Sources of the ocean
You might remember Martha’s Tea Room when it was on Washington Avenue downtown.
That was years ago, and things have certainly changed, and in a beautiful way.
It is now located in what looks like a fine private house on Government Street, although it is relatively new and certainly not private. It also has possibly the best porch of any restaurant I’ve been to, perfect for a leisurely lunch with friends.
Martha Reichard was the original owner, but Rhonda Villers bought it in 2016. Although she continues to use some of Martha’s recipes, Rhonda has put her own spin on many things, and that’s also welcoming and comfortable as possible.
I visited my friend, Diane Stevenson, on a rainy day, and the covered porch was just perfect. We spent two hours enjoying our lunch and sipping iced tea, how very southern it was.
When the weather is better, there are also tables with umbrellas blocking the sun on the uncovered terrace. The dining room follows the same theme of feeling like a private home, with light blue walls and no overly bright lights. It’s not a place I want to rush to, but a place to take your time and enjoy food and friends.
The menu is well balanced for a lunch, with lots of salads, sandwiches and with homemade bread and desserts. Best sellers include Chicken Salad with Chutney, Chicken Salad with Cashews, Homemade Gumbo and a Good Reuben Sandwich.
In the sandwich category, the Ocean Springer also performed well. It’s made with sliced corned beef and turkey, topped with onions, coleslaw and a special sauce and served on homemade pumpernickel bread.
There is also a chicken salad sandwich that has gained some notoriety. It is served on a fresh buttered croissant made with roast chicken, Granny Smith apples, red and green grapes and crunchy cashews.
There are also daily specials that are worth trying. Specialties the day we visited included grilled house chili cheese, shrimp and crawfish smother, Margaret’s watermelon shrimp salad, chicken salad bagel, turkey sandwich de Don and a roast beef ciabatta. You will also find gluten-free options.
I enjoyed a classic Reuben of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on rye bread and a nice side of fries. The Reuben, by the way, was invented in 1914 and remains a classic Jewish deli in New York and has long been one of my favorites.
Diane had the chicken chutney salad plate. It was made with roast chicken, wild rice, pecans, Granny Smith apples, celery, scallions and purple grapes, served with pasta salad and house nut bread.
Next time you’re out with friends for lunch, try Martha’s.
Martha’s Tea Room
Location: 2113 Government Street, Ocean Springs
Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday
This story was originally published October 22, 2021 5:50 a.m.