If you want the feel of an island vacation without the expense, Bonfire Restaurant in Biloxi is the perfect place to experience authentic Caribbean cuisine with a little Southern and Cajun influence mixed in.
Bonfire is the dream of owner Dane Alexander, who opened the restaurant as a full-service establishment in March of 2020. When Covid hit a month later, he had to pivot to offer takeout only, which ultimately was a blessing.
“It was a great way to introduce people to our version of authentic Jamaican cuisine,” Alexander says.
Another obstacle arose that October when Hurricane Zeta toppled a billboard that destroyed the restaurant’s roof. Alexander lost everything and had to start over from scratch, with recovery taking eight months. Finally reopening in July of 2021, the restaurant has been thriving ever since.
Alexander wanted to open a restaurant in Biloxi because the area reminds him of his hometown in Westmoreland Jamaica, which also has a vibrant and culturally diverse community. He created a menu that showcases food and flavors authentic to Bonfire’s Jamaican roots, but which also includes Cajun and Southern staples like fried chicken and catfish for those who want the best of both worlds.
“We strive to provide authentic Jamaican cuisine that is true to the culture of Jamaica,” Alexander says of his original recipes. “Our passion is to strive for excellence and provide delicious food in a relaxing and friendly environment with good vibes and great music.”
Bonfire’s menu isn’t expansive, but what it does serve, it does very well. On my visit, I started with a Jamaican patty, a golden flaky pastry filled with beef that you can get mild or spicy. It was perfectly cooked, quite tasty and could be eaten easily with a fork. The restaurant also offers chicken and vegetable-filled options. Other appetizers include chicken spring rolls, mozzarella sticks, a variety of different flavored chicken wings and mac-and-cheese balls.
For my entrée, I had the pan jerk chicken with a side of rice and steamed cabbage. The chicken was fall-off-the-bone juicy, bursting with savory flavors. Traditionally found on the islands being slow-cooked at spur-of-the-moment barbecues or along roadsides, Bonfire’s succulent version of this favorite is not to be missed.
I also tried the braised oxtail stew, and it has a flavor only achieved with time and technique. This traditional dish was served with rice and cornbread. The taste is exceptional, so be sure to order some of the coco bread to go with it. A popular staple in the Caribbean made primarily of flour and coconut milk, the slightly sweet bread is like American dinner rolls and perfect for soaking up the sauces.
The freshly made juices were another highlight of this dining experience. I sampled both the pineapple ginger and the lemon ginger, which were delicious and provided a perfect palate cleanser between courses.
Bonfire is open Wednesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner. The restaurant offers specials such as the brown stew pork, which is only served on Wednesdays; barbecue beef ribs, which are only served on Thursdays; and jerk pork, which is only available on weekends. Catering options are available for special occasion or social gatherings.
IF YOU GO
273 Caillavet St., Biloxi, MS