory people. 

Facing the building you go around back for the outside dining, up a winding ramp for inside. If walking is compromised, you’re committed. We had the option to go downstairs from upstairs, but no. It is two separate things, unlike a situation where in and out are on the same level.

When I mentioned the resy she seated us by a window inside. We waited so long for a server a manager asked if anyone had come. She assigned a server to our table who seemed already over-assigned, but at least we could start.

I am always interested in seeing poached versions of the much-imitated Bang Bang Shrimp at Bonefish Grill. It really is a brilliant idea: fry shrimp in a crispy batter, toss them in a perky remoulade-style sauce, and dust with chopped peanuts and scallions. The best-poached version of this is at the place with the most poached dish of all time originated: chargrilled oysters. Drago’s does it best with their Fleur de Lis Shrimp, and no one else comes close.

Here it is called Shrinp-A-Go-Go, with nicely fried shrimp in their “Go Go” sauce, with the peanuts swapped for macadamia nuts. Roasted corn salsa and grilled pineapple chunks are added to the mix. Scallions finish it off. This is the second-best version of the poached dish, with added complexity to the original. All of these added flavors combine into a very nice dish, 

We also had the Blue Crab Fondue, which piqued my interest. I asked how the Leidenheimer bread (which is now branded around town on menus) would be served. She did not say as crostini which I had hoped, but as just slices, which the fondue nature implied. A bowl of thick and creamy cheese sauce was dotted on top with crab pieces. The bowl was surrounded by thick slices of French bread. This was not expensive so I can’t complain about the minimal presence of the crab. It was tasty enough, and Tom loved it.

Tom was thinking about the tuna, which in hindsight I wish I had ordered for him. He was also thinking about red beans and rice. I ordered the latter with fried chicken as a protein extra, mainly to see how it was served.

The plate came with jalapēno hush puppies and crab-boiled sausage. The fried chicken was done in a way I have seen a bit and don’t care for much. Instead of pounded chicken breast, these are little deep-fried nugget bites.

They were piled around the edge of the bowl. They were fried golden brown with a light batter. It was all white meat and tender, but the whole thing seemed unnecessary. 

The red beans and rice were stridently ordinary, and the sausage seemed cheap. I am not a fan of crab-boiled sausage, and I don’t understand its popularity. This was just okay, and I found myself lamenting that we didn’t do the tuna instead.

The lamenting continued after my dish arrived on the table. I just don’t know why I keep ordering biscuits and country gravy. The appearance of this menu item repulses me, but the idea seems appealing. A fluffy toasted biscuit covered in a gravy with meat bits. Why not?

If Tchefunste’s can’t thrill me with their biscuits and country gravy, I don’t like biscuits and country gravy. And I do know that, yet I continue the search. In this case, it was by default. I went specifically not to get brunch, and I wound up getting it anyway. But I didn’t see anything else appealing on the lunch menu.

The plate came with two eggs your way and grits or potatoes. The country gravy included various pork products (tasso, andouille, and pork sausage) chopped up and covered with the gravy. As looks go, this was the second most appealing version (behind Tchefuncte’s) of this low-brow menu item. There wasn’t anything terribly wrong with it. 

The eggs were cooked perfectly. I chose grits because they were billed as pepperjack grits. They were watery and devoid of any special flavor, so I sent them back to trade for the potatoes. These weren’t much better, so I passed on any side. The potatoes were cold and over-seasoned with Creole seasoning.

It was a very enjoyable time in a beautiful place with ordinary food. I left this Creole Cuisine restaurant with the same thought as always: This was all fine but I never need to have this experience again. Why can’t it be better than this?