OCEAN SPRINGS, Mississippi – Al Capone was a notorious gangster who was jailed in federal prison at the age of 33 and eventually died of syphilis.
If he had just opened a restaurant and a bar instead, because a place like the one that bears his name is quickly becoming a hit with locals and tourists alike.
Capone’s Restaurant & Speakeasy in the Gulf Hills neighborhood north of Ocean Springs has grown into a hidden gem on the Mississippi coast, with great food, service and a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere in the lounge, inside and outside.
Capone’s is adjacent to the 18th fairway and green of the Gulf Hills Golf Course and across from the Gulf Hills Hotel car park. The golf course was closed in early 2020 and the bar and restaurant would follow soon thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak.
In came Don and Regan Pfeiffer and their daughter Dani Blood who bought the entire facility (golf course, bar, restaurant) and then went to work to bring all three back.
“My wife and I are about to retire,” said Don Pfeiffer, “so we looked for a local opportunity. We took a look at the hotel first. We came here for lunch and someone told us the golf course was going bankrupt. We thought it would be interesting to take a look. “
They drove around the course, knew the story behind it, and agreed with the vendors that they would buy the course, assuming they could develop parts of it to complement the rest, and that is exactly what they did.
But there was a lot to do. Blood said that while the restaurant was in good shape, the bar was not. Originally opened as a cigar bar by the late Bill Rudolph a few years ago, the bar was completely infested with termites.
“It was about to collapse,” she says. “I don’t think anyone noticed how bad it was. It is a miracle that it still stood. “
So they completely gutted the bar, but restored it to exactly how it was when Rudolph first opened it as Rudy’s. Since then they have added a covered terrace and a connecting corridor between the restaurant and lounge. Smoking is no longer allowed in the former cigar bar either.
“It’s a big change for some people, but I think 95 percent of our customers prefer it that way,” said Blood.
Before Blood, who is the general manager, and her parents took over, the bar and restaurant (along with the golf course) were owned and operated by different people, which Blood recognizes was not an ideal situation.
“The restaurant needs the bar and the bar needs the restaurant to function well,” she said.
The key to any restaurant’s success is of course the food. With that in mind, Blood said they were lucky when local chef Patrick Powell contacted them.
“Patrick reached out to us when he heard we were opening the restaurant,” she said. “He knew we needed someone to come in and remodel the kitchen and create a menu. We didn’t want to overwhelm ourselves. It’s a small kitchen for a dining room of this size. We knew we wanted to do certain things and do them really well. “
And that’s exactly what they did. The Capone’s entire menu fits on an 8×10 sheet, but what’s on offer is as good as you’ll find on the coast.
Appetizers include a cute Asian chilli chicken that smells knees down and their increasingly famous smoked chicken wings. There are burgers with bacon and blue cheese aioli, which, as the menu description says, is “just as it sounds, delicious”.
There are sandwiches, including Pow Pow Shrimp, and salads, including a smoked chicken salad. Baskets of fried chicken, catfish or prawns are available, all of which are cooked to perfection with a light, crispy, flavorful batter – not too spicy, not too bland.
Side dishes include sweet potato fries, onion rings, and some of the best fried okra pods you’ll find anywhere.
And the desserts are, in short, decadent, prepared daily by co-owner Regan Pfeiffer herself, including an Italian cream cake that makes your blood sugar soar just by looking at it.
But what Capone has to offer goes beyond the menu items. Daily specials are often offered through the restaurant’s Facebook page. Recent specialties included smoked pork chop with mushroom sauce, pulled pork, smoked sausage, and smoked wings with a plate of baked beans and chicken parmesan.
Friday night often means steak night. For $ 25.95, diners can enjoy a thick 16-ounce ribeye with baked potato, lettuce, and Texas toast. There is also a Sunday brunch with a variety of specialties.
“We’re really happy with the way things are going at the moment,” said Blood, assessing Capone’s first seven months. We would be happy if the restaurant held more events. We do events like baby showers, Christmas parties, wedding parties here. We have just booked a tournament for October and will make sure of it. We really enjoy the catering side of the business.
Currently, Capone’s is catering for both the restaurant and hotel events, but Blood said they aren’t quite ready to branch out to other locations just yet.
“We’re trying not to go too far too fast,” she said.
Of course, Capone’s has a significant portion of its clientele among the Gulf Hills residents, but as word got around about the restaurant and lounge, the customer base has grown.
“We also get a lot of people from across the (Ft. Bayou) bridge,” she said. “I think there are people who come here who like the fact that we’re kind of hidden and isolated, not on a main road. It is calmer.”
The lounge has a regular audience and frequent visits from hotel guests. In fact, Capone’s is currently rated a “Top Feature” of the Gulf Hills Hotel in online reviews. Blood confirmed that the lounge is not for the trendy hipster crowd.
“It’s more of a place from the 30s and up. We’re not a 20-year-old bar, which is fine. “
Capone’s Restaurant is open Wednesdays to Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. The lounge opens on the same days at 3 p.m. and now also on Tuesdays for Trivia Night. The full menu is available to bar patrons every day except Tuesdays when starters and a limited menu are available.
As far as the future is concerned, so Pfeiffer once again, a lot depends on the development of the no longer used areas of the golf course (currently it is a 9-hole course with the former 1-7 and 17-18 holes). They also maintain another hole in case the driving range opens and the 9 holes need to be reconfigured.
“Because of the planning, zoning and approval process, which is very difficult, it was difficult to sell land,” said Pfeiffer of the government bureaucracy. “It takes forever. As soon as the funds are available, we will make extensions. That’s the plan to get it to where we want to be. “