In their effort to gain an edge in a national Best of the Road competition, some Gulfport restaurants are showing it never hurts to show a little extra hospitality and initiative.
The funky little beach town is one of six small-town finalists for the Rand McNally/USA Today "Best of the Road" competition in the "Best for Food" category.
To prepare for an upcoming Road Rally visit in which the town will be judged, 15 participating Gulfport restaurants have crafted a special "Best of the Road Sampler Plate." Each plate will offer taste-sized samples of that restaurant's best or signature dishes. Most plates will be priced in the $10 to $15 range. Plates at each of the 15 locations will be offered beginning Thursday and will remain on menus at least through July 23.
The Gulfport restaurants offering their "best of" include: Backfin Blue Cafe, Habana Cafe, Isabelle's at Peninsula Inn & Spa, Island Flavors and 'Tings, La Cote Basque Winehouse, O'Maddy's Bar and Grille, Peg's Cantina & Brewpub, Neptune Grill, Pia's Trattoria, Smokin' J's BBQ, Stella's Deli, T & Me Tea Co., Tangelo's Grille, Village Pub and Yummy's Casual Cafe.
The Road Rally part of the competition kicks off with an event June 23 in New York City, where teams will be notified which category they will be assigned to judge in the competition.
Organizers for Gulfport's "Best for Food" host committee determined the sample plates would be a good idea to have in place on local menus before the team's arrival. After it is notified of an arrival date for the Rally team, the host committee plans a public event to welcome the team to the city, as well as a festive "restaurant stroll," to which the team and the public will be invited.
Teams are asked to blog, tweet and otherwise document their experiences as they travel. A final ceremony in Los Angeles will welcome teams on July 15, at which time they will announce their choices for best small towns in each category.
Other small town "Best for Food" finalists are: Addison, WV; Burnsville, Minn.; Lafayette, La.; and Costa Mesa and Visalia, Calif.
To follow along on Facebook, search on Facebook for "Gulfport's Best of the Road Food Rally." You can keep an eye on the competition at the Best of the Road contest website, bestoftheroad.com