Archive | 9:31 pm

Callaghan’s Irish Social Club in Mobile, Alabama

2 Jan

Callaghan’s is without doubt one of my favorite hangouts in Mobile. I have lived in the area for almost 2 years now and it took me a while to find my way here. That is not unusual. In fact, I have met Mobile natives who don’t know where it is. Shame. Because once you find it, you certainly won’t forget it.

It doesn’t look gangbusters from the outside. It is, after all, a rather boxy, 1920’s era building (once a butcher shop). But there is a certain charm to be found in it’s somewhat plain Jane exterior. It may have something to do with the surrounding neighborhood, which consists of a cluster of historic homes and cottages dating back to the early and mid 20th century. Callaghan’s is the centerpiece of the community — and has been for many decades.

Here is an example of a neighborhood cottage across street from the pub.

Here’s another one. They are so cool — and really not that pricey either.

Daily specials at Callaghan’s — always worth a look. Creativity still lives here.

Outdoor patio seating is a good call at lunch — if the day’s weather permits.

Our dining table – filled with old Mobile memorabilia from days long past.

They make one of the best burgers in Mobile – and they have awards to prove it.

Funny — and true!

Irish Curse on wall at Callaghan’s. The walls are filled with eye candy like this.

Callaghan’s Chicken Philly — my go-to sandwich for lunch. It is served on delicious, fresh baked bread and filled to overflowing with chunks of chicken breast, onions, green peppers, and tons of good cheese. I typically order this with a side of housemade chips or Callaghan’s tart cucumber salad. They brew really good iced tea too. It’s always a good call (sweet or unsweet) if you’re working or if it’s not yet 5 pm. I must admit that this line of thought isn’t always in vogue at Callaghan’s. Mobile is a fun loving city and, for many, work can always wait until tomorrow.

John “JT” Thompson is a terrific host and you will feel like a regular upon your first visit. The atmosphere is so warm and cozy, they’ve got HD TVs all over the place, and you’d be surprised at all the first rate musical acts they are able to consistently book here. Robert Plant even stopped by for a pint or two after playing a recent show in Mobile with his Band of Joy. That should give you an idea about Callaghan’s worldwide reputation. ESQUIRE magazine ranked them one of the best bars in the USA. Doesn’t surprise me a bit. I just hope the rest of Mobile doesn’t find out about them. I feel like I’m on the right side of a well kept secret and, selfishly, I’d like to keep it that way. At least for another decade or two.

www.callaghansirishsocialclub.com

Our first stop at Huckleberry’s Bar-B-Q in Fanning Springs, Florida

2 Jan

We had passed Huckleberry’s before, but it wasn’t exactly meal time. This time, we found ourselves in the heart of the lunch hour. The sign out front on Highway 19 (pictured above) looked promising enough. The boys were asking for BBQ and this was pretty much the only BBQ joint in town. Fanning Springs isn’t exactly Orlando, you know.

The view from the outside of Huckleberry’s. Great name. And who can resist the image of a pink pig roasting in red hot flames? Well, perhaps the pig. Or a vegetarian. I am neither one. These types of visuals usually result in a fine roadside meal. You are always taking a bit of a risk, yet that is what the adventure of road trip dining is all about. Sure, we could have stopped at Burger King or KFC. But how many times do you find yourself in Fanning Springs, FL? It was time to once again step out of our comfort zone and try something new.

This festive pig greeted us as we stepped into Huckleberry’s .

Luckily, we weren’t packing any heat this day.

Words of wisdom.

My BBQ pork sandwich — it was OK … not great. The service was fast and friendly, but the chopped pork seemed old and tired. Huckleberry’s offers several sauce options. All of them were fine. However, none of them stood out as being exceptional. The baked beans (my choice of side item) were also just so-so. Straught out of the can??? Maybe.

A taste of the interior decor at Huckleberry’s. Lots of country chic and FL plates.

An old timey bacon press. They really do exist. I haven’t seen one — or heard anyone speak of one — in quite some time. What does it do? It flattens bacon in the pan during the cooking process, insuring that the entire strip of fatty goodness is cooked evenly. Who likes those white, chewy curls at the end of a piece of otherwise perfectly cooked bacon? Not this guy. Perfectly cooked pork … something that is hard to find … even in the Deep South. And sadly, you won’t find it at Huckleberry’s either. Fun little dive, nice folks — but not on our A list of Q joints … that’s for certain.

www.huckleberrysbarbq.com

Our Return Visit to Apalachicola, Florida

2 Jan

The Coombs House Inn (above) was once again our home base on this brief visit to the FL panhandle. Apalachicola is Florida’s seafood capital and the Coombs House, along with the historic Gibson Inn, is a great choice for overnight accomodations. Lizette, our hostess this go around, was very helpful — from booking our stay to serving breakfast to offering up local dining tips.

Asian accents inside the Coombs House Inn. It is a tastefully decorated estate.

The Raney Room — our accomodations for the evening. Comfortable!

Our breakfast of Egg Souffle, fresh fruit, & hash browns. This picture doesn’t do it justice. It was delicious — especially on an unseasonably chilly, overcast morning along the Gulf Coast. We were also on the receiving end of some tasty snacks and good wines during their Saturday evening guest reception.

That Place Off 98 was suggested by Lizette as a favorite dining spot for locals. It once was on Highway 98, but is now relocated to downtown Apalachicola. The name stuck — that must mean people liked it. Right? It looked cozy enough, so we hit it for lunch on a Saturday afternoon. It was something of a late lunch for us and the crowd in the dining room was light. Guess that’s to be expected since they were missing the weekday business crowd.

The doors were decorated for the holidays. Beautiful colors, huh?

The dining room at That Place Off 98. A casual place – as is Apalach in general.

Panhandle Stew — the highlight of my meal. In fact, I might even say the dining highlight of the entire trip. Yes, it was that good. Think a really good clam chowder … minus the clams … plus loads of taters, carrots, and fresh Gulf fish. Huge chunks of fish rising out of the creamy stew like gigantic icebergs of moist, flaky deliciousness. The cup was not enough. I needed a bowl. Check that — I should have ordered a bucket full. Amazing stuff. If only I could score the recipe.

“Oysters Apalach” with garlic and parmesan cheese. Small but mighty in flavor.

The Hole in the Wall Raw Bar was our dinner destination. Cool little place — and I do mean little. It is very clean inside and the help made us feel right at home. We were seated at the tall boy tables in the center of the dining area. A young couple next to us were already hard at work peeling the shells off some freshly boiled shrimp.

Menu specials at Hole in the Wall. The price was right for raw oysters!

I started with a very meaty cup of gumbo. It was delicious … especially after adding a dash of salt and a splash of Tabasco sauce. They sure don’t skimp on the ingredients. Much like my Panhandle Stew earlier in the day, the gumbo at Hole in the Wall featured huge chunks of meat and vegetables. Really hit the spot on a bone chilling evening.

Eileen ordered this delicious boiled shrimp platter. Just $10.95 for all this!

Gator mural inside The Hole in the Wall. A fine example of coastal folk art.

Little Mom & Pop seafood markets like this can be found all over the region.

The Owl Cafe is another popular downtown eatery. Maybe next trip???

The main entry at the Owl Cafe. Nice looking place for dinner & drinks.

Don’t miss this wonderful antique store. It is chock full of nautical delights.

Vintage scuba helmet — glub, glub, glub. Would look great on my mantle piece.

Life preservers — not the candy kind — but still SWEET!

Other nautical finds to be discovered at The Tin Shed in Apalachicola.

This old graveyard is directly across from the Coombs House Inn.

Another old seafood market. My colorized version for added affect.

Sunset over the Apalachicola Bay — such a lovely part of Old Florida!

www.apalachicolabay.org