Remember the "class favorites" section in your high school yearbook? If there was a yearbook for towns, Bay Saint Louis would get "Most Fun-Loving."

young girl on beach at tybee island

Katrina hit Bay Saint Louis hard, particularly the waterfront Old Town area. Strange as it may sound, though, that's one of the reasons why everybody should go. These folks have lost a lot, but they remain one of the most colorful, upbeat, creative, welcoming communities we've ever found.

Take Trapani's Eatery. Temporarily on U.S. 90, Jolynne and Tony Trapani hope to move their restaurant back to the bayside in early 2008. The couple married and opened their restaurant in 1994, with Tony running the kitchen and Jolynne handling the business side. Together, they've created one of the best restaurants on the coast.

Dave and I love Tony's fried green tomatoes (topped with lump crabmeat and hollandaise sauce). The Trapanis offer fresh seafood, salads, pasta, and other specialties of the house, all with Tony's creative spin. Their decadent desserts are surely a sin. We suggest ordering the Dinwiddie Deluxe--but loosen your belt (and call Weight Watchers to ask forgiveness) first. It involves ice cream, amaretto, and toasted almonds, plus some other ooey-gooey fabulous stuff.

Next we headed to Main Street, where a group of artists shares studio space, sends each other customers, and works to bring back the heart of Bay Saint Louis. This street helps host the monthly Second Saturday Artwalk.

One of our favorite stops is Maggie May's, a beautiful gallery named after a stray dog that owners Dave Moynan and John Brennan adopted years ago. It took them a while to figure out that their beloved pooch spoke only Spanish. "We thought she was just willful," says John with a laugh. "And then in a moment of frustration, one of us yelled 'Sit!' in Spanish, and she immediately obeyed. She speaks English now."

They share their large gallery space with six other artists who lost their studios to the storm. Their neighbors down the street, The Artists of 220 Main, are another cooperative. Together these two groups offer everything from beautiful paintings, sculpture, jewelry, and mixed media to unique clothing and home accessories, most all of it inspired by the coast.

While on Main, we also had fun browsing the Social Chair, Bay Books, Deborah Kennedy Jewelry Designs, and more. I ducked in the Mockingbird Cafe to admire my purchases over an enormous latte--which gave me time to persuade Dave that we needed to swing by the Depot District on our way out of town for more retail therapy.

Mississippi Travel Tip
Two bridges on U.S. 90 are still under construction, so you'll need to take I-10 to reach Bay Saint Louis or Ocean Springs from all coastal points between these two towns. Keep in mind that most conveniences--gas stations, fast food, drugstores, etc.--are not available on U.S. 90/Beach Boulevard from Biloxi to Pass Christian, but you'll find them near I-10, just a few miles off the water.

Bay Saint Louis

  • The Artists of 220 Main: 220 Main Street; (228) 466-6347. Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday.
  • Bay Books: 131 Main Street; or (228) 463-2688. Hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.
  • Deborah Kennedy Jewelry Designs: 131 Main Street, Suite A; or (228) 466-2885. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday.
  • Maggie May's: 126 Main Street; (228) 463-1670. Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily.
  • Mockingbird Cafe: 110 South Second Street; (228) 467-8383. Hours: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
  • Social Chair: 212 Main Street; (228) 466-5853. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.
  • Trapani's Eatery: 833 U.S. 90, Suite 3; or (228) 467-8570. Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

"Gulf Coast State of Mind" is from the June 2007 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.