To appreciate the appeal of The Sycamore House restaurant, first consider the unique 140-year-old Acadian cottage with a screened porch and live-oak shaded outdoor courtyard that are extremely popular when the weather is nice. That is the backdrop to a menu that contains unusual, gourmet items along with familiars like pizza —although even the pizza may be an experience to remember as with a recent special, barbeque chicken pizza.
Some other recent offerings include kaffir lime-scented carrot soup, a chicken avocado caramelized onion and smoked gouda flauta and cumin-dusted pan-seared pompano with a watercress-shiitake cream sauce. With those kinds of choices, you aren’t going to miss the fact that this is the only restaurant in town with no fried foods.
Stella LaGardeur and Michael Eastham, the chef-owner couple graduates of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, had 10 and 15 years experience, respectively, in the restaurant industry before opening The Sycamore House in 2002 in a National Register of Historic Places home that once housed the Mauffray Boarding House,
“We had a lot of experience before we opened the restaurant,” said LeGardeur. “We knew the ins and outs of restaurant business. We knew how tough a restaurant is, the long hours and what it takes to keep a business running.”
Asked what she considers the coolest thing about her business, she said it is that she lives above it with her husband and their two children, Mimi, 5, and Alexander, 6.
“It makes it convenient,” she said. “I would never get to see my kids without that.”
Some of their most popular items are the barbeque shrimp as an appetizer, in a po’boy, on pizza and in shrimp and grits. It is a recipe the couple created a long time ago that includes cut-up lemons and butter that has heat and sweetness combined to provide a ton of flavor.
“People come from New Orleans and all over and say it is the best barbeque shrimp they ever ate,” LeGardeur said. “People also really like our Thai scallop appetizer, which is pan-seared scallops served with peanut sauce and rice noodles, tossed with Asian dressing. We also do a scallops with coconut lime beurre blanc sauce served with citrus yams, and it is very popular.”
When they first opened, they put sunchoke (also known as Jerusalem artichokes) soup on the menu, thinking to just feature it as a special. The nutty-tasting soup flavored with lemon grass was so popular that patrons protested when it was taken off the menu. Now it is back on the menu except for the time of year it can be hard to get sunchokes.
“People just beg for it,” LeGardeur said. “It is really wonderful. We also have a classic Louisiana-style turtle soup that is very popular. We do pizzas and burgers, and have a good range of prices. People like the ability to have fine dining or just walk in off the beach for casual food. Our wonderful back patio is especially popular this time of year when weather is nice. It is a little oasis in a small town.”
Eastman said while the demands of running a restaurant can be overwhelming, he thrives on it.
“I love doing it all,” he said. “I like taking care of people. I like cooking the food. I like discovering new things. My wife and I are both chefs. We divide it up equally. It is a team effort.”
Their French-based eclectic foods include traditional French classics, with flavors added from all over the world. Some examples include Thai curries and Jamaican jerk sauce.
The couple had roof and water damage after Hurricane Katrina, but did not flood. It was the second restaurant in Bay St. Louis to open after Katrina. Although they were still repairing damage, they felt it was important to get the restaurant open with so many people still not back in their homes who needed a good place to eat.
More on The Sycamore House
Name of Business: The Sycamore House
Address: 210 Main Street, Bay St. Louis
Date Founded: 2002
Owner(s): Stella LeGardeur and Michael Eastham
Phone: (228) 469-0107
Coolest thing about business: “French-based eclectic food in a dining oasis in an historic Acadian cottage with a great courtyard”