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Bozo's: seafood market & deli.

The Delcambre family opened a grocery store in Pascagoula in 1956, but this is a business that has evolved over the years. It's no longer just a grocery store with wooden shelves and a seafood market. In fact, it's not an easy task to put a label on this place at all. There are dry goods for sale, a bit of fishing tackle in a corner, and a good selection of fresh seafood and a deli. But third-generation owner Keith Delcambre insists, "It's not a restaurant, it's a seafood dive!"

Keith says he knew when he was 10 years old that he wanted to be in the seafood business, and he took over Bozo's from his father in 1999. Today this once small-town grocery store is hands down the busiest seafood joint on Mississippi's Gulf Coast. Stop by here on a Saturday afternoon, well past lunch, and you won't find a parking space or a place to sit.

The crowd is made up of shipyard and refinery workers, mothers with small children, and businessmen on a quick lunch break. About half the tables have the centers cut out and are fixed on top of brightly painted 55-gallon drums for those who want to eat Bozo's famous boiled crawfish. Do you think you have had good crawfish before? Think again; Bozo's sells 3,000 pounds of spicy boiled crawfish on a good Saturday.

But there's more to this dive than great crawfish. Bozo's has atmosphere that you just can't paint on; it took generations to wear this place down to what it is today. Walk up to the deli counter and the cooks won't stop long enough to give you a look. There's an old man sitting in the corner with a stack of white paper sacks in front of him, and he'll take your order. For the entire world, he looks like a diminutive version of Chef Paul Prudhomme. He writes your order on a sack, asks if you want your po-boy "all the way" (with everything on it), asks your name and how to spell it, and then tosses the sack onto the deli counter. In a few minutes someone will call out your name, and you can pick up your order and find a table, if you're lucky. When you're done, you present your white paper sack to the cashier and pay. Is that not funky-cool?

Even if Bozo's didn't have a very special charm, it would be a great place to eat. The p0-boys are stuffed as full as they can be, and a large shrimp p0-boy will set you back only $9.95. If you're starved (and maybe a bit crazed), you can order the Shrimp Overload; it's a po-boy absolutely covered with 11/2 pounds of fried shrimp. And the shrimp are really good! Crispy, sweet, and slightly salty like the sea they came from. There are also 14 other po-boys to choose from, plus sandwiches, burgers, and dinner plates, too.

Bozo was the nickname of Keith's grandfather, and there isn't a soul in Pascagoula that doesn't know about this place. It has coastal charm in a very Southern sort of way, and, best of all, it's got that funky out-of-the-way magic that you'll find nowhere else in the world.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Bozo's Seafood Market & Deli

2012 Ingalls Ave., Pascagoula 228.762.3322

Monday to Saturday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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story and photos by julian brunt

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Title Annotation:back road bistros
Author:Brunt, Julian
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:May 1, 2013
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