By Julian Brunt
I am not sure what the “Mad Potter of Biloxi,” George Ohr, would have thought of Lauren Turner’s instance on turning away from Coast culinary traditions, but my guess is he would have loved it. George was a non-conformist; he would have been delighted to see a blooming chef opening her first brick and mortar restaurant and insisting on serving healthy and delicious food that was also affordable. Turner, like Ohr, is a person of strong opinions.
You won’t find anything fried here, and it is a plant-based café, but the menu will be familiar to you. It’s loaded with items like tacos, shepherd’s pie, white bean stew and even General Tso, all vegetarian friendly. Even with reduced hours because of the pandemic, business is booming, so the Turner’s gamble seems to be paying off.
If you have never visited the Ohr O’Keefe Museum of Art, now is the time to do so. With any luck at all, a cool and less humid fall will linger and the bricked patio, shaded by lovely live oaks, is a delightful place to sit and enjoy lunch. The museum was designed by architect Frank, in what he called “dancing under the oaks,” and the galleries are ladened with Ohr’s work and that of other interesting artists. There is a new piece of sculpture on the front lawn by Vivien Collens, called “Blue Circuit,” which is worth a good look. The third Thursday of each month is After Hours, featuring music, drink and good food. The Ohr is also hosting a growing number of classes and concerts from beer making class, to an outside gumbo class is coming soon.
There's plenty to see and do, but don’t forget to visit Makin’ Groceries Café and all it has to offer. The General Tso dish typically consists of chicken, but Turner makes it with cauliflower and bok choy. The shepherd’s pie, a classic English comfort food dish, is made with lentils, a protein-packed meat alternative. The enchiladas are stuffed with sweet potatoes and black beans, both mineral and vitamin-rich sources of protein. On my last visit, the cold case was stocked with chocolate mousse pie, Thai quinoa salad, parfait and truffle pesto hummus. It's as creative a menu as you will find anywhere.
Lauren Turner offers take home meals, where for a reasonable price you can serve your family tomato pie, yellow vegetable curry, red beans and vegan sausage, to mention just a few possibilities. Turner also offers a daily hot plate special that is just $8.00, a deal that’s hard to beat along the Coast. General Tso was the special on the day of my visit. Tuesday is Taco Tuesday, Wednesday is spinach and mushroom stuffed spaghetti squash and Friday is sweet potato and black bean enchilada. The menu also features breakfast snacks, soups and desserts.
George Ohr was all about being unconventional and very creative at the same time, and Lauren Turner’s Makin’ Groceries, fits in perfectly. Head to the Ohr for a day's outing and discover the fresh and nutritious eats at the café.