Once people discover the new Marina Cantina off US 90 in Ocean Springs, they don’t want to leave, said Scott Sutherland, director of operations.
“Cabo San Lucas hits Mississippi” is how owner Thomas Genin described his original Gulfport location, opened in 2020.
And just like the original, diners arrive at the new restaurant at 705 Bienville Blvd. near the Biloxi Bay Bridge by vehicle, by boat or by using the underpass off Porter Avenue to get there safely by golf cart.
After a cool drink and a hot meal, they stay on the deck to watch the sunset over the bayou, he said, to play a game of cornhole and listen to the soft acoustic music on the deck.
What’s on the menu
The restaurant opened with a limited menu to get the staff trained and ready to accommodate the crowds that poured in after months of renovations to the former McElroy’s restaurant, he said.
Now they’ve expanded the dining offerings.
“Eventually we’ll have the same menu we have in Gulfport,” he said.
They’ve also added lunch and open at 11 am Wednesday through Sunday.
The food is an unlikely mix of Southwest and Central American-inspired flavors, combined with seafood specialties and Southern comfort food.
The ingredients are fresh, right down to the fire roasted salsa and pico de gallo made from scratch.
For those who crave tacos, the menu provides their famed crispy pork belly taco, several varieties of fish tacos and a vegetarian taco. Also on the menu are oysters raw or straight from the grill, sandwiches and specialties like a grilled fajita burrito. of starters such as Cantina chicken bombs and street corn also serve as lite bites.
Their famed bushwackers top the drink menu that also features tequila, craft beers, a selection of choice bourbon and other favorites, sipped at one of the two outdoor bars and also available in the air conditioned dining room and bar with views of Fort Bayou.
Seasonal specialties like chilled peel-and-eat shrimp or hot crawfish add to the food line up.
Ocean Springs vibe
The food and atmosphere are fresh and authentic, delivered by people who know the Coast.
Sutherland is a native of Jackson County. General manager Eric Steele is originally from Ocean Springs and worked his way up at the Gulfport Marina Cantina before switching to oversee the new restaurant.
“We are thankful to have the loyal employees we have, and Marina Cantina is proud to now be part of the Jackson County community,” said Genin.
The restaurant caters to visitors and locals and accommodates 200 people indoors and out. Windows were replaced with doors that open all the way to allow the breezes, sights and sounds inside the restaurant when the weather allows.
Pelican Room provides a space for private parties, complete with a taco bar or build your own nachos stations.
Fun and more to come
The deck at the new Marina Cantina is the most amazing outdoor space he’s ever done, said, Genin, who who also operates The Blind Tiger restaurants on the Mississippi Coast.
A bocce ball court is still to come to create another lounge area outside the new restaurant and more fire elements will be added.
The indoor bar can be closed off to allow bands to play, while softer acoustic music on the deck allows people to talk and hear the water lap on the dock each time another boat arrives. More floating dock will be installed to provide more boat parking.
Groups of friends fill the booths that hold up to 15 people under the shade of the oak trees and enjoy the food and the entertainment.
“When the sun’s going down it’s amazing,” Steele said.
This story was originally published April 21, 2022 8:00 AM.