With over 15 years in the pizza business operating a successful franchise, the owner of one of the Gulf Coast’s newest pizzerias decided it was time to try to go at it alone — spending six months developing the perfect crust.
Tap & Crust, located in Ocean Springs, is the creation of owner Mickey Culberson, who when it came time to renew his 15-year franchise agreement chose to start a new chapter instead. After coming up with a catchy name, he took everything he’d learned over the years and opened his new business in the same building this past January.
With a desire to keep things more affordable while still using premium ingredients, he revamped the menu with a selection of items he knew people would love, hoping word of mouth would help give his new venture a chance. He was right. People have raved ever since.
The streamlined menu consists of appetizers, salads, subs, a bun-less burger and, of course, pizza. You will want to start with an appetizer or two, with choices like hummus, queso or large, premium wings tossed in mild, hot, barbeque, sweet chili or Jamaican jerk sauce.
On my visit, I had the buffalo chicken dip, which is a secret recipe made daily from scratch that technically doesn’t contain any buffalo sauce. Culberson wouldn’t tell me all the ingredients, but it sure was a tasty way to start my meal. I also tried the Southern belle, which consists of grilled and seasoned shrimp and Conecuh sausage, which is hickory-smoked pork sausage made by a family-owned business in Alabama. Made with a fantastic combination of spices and served on a bed of spring mix with a side of homemade rémoulade sauce, it was one of the best appetizers I’ve had in quite a while.
You also can get the delicious shrimp and sausage combination on a sub, along with other combinations such as chicken or steak, ham and cheese, a BLT’ish (their take on the classic, with grilled onions, provolone cheese and Applewood smoked bacon) or the “tell us what you want” sub, which can be built from close to 40 toppings.
On my visit, I also tried the “burn your buns” burger, which is an 8-ounce Angus beef patty topped with fresh mozzarella, sautéed portobella and button mushrooms, served on a bed of spring mix and drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette. The non-typical, flavorful dish will make you not miss the bun at all and is perfect for those on a low-carb diet.
A visit to a place called Tap & Crust wouldn’t be right without trying the pizza. Hand-crafted and stone-baked, nine specialty pizzas are available, along with the option to build your own.
Culberson worked hard on creating a uniquely flavored dough, using the best flour available, for six months prior to opening — varying the recipe every day until he was satisfied.
“Everyone can buy high-quality meat and cheeses,” Culberson says. “I knew we had the great toppings because I have been doing that for years, but dough is the magic thing that not everyone can come up with. I wanted to make sure we got the crust right. It’s the very best dough that I have ever had. I’m very happy with it.”
I got to experience the chewy and flavorful crust on the two specialty pizzas I tried on my visit. The first was the jerky-que, which is topped with grilled chicken seasoned with Jamaican jerk sauce, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions and a barbecue swirl, making for a great combination of sweet and spicy. It’s one of Tap & Crust’s most popular offerings. I’ll also be returning for the meat-filled T-rex.
“Everybody has to watch their budgets,” Culberson says, “but when it comes to eating pizza, compromise on something else. If you’re going to go out to eat pizza, eat pizza at Tap & Crust because it’s going to be the best pizza you’ve ever had.”
Tap & Crust is open seven days a week, Sunday through Thursday. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. on weekends. There is a full-service bar offering a wide range of beers and featuring 19 selections on tap, which is the perfect place to bring family and friends.
TAP & CRUST
1108 Bienville Blvd., Ocean Springs