Archive | April, 2011

Tilmo’s Bar B Que Slices It Up Thin in West Mobile

24 Apr

Tilmo’s Bar B Que is located just west of the Mobile Airport on Airport Boulevard. It is fairly easy to find — but way out on the western outskirts of town. Dreamland BBQ, The Shed, and Brick Pit continue to battle it out inside the city limits of Mobile. Tilmo’s has created it’s own little niche with this one and only location. Motor much further west and you’ll be hitting the Mississippi state line.   

Tilmo’s is housed in a rather spartan concrete block building with a most understated sign. It’s not that they’re not proud of their establishment. It’s just that big signs are pricey and this joint was apparently started on a shoestring and a dream. Can’t blame ’em for that, can we?

After you place your order, your server will bring you a black plastic basket toting a couple slices of fresh white bread and a cup of Tilmo’s signature BBQ sauce. It’s pretty special stuff and you’ll have to fight the temptation to fill up on it. Dip a single bread end into the sauce and take a little taste. It’ll surely get your taste buds revved up.

There’s not a lot of decor or atmosphere inside Tilmo’s. They are obviously going with a “keep it simple” philosophy. I did find the above painting somewhat amusing. They’re not doing whole hog BBQ at Tilmo’s … they specialize is pork shoulders smoked on the premises and then thinly sliced “deli style.” The owner (who was also my server this particular day) explained that his father had fond memories of an Old Mobile restaurant serving their BBQ sandwiches in this manner.

The sliced pork BBQ sandwich at Tilmo’s was very good indeed — smoky and surprisingly lean. Sure, there were a few streaks of pork fat throughout, but that only added to the distinctive flavor. Fat = Flavor, right? I sampled a couple slices sans sauce and found the pork to be quite tasty. I love the little crispy burnt edges. The meat tasted of country ham and/or good hickory smoked bacon. The sauce is great — one of the best in the Mobile area. It’s got a nice bite to it and I dig that.

I had been told the cole slaw at Tilmo’s was special, so I made sure to make that my side order. In hindsight, I wish I had tried the fried okra or sweet potato fries. I’m sure the slaw has its loyal followers, but I was not that impressed. It was a tad dry and bitter for my liking. I had pre-ordered some banana pudding for dessert, so I only polished off about 1/2 of my cup of slaw. You might say I was pacing myself.

The banana pudding, as advertised, was excellent. You will find it especially rewarding if you like lots of whipped cream on top. They certainly do not skimp here at Tilmo’s. The pudding was rich and creamy. There were also plenty of vanilla wafers at the bottom to provide the appropriate amount of counter-texture. A mighty fine way to conclude my lunch.

Tilmo’s probably won’t alter your universe, but they do make a very good pork BBQ sandwich. Their homemade sauce is first rate and the staff is working extremely hard to make this place the best it can be. We invite you to give them a try. We’ve heard the ribs are excellent and BBQ beef brisket is something you don’t normally find this far removed from the Texas border. Stop in and give ’em a shot. Tell ’em Dixie Dining sent you over. And don’t forget to save room for some of that nanner puddin’!

Tilmo’s Bar B Que – 10130 Airport Boulevard; 251 633-8109

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“Little House, Big Taste!”

16 Apr

Little House Bistro is really located in a little old house. They can found along Moffett Road in West Mobile. Historically, there has not been a lot of white table cloth dining in this part of town. You might even say that the Little House Bistro is a bit out of place here. I, however, welcome its existence here in the land of used car lots, auto body shops, fast food joints, and convenience stores.

It (as you can see above) is a cute little place. Locals tell me that it has housed a variety of businesses in days gone by. Yet I am hopeful that Chef Marc Walden’s Little House Bistro will enjoy a long and happy life here.  

White table cloth dining without the snobby attitude or outrageous prices — what a concept! Chef Walden and his staff are working hard to make a name for themselves. That effort can be seen in the little things — like fresh flowers on every table and the sunny, clean dining room. The large table in the next room was occupied by a group of older ladies from the local Red Hat Society. Those gals seem to know what’s good to eat, so I felt like I was in for a nice mid-day meal.

Marc Walden’s approach is simple yet powerful. Gourmet food prepared with fresh local ingredients and a decidedly Southern twist. It’s a great fit for this area and the early reviews have been quite positive. I was happy to hear that, but I had to get over there and try a few things out for myself. After all, I have been misled a few times in the past.

I pulled in on a sunny weekday afternoon and ordered up a “Deep South Burger” with a side of Deviled Egg Potato Salad. The burger turned out to be EPIC. The bread was fresh and sturdy enough to not buckle under the pressure of the burger’s rather weighty ingredients. Those ingredients included a large slab of grass fed beef (cooked to medium well), fresh mixed greens, tomato slices, house made pickles, a splash of “Comeback” aioli, and a generous blob (nice culinary term, huh?) of Walden’s pimento cheese. The best burger I’ve had in quite some time.  

The Deep South Burger @ LHB does Dixie proud

But let’s not forget the Deviled Egg Potato Salad. I love deviled eggs and Southern-style potato salad, so the dish was definitely speaking my language. It may have needed just a little sprinkling of salt and freshly cracked black pepper, but I was quick to notice that no salt and pepper shakers could be found on any of the dining room tables. No need to ask and no need to complain. The potato salad was the ideal texture and it wasn’t too wet (many restaurant potato salads are far too moist for my palate).

I walked away from the Little House Bistro feeling full and very impressed. Did I have any regrets? Well, yes. I really wish I had picked up a pint of pimento cheese and a jar or two of those incredible sweet/spicy pickle slices to take home with me. Believe me, I won’t make that mistake again.    

Little House Bistro – 6651 Moffett Rd, Mobile, AL

251 447 2623; www.littlehousebistro.com

A Few Bytes about Willa’s Bites

16 Apr

I first learned about Willa’s Traditionally Southern Shortbread Bites while I was reading a recent issue of Taste of the South magazine. I was intrigued enough to reach out to Willa’s owner via Facebook. Gotta love modern technology, y’all. But, as those close to me know, I’ll take bites over bytes any day of the week.

As it turns out, Eric Rion (the top dog at Willa’s) is a really cool cat. We have much in common and I am looking forward to meeting him in person one day soon. Preferably over grilled oysters and cold brews at Wintzell’s.

Caution: The tasty objects appearing in the above picture are smaller than they appear. But not to worry, friends. Good things come in small packages. Good things like wheat flour, real butter, real sugar, vanilla extract. No additives, preservatives, or artificial ingredients. Most products making these claims today taste, well, tasteless. Not so with Willa’s Bites. These little babies pack a sensational 1-2 punch of flavor and texture. They are melt in your mouth good and gone far too fast.

Willa’s Bites come in a plethora of flavors. Eric was kind enough to send us 8 varieties to sample. Shortbread Bites, Lemon Pecan Bites, Gingersnaps, Key Lime Almond Bites, Chocolate Macadamia Bites, savory Spicy Cheese Bites, Praline Bites and Mocha Almond Bites.

But please don’t ask me which one is my favorite. That’s like asking me to name my favorite Beatles song. Try as I may, I just can’t arrive at a satisfying answer. Let’s just say they are all divine. Close your eyes, toss a dart, flip a coin, spin the bottle — you cannot, I repeat, cannot go wrong. My wife the purist loves the Shortbread Bites. My son Travis raves about the Gingersnaps and Spice Cheese Bites. Me? I told you NOT to ask! Please!!!

Get some Willa’s Bites now — and you can thank me later. I have a pretty good idea for a thoughtful and delicious “Thank You” gift! Wink, wink. (;

Willa’s Shortbread – Madison, Tennessee 37115

www.willas-shortbread.com ; 615.868.6130

Lunch at Aunt B’s Country Kitchen

16 Apr

We sometimes joke about places being “out in the boondocks.” Sometimes it’s just a loosely used expression. But there are other times when the description fits perfectly. The latter is the case with Aunt B’s Country Kitchen. They are technically in Theodore, Alabama (a Mobile suburb – and I use the term suburb very loosely here).

The exterior of Aunt B’s place looks like someone’s home. And I guess that is the point. The owners want you to feel comfortable. The estate is a restored 1901 farmhouse. It’s pretty hard not to feel relaxed in settings such as this. Only the small, circular Coca Cola sign above the front screen doors tip you off that this might actually be a real place of business.

The period dinner bell at Aunt B’s is a nice feature — not sure how much use it actually gets. I would imagine youngsters would give the rope a strong tug whenever they visit with their families. There are a few wooden picnic tables in the front yard. Not a bad place to eat out if the weather is conducive.

Aunt B’s front porch is a peaceful place, for sure. I was almost expecting Sheriff Andy Taylor to grab a seat and begin strumming his six-string. The stacks of soft drink bottles almost gives the joint a general store feel.

Once inside the dining room, you’ll discover that Aunt B’s is slightly more uptown than you originally thought. The shelves a plum full of gourmet food products — sauces, jams, jellies, pickles and mixes. It’s all top quality stuff and the variety offered is impressive. But don’t look for any bargains here. Prices are comparable to most kitchen specialty/gourmet stores across the USA.

I found a seat at a quiet 2-top near the back of the restaurant. An old cast iron stove beckoned beneath a massive flat screen TV. Quite the juxtaposition, wouldn’t you say? I was happy to find that the tube was tuned to Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations on the Travel Channel. Tony was in Chicago and it looked like fun. But I was quite content to be dining with Aunt B’s near the Alabama coastline. I gazed out the back window at the sprawling green pastures and tall pecan trees that had obviously been here for a very long time.   

I placed my order for the Cajun shrimp stuffed pork tenderloin lunch special. It was in front of me in a flash. Now that is sometimes a good thing and sometimes a not so good thing. It appeared freshly sliced and the stuffing looked (and smelled) amazing.

It tasted just as good — although I must add that the large pork medallions were not exactly piping hot. That aside, the dish was a smashing success – thanks in great measure to the stuffing. I’m not sure exactly was in it. I asked but didn’t exactly get a detailed answer. Shrimp, Cajun spices, some chopped veggies – that’s about all the manager was willing to share with me. I could have sworn I tasted some tasso or andouille, but I was told I was off base on that guess.     

My side of stewed squash was really fine too. There just wasn’t enopugh of it. I found myself wishing that Aunt B was a little more generous with her portions this particular afternoon. The squash had been bathed in sweet onion, butter, and herbs and tasted much like the squash I often prepare at home in the Spring and Summer months.

My entree also included a mound of cold macaroni salad. This is one of my favorite picnic foods, especially if it’s nice and cold and not totally drowned in fatty mayo. This side was nicely conceived and quickly scarfed down.

It was now time for dessert and I was ready for some sweet potato pie. The choice was not easy. Aunt B was also offering a Strawberry Shortcake and I was wavering a bit. But I stuck to my guns and I was repaid with a slab of pie that was, well, sticky. And gooey. And not exactly what I was hoping for. It was far too sweet and had a very unpleasant gummy texture. A cross between pie and chewing gum. Should have gone strawberry!

But let’s not finish on a downer. This is a cool place and a welcome addition to the Greater Mobile area dining scene. And it’s actually only about a 20 minute drive from Mobile’s I-65 and I-10 interchange. Aunt B’s is open for lunch only on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday thru Sunday hours are 11 am – 4 pm and 5 pm – 8:30 pm.

Dinner options listed on the take out menu include Baked Chicken and Dressing, Crooks Corner Shrimp n Grits, Pecan Crusted Chicken, Shrimp Creole and Chicken n Dumplings. Sides listed were highlighted by Roasted Butternut Squash, Tomatoes Rockefeller, and Asparagus with Deviled Eggs. Now how can a true Dixie Dining devotee resist all that?

So take a drive out to the country — the Country Kitchen, that is.

Aunt B’s Country Kitchen – 3750 Bay Rd, Theodore, AL

251 623 1868; www.shopauntbs.com

Concord Gives Evans, King and Davis The Respect They Deserve

10 Apr

All three of these collections are worth your time. How can you go wrong with Miles Davis? Or the legendary pianist Bill Evans. Or the mighty Albert King? These 2-CD sets include many of the well known recordings. There are also many more obscure tracks for your discovery and enjoyment.

Miles Davis was obviously a Jazz giant, but his most commercially successful LPs were recorded for Columbia Records. Albert King’s searing blue guitar and powerhouse vocal attack became the blueprint for a couple of artists named Clapton and Vaughan. Yes, those guys! Bill Evans’ piano mastery has always been a bit more off the beaten path. Yet those in the know will tell you how influential he was — and continues to be to this day. We encourage you to seek out these excellent compilations and make them a part of your collection. You’ll be a better person for it.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Concord Music Group has assembled three new titles in its ongoing Definitive series, one of which marks the series’ initial foray into CMG’s vast blues catalog. The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige; The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy; and The Definitive Albert King on Stax span a total of 60 years and include the music of two monumental figures in jazz and an equally influential figure in the blues. Each of the two-CD collections were released on April 5, 2011.

The two dozen tracks of The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige follow the creative evolution of the most revered trumpeter in the annals of jazz. Spanning the first half of the 1950s, the collection captures Miles at the beginning of his breakthrough to mainstream appeal, according to the liner notes by music journalist and historian Ashley Kahn.

“The purpose of this collection is to deliver a full, definitive overview of that very special period in Miles’s career,” says Kahn. “Its focus covers the nearly six-year period when the trumpeter was signed exclusively to Prestige. Disc 1 offers the best of his 1951 to ’56 sessions primarily as a leader of various ad hoc all-star ensembles. Disc 2 provides a generous sampling of Miles the bandleader, in ’55 and ’56, at the helm of one of the most groundbreaking groups of the day.”

The collection also chronicles Miles’s dramatic artistic growth over a relatively short time, says Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s Vice President of Jazz and Catalog A&R and the producer of the collection. “The years between 1951 and 1956 are not a huge amount of time, but the development by Miles—as a musician and as a bandleader—is pretty astonishing in this period,” says Phillips. “This culminates in what ended up being one of the most legendary groups in jazz, the Miles Davis Quintet, featuring John Coltrane.”

The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy tracks more than two decades of recordings by a highly influential figure in jazz piano. “It would be difficult to think of a major jazz pianist emerging after 1960 who did not take Bill Evans as a model,” says jazz journalist Doug Ramsey, who wrote the liner notes for the 25-song collection that begins in the mid-1950s and ends in 1977. “Indeed, many seasoned pianists who preceded Evans altered their styles after hearing him.”

What’s more, “Evans had a profound effect on how musicians play jazz and how listeners hear it,” says Ramsey. “He is so much a part of the jazz atmosphere that many musicians — regardless of instrument—who came of age in the 21st century are not conscious that his concepts helped form them.”

The collection also gives proper attention on the second disc to Evans’s Fantasy-era recordings of the mid-1970s, says Phillips, who also produced the Evans collection. “Because the Riverside sessions are so acclaimed and so legendary, the Fantasy tracks are often overshadowed,” he says. “But in listening to this collection, you realize that Evans was still creating some amazing recordings throughout the Fantasy period with some high- caliber musicians, like Eddie Gomez, Kenny Burrell, Lee Konitz, Tony Bennett, Ray Brown, and Philly Joe Jones.”

The Definitive Albert King on Stax follows 15 years worth of recordings—from 1961 to 1975, plus a final track from 1984—by a bluesman who’d spent the early part of his career playing to an African-American fan base in the roadhouses and theaters of the chitlin’ circuit. But by the latter half of the 1960s, the genre “was now attracting the rapt interest of young white listeners, their sensibilities opened wide by the muscular, in-your- face blues rock of the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and Jimi Hendrix,” says roots music historian Bill Dahl in his liner notes for the collection. “These new converts were gravitating to the best the idiom had to offer. No single blues guitarist made a more stunning impact during that tumultuous timeframe than Albert King.”

“For as paradoxical as it might sound, you could make the case that Albert King was a cheery blues guy,” says Chris Clough, Concord’s manager of catalog development and producer of the Albert King collection. “He had that wry smile, and he often smoked a pipe. He was always well dressed and dapper. He was genuinely interested in putting on a show for his audience, and that sensibility comes through on these tracks.”

Dahl suggests that the years between 1966 and 1975 were a “Golden Decade” for King. “He was with Stax that entire time,” he says, “right up to the Memphis label’s unfortunate demise, cutting one enduring blues classic after another as he scaled the charts over and over again. In the process, King deeply influenced countless up-and-coming blues axemen, even though the ringing licks he coaxed out of his futuristic Gibson Flying V were all but impossible to accurately recreate.”

www.concordmusicgroup.com

Be Sweet. Visit Mrs. Wheat’s Treats Today!

9 Apr

Mrs. Wheat’s Treats has been around since the late 1980s. This is no overnight success story. It’s never been easy. But it’s a family recipe and a family business. Always has been. They have survived through good times and bad and now they need your support. A combination of road construction, theft, and the sluggish, post BP spill economy has caused Julie Wheat to tighten the proverbial belt. She makes a mighty fine New Orleans-style praline and deserves our loyal support.   

The window sign at Mrs. Wheat’s Treats in Mobile, Alabama

Pralines on the cooling trays at Mrs. Wheat’s Treats

The company was founded by Marguerite Busch Wheat. She was a whiz in the kitchen who made hundreds of pralines each year for her closest friends and beloved family members. Her praline recipe was a treasured heirloom passed down through 4 generations of the Wheat family. She was said to be quite particular about the pecans used in her recipe. Marguerite gathered pecans from her own family trees and was known to crack and shell each nut by hand. Talk about your TLC!

Chocolate Fudge from Mrs. Wheat’s kitchens

The original Mrs. Wheat passed away in 1987, but her family was determined to keep this most Southern of cooking traditions alive. Mrs. Wheat’s Treats retail location on South Florida Street first opened its doors two years later in 1989. Fast forward more than two decades later and the Wheat family is still at it. They continue to incorporate top of the line sugar, fresh butter and cream, pure vanilla, and meaty hand picked pecan halves. Each batch of pralines is hand dropped and hand wrapped. No mechanized, mass production here, folks.  

Mrs. Wheat’s also offers delicious Cheese Straws & homemade candies

Chocolate Pralines — ready to be devoured

Mrs. Wheats Treats has a great history here in Mobile. It is our hope and prayer that they have a bright future too. That is ultimately up to the public. They may be a little out of your way, but we urge you to go the extra mile to purchase these legendary Dixie delights. Mrs. Wheat’s has always gone that extra mile for you.

Mrs. Wheat’s Treats – 154 S. Florida St., Mobile, AL – 251 478-0709

www.mrswheatstreats.net

www.facebook.com/pages/Mrs-Wheats-Treats

Two Sisters Bakery & Deli Arrives in Fairhope, Alabama

9 Apr

Two Sisters Bakery has only been open a few short weeks now. They are located right next door to Wintzell’s Oyster House on Scenic Highway 98 in Fairhope, AL. Nice looking place, huh? I made my first visit this past week and my first impression was quite positive. The owner was welcoming and quick to tell me his story. As he talked, my eyes were constantly wandering. So many delicious treats to take in.

Two Sisters’ signature Pumpkin Roll (above) was soon calling my name. I could hear it. Really! It looked incredible — fresh and fluffy, peppered with chopped nuts and laced with a sumptuous cream cheese filling. They even dusted the exterior with powdered sugar. Are you kidding me??? I just had to have one for my own. 

So was it really that good, you ask? Let’s just say it was one of the best things I’ve eaten since I landed in Fairhope two years ago. Don’t miss it! I also ordered a Cinnamon Nutmeg muffin and it too was the real deal. The cinnamon, nutmeg, granulated sugar mixture gave the outside a nice crunch, while the inside remained fresh and moist. The overall flavor reminded me of a really good cinnamon cake doughnut. And the hint of nutmeg was a thoughtful (and winning) touch.  

Fresh Cinnamon Rolls at Two Sisters Bakery & Deli

Look for this sign (above) along Scenic Highway 98 in Fairhope. Two Sisters also serves lunch and they proudly feature Boars Head deli meats and cheeses. That should tell you something about their commitment to quality. All the breads (try their homemade focaccia) are baked fresh daily. Their bacon & egg breakfast biscuits look terrific and the sandwich menu is highlighted by an oddly named creation called “Hen Pecked.” Chicken breast with Havarti cheese, jalapeno, spinach, mango chutney, hot pickled peppers and mayo on house baked flat bread. Oh yes, come to Papa! For dessert, grab a chocolate whoopie pie or a Coca Cola cupcake.

You will be treated to some gorgeous scenery along the bayfront in Fairhope. I might suggest you carry out your sandwich or bakery treats and find yourself a shady spot along the banks of the Mobile Bay. Our parks (as you can see above) are well-maintained and safe. The dolphin sculpture pictured here is just one of many artistic creations that you will discover during your time here in Fairhope.

Business at Two Sisters Bakery and Deli is off to a pretty positive start. Ownership is confident that their lunch crowd will continue to grow. Fairhope apparently has a prominent sweet tooth and is, in the owner’s words, a real “cookie town.” I reside here and am found guilty as charged. But you don’t have to have a big sweet tooth to become a regular at Two Sisters. Just being a lover of tasty eats prepared with love and attention to detail will get the job done. However, if you do have a sweet tooth, they will fix it. And it’s a lot more fun than a trip to the dentist.

Two Sisters Bakery – 19452 Scenic Highway 98, Fairhope – 251 517 0622

Queen G’s Fries ‘Em Up Fresh

9 Apr

State-of-the-art fried oysters can be hard to find — even here on the Gulf Coast. We found them this week at Queen G’s Cafe on Mobile’s Old Shell Road. They open at 11 am. I arrived about 11:40 am. Just in time to beat the lunch rush. It’s a tiny little place with a limited indoor seating capacity. There are some additional seats outside, but that can be hit or miss depending on our rather fickle coastal weather patterns. I grabbed a small indoor table and shared the dining room with a single middle-aged couple. Their conversation was spirited and their food looked appealing.

Queen G’s is housed in an old circa 1950s drive-in. It used to be called “The Rebel Queen” back in the day and they have the photos inside to prove it. The bright teal paint job would have looked right at home on a 1957 Chevy. The black and white exterior awning preserved some of the retro vibe.  

I was tempted when I read about the Chicken & Dumplings special, but ultimately stayed strong and ordered a small plate of fried local oysters. I say small only because they call it that at Queen G’s. It’s actually pretty substantial with about 10 meaty cornmeal-coated oysters on each platter. The market price for this dish (with 2 sides) was $12. Order the large oyster plate and you may be ready for a mid-day siesta. Be forewarned.

The menu at Queen G’s is very cool looking. I’m a sucker for that old meets new look. Each meal (as you can see above) comes with a poofy square of cornbread and more than a couple of pats of real creamy butter. None of that greasy margarine or Country Crock crap. I notice these little things, so restaurateurs take note. The cornbread was just fine. Not really noteworthy in any way, but OK.

The fresh oysters are fried up to order at Queen G’s. Nice. A cornmeal coating really makes a difference. So much better than flour (if you ask me). They are prettied up on the plate with a few flecks of chopped green onion. I had my cocktail sauce and Tabasco at the ready and the oysters magically disappeared in just a matter of seconds. What a treat — especially on a weekday afternoon. For just a brief moment, I felt like royalty. I asked my server about the oysters point of origin. She informed me that they are farm raised in nearby Coden, AL. That explained their amazing sweetness. The local waters have been chilly due to some cool nights. That, from what I’ve been told, helps to deliver those sweet flavor notes.

My side of deviled eggs seemed like a good idea, but they could have been a little more devilish in my opinion. The presentation was nice – gussied up with paprika and parsley. The lime green serving bowl gave it a true elementary school cafeteria feel. I could tell the eggs had been sitting in the fridge for a while and the flavor was, well, just  a tad on the bland side. Nice effort, but they fell a little short this time. Not a big deal though.

My second side was rough chopped rutabagas. People love ’em or hate ’em. I dig ’em. Really! They look unadorned in the above image, yet I am happy to report that they tasted fresh and well-seasoned. I only wish the portion size was larger. You don’t find rutabaga on many menues these days — even in the Heart of Dixie. They can be tedious to prepare and the canned variety just aren’t near as delicious.

Clean your plate at Queen G’s and you’ll be rewarded with a free scoop of ice cream. Pretty good incentive, for sure. But you probably won’t require any additional motivation here. The food is good and fresh and the surroundings cozy, yet comfy. I’ll be back and I hope to rub elbows with you at Queen G’s one day soon.

QUEEN G’S CAFE – 2518 Old Shell Road, Mobile, AL – 251 471 3361

“Who’s Your Coastal Daddy?”

3 Apr

Big Daddy’s Grill isn’t the type of place you just stumble upon. In fact, you might say that it is out in the boondocks. If you haven’t visited before, you’ll need a map (or some very good directions) to get here. Once you arrive, what you see seems totally out of place. A shady, watery wonderland in the heart of Baldwin County’s wide open, sun-blistered farm country. And a whole bunch of nice folks in a remote location where you’d expect absolutely no one to be hanging out.

Big Daddy’s (named for owner Jason Newsom) has a roadhouse sort of look from the outside. A whole bunch of motorcycles were lined up out front. Lots of cars, SUVs and pickup trucks too. Seems like everyone but me had gotten the memo on this place. How, I ask you, did this happen? I needed to get inside and learn more. Pronto!  

This whimsical, rustic fish sign is seen at the entry to Big Daddy’s.

A cluster of young people dressed in tie-dye Big Daddy’s T-shirts greeted me at the outdoor hostess table. There is some indoor seating, but who would even consider that on such a glorious Spring afternoon? I had just had a pretty vigorous workout at the YMCA and I was ready for a good meal. But first things first. A big old glass of sweet tea.

The view from my wooden picnic table seating was mighty fine indeed. I was partially in the sun, partially in the shade. Small boats and other pleasure crafts were docked at the water’s edge. Jet skis occasionally zipped by. Pontoon boats took their own sweet time. Attractive waterfront homes beckoned on the Fish River’s opposite shoreline. Not a bad place to plant yourself for a while.

I spotted this lush, historic home in Big Daddy’s neighborhood.

Ice cold beer at Big Daddy’s Grill is cheap and plentiful!

The Fried Oyster and Shrimp Po-Boy (above) is done right at Big Daddy’s. Good bread, fresh cut tomatoes and shredded lettuce, a tangy dill pickle slice or two. The shrimp were plump, the oysters large and peppery. Strips of freshly sliced sweet onion added a another dimension of flavor.  I reached for a little salt, some house cocktail sauce, and a bottle of Tabasco sauce. A quick squirt of lemon and I was finally ready to dive in.

I thought outside the box and called for — Sweet Tater Fries!

The sweet potato fries turned out to be a pretty good call. Crunchy and slightly salty on the outside, sweet and moist on the inside. I ate slowly — taking in all of nature’s beauty around me. The folks at the adjacent table ordered up a plate of fried soft shell crabs. These crabs are brought in from Crisfield, Maryland – a place that knows a thing or two about good quality seafood. The diners raved about the dish, so I made a mental note to bring my wife along next time. She hails from the Baltimore area and rarely misses a chance to sink her teeth into crispy fried soft shells.

What a nice surprise Big Daddy’s turned out to be! Didn’t know what to expect when I got in the Jeep this sunny early April afternoon. My expectations took a dip during my longer than anticipated drive into the outer reaches of Alabama’s gigantic Baldwin County. “Does this place even exist?” But then my spirits (and appetite) soared when I first laid eyes on Big Daddy’s oasis of sunshine, seafood and suds.

My server was mega-cheerful and made me feel right like a regular. I actually lost count after the “Hon”ometer hit six or seven. It’s that kind of place. Tasty, filling sandwiches and bountiful fried seafood baskets. Shiny metal buckets holding silverware, napkins and condiments. “Red, yellow and pink wines are available,” so check your big city attitude at the door. Big Daddy’s is not the least expensive place around (po-boy plates run in the $10-$12 range). But you won’t feel cheated at all once you experience their generous portions and the quality of the seafood served. For a unique treat, ask your server for a basket of fried pickles or fried okra.   

So when you’re in need of a little pick me up, don’t forget about Big Daddy’s Grill located somewhere off County Road 32 in a remote corner of Fairhope, Alabama. It’ll fill your belly, warm your soul, and lift your spirits. So c’mon … who’s your Daddy???

Big Daddy’s Grill

16542 Ferry Road
Fairhope, AL 36532-6617
(251) 990-8555

www.bigdaddysgrill.net

“The Definitive Sonny Rollins” Does the Mighty Saxophone Colossus Justice

2 Apr

The Definitive Sonny Rollins on Prestige, Riverside and Contemporary came out a few weeks ahead of Rollins’ 80th birthday on September 7, 2010. This Sonny Rollins set covers almost an entire decade, from a December 1951 session in New York for Sonny Rollins with the Modern Jazz Quartet to an October 1958 session in Los Angeles for Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders.

“That was such a significant period in the development of jazz in general, and Sonny Rollins was at the heart of all that was going on during that decade,” says Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s Vice President of Jazz and Catalog A&R and the producer of the Definitive series. “Just look at the Miles Davis session where he recorded `Airegin,’ `Doxy’ and `Oleo,’ for example. Those are all tunes that he penned, and all remain indelible jazz standards. That’s a whole lot of jazz history that was made on just a single day in the summer of 1954.”

Liner notes for The Definitive Sonny Rollins are provided by music journalist Bob Blumenthal, co-author with photographer John Abbott of the forthcoming book, Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins.

“That the marks of [Rollins’] genius were fully apparent in the music he made over a half-century ago has been obvious to all who have followed the trajectory of his unprecedented career,” says Blumenthal. “As a contract artist with Prestige Records between 1951 and 1956, and through his work on various labels from 1957 until the beginning of an extended sabbatical two years later, Rollins laid the foundation for his status as a master improviser, saxophonist and composer; an influence far beyond his chosen instrument and idiom; and a living icon of affirmative creativity. Concord Music Group is the steward of many of the finest Rollins performances of the ’50s, and has culled them well in presenting this short course in what made Sonny Rollins Sonny Rollins.”

www.concordmusicgroup.com