White Pillars Is Being Renovated So It Can Finally Reopen

BILOXI (WLOX) -- If you loved Eggplant Josephine, you may start licking your lips over this story. The legendary White Pillars restaurant is being renovated. And owner John Mladinich vows that when the work is done, he'll serve his favorite dish again.

Mladinich said the reason he was reopening the White Pillars was simple. The restaurant was in his blood.

"I just made 80. I'm in my second childhood," Mladinich laughed.

So he figured why not roll up his sleeves, and give a second life to his favorite waterfront property.

"I really don't have to work. But I'm glad I can," the Biloxian said.

Mladinich owns the White Pillars -- a noted Biloxi restaurant that hasn't served its famous Eggplant Josephine in nearly 20 years. Yet it still congers up so many memories for so many people.

Mladinich gave WLOX News a tour of his property. As he walked toward the kitchen, he pointed to a room just to his left.

"That was called a canary room," he said.

The canary room was one of the many nooks in a restored 19th century southern mansion at the foot of Rodenberg Avenue.

"Let's don't tear it down. Let's fix it," Pat Kennedy said.

Kennedy is one of Mladinich's friends who's been given the daunting task of taking a dormant, storm damaged building, and add a splash of color to it. The hope is that spark will somehow energize White Pillars regulars, and the Biloxi strip.

"It is. It's a challenge. But I'm glad to do it. It's a part of the history of Biloxi," thought Kennedy.

The next stop on the Mladinich tour was the bar.

"That's where we're going to make money," he said with a smile.

The bar came from the old Blackstone Hotel in Chicago. It needs some work to scrape away years of neglect, and Katrina storm damage. But it promises to be a featured part of the White Pillars' renaissance.

"I made money in hard times. So I know what I can do now," Mladinich said.

He won't say when the rehab work will be done, or when the cash register will start ringing up sales. Despite being 80 years old, he's in no hurry to rush this project.

"I love the restaurant business. I always did love the restaurant business," he said.

One thing Mladinich promises is that when he does reopen, the White Pillars Eggplant Josephine and its antique bar will make money.

"I know the kind of food we can serve. I know we'll knock them dead. I mean there's no question we'll knock them dead," Mladinich boasted.

The original White Pillars was run by Mladinich, his wife Virginia, his daughter Debbie, and his son-in-law Brooks. They won't be part of the restoration project.

"They've served their time," grinned Mladinich.