Empanola on Howard is more than just your average coffee shop; it’s the perfect place to unwind and enjoy a variety of tasty foods and drinks in a Big Easy-inspired atmosphere. A franchise of the original Empanola in New Orleans, Biloxi Empanola locations on Howard Avenue and Popps Ferry Road in Biloxi maintain the New Orleans vibe through the decor and signature food items while adding a Mississippi Gulf Coast vibe with local food items, live local music and more.
Jo Knippers, general manager of Empanola on Howard, says the goal of Empanola is to provide a place for people to come in, eat, and stay a while, and the environment invites diners to do just that. The restaurant has a variety of seating options to suit any diner’s mood: high-backed booths offer an air of privacy and intimacy, free-standing tables give a view of the street from the large open windows, and umbrella-covered tables on the beautiful outdoor patio let diners enjoy their treats al fresco. Additionally, there is a laptop bar complete with charging stations for working guests, and an area with cozy couches and mood lighting makes visitors feel like they’re in a friend’s living room.
During my recent visit to Empanola on Howard, the light jazz pouring from the speakers and the zesty earthtones of the decor created an atmosphere at once electric and laid back, inviting me to slow down, sip my latte and savor every bite of my empanadas and soup.
Empanola’s signature items are the empanadas – tasty turnovers filled with sweet or savory ingredients. Knippers explained that about 15 empanadas are menu staples and available all the time, such as crawfish etouffee, gumbo and mushroom and cheese. Every few weeks, new, special items are available. The week of my visit, the special was a muffuletta empanada, which I sampled along with an Asian dumpling empanada and a cup of red-bean-and-sausage soup.
Both empanadas had deliciously flaky outer shells and mouth-watering filling. The Asian dumpling paired particularly well with the cilantro lime sauce, and the chimichurri sauce accented the flavors of the muffuletta. The soup had a generous amount of sausage and just enough spiciness to linger for a moment after each bite without overwhelming my tastebuds. All three items were extremely filling, forcing me to choose between finishing my meal or avoiding that stuffed feeling that comes with overeating. I easily made the choice to polish off every last crumb, and I have no regrets.
In addition to their empanadas and soups, Empanola on Howard also features handcrafted coffees, fresh-squeezed juices, craft beer on tap, house-made pastries and a full brunch menu. Future plans include adding a smoothie bar, frozen daiquiris and live music on the weekends — all with the goal of making Empanola a hangout spot rather than just a restaurant.
Knippers says the venue already hosts groups like the Biloxi Main Street Book Club and the Highland Games and would love to add to that list.
“The more groups, the merrier,” she exclaims.
In the short time I visited, I witnessed local diners lingering over pastries, couples chatting in booths and businesspeople grabbing a quick bite — solidifying Empanola as a place all sorts of people are enjoying.
IF YOU GO
Empanola on Howard
1036 Howard Ave., Biloxi
Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-8 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.