It was my hope when we began this website venture that Melanie would be the one who composed our restaurant "reviews." Nothing was ever really discussed about what such a review would be necessarily but, regardless, Melanie would head up this department and post about great dining experiences as they came our way.
She and I should have realized that her acceptance of the directorship of two non-profits would prove too much, especially as she began training for both jobs at roughly the same time and we began traveling full-time too. Hindsight.
So, here's what I intend to do, at least until Melanie can find some time to weigh in. When Melanie and I agree that a dining/eating experience is worth a mention, I'll take a minute to give a few details, remembering she and I decided to only post about restaurants we would recommend to you. If you see a restaurant posted here, we believe it worth your while.
Melanie and I ate here back in November of 2018. We took a few days and drove Miranda into Mobile for Collaborative work she had there, it was also at the time of our wedding anniversary and my 65th birthday. As was usual when I begin looking for a restaurant, I Googled "James Beard & Mobile, Alabama" first. An article in AL.com named Duane Nutter's Southern National as a semi-finalistl for opening the country's best new restaurant.
Nutter was chef in Atlanta at One Flew South before opening Southern National.
While I'm certainly not familiar with the restaurant scene in Mobile, I am familiar with what generally happens when a restaurant is nominated by the James Beard Foundation. If diners were showing up to eat before a nomination, more of them will surely make their way to the restaurant afterwards. Most recently this happened in Birmingham, Alabama where my favorite meat and three there, Johnny's, received a nod from Beard. It immediately became much harder to get a table at lunch.
So, you may imagine my surprise when I contacted Southern National on the Tuesday before we needed a Friday evening reservation and was told we could get a table at 6:45, 7:00 or 7:30. We chose 6:45 and were a bit surprised to find the restaurant almost empty as we arrived Friday evening.
Regardless, the meal we shared that followed was nothing short of extraordinary.
We shared an Arugula + Golden Beet Salad to start. Melanie then had the Grilled NY Strip and I had the Smoked Chicken + Bacon Tagliatelle with a side of the absolutely best Collard Greens I've ever tasted (Sorry Tim, they were the best).
Melanie's not a big dessert fan, but where's there's an offering of chocolate, I'm generally game. The chocolate offering for the evening was Chocolate Three Ways; chocolate cake, chocolate pearls, Nutella custard & raspberry beet sauce. Yes, indeed. I'm trying to remember if we shared a glass of Tawny Port. If we didn't, we should have.
We ended the evening with a pleasant walk back past Cathedral Square to our hotel, Miranda spent the night parked out front on the street.
Melanie and I had a really good lunch at McEwens. It was not our first choice, we had our mouths set for some barbecue, but were thwarted by renovations being performed at a restaurant recommended by a friend from Birmingham. McEwens was a good second choice.
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Superior Bathhouse Brewery
Hot Springs National Park is a nice, if unusual, national park. We were there during Trump's temper tantrum in early January when the park was officially closed. We rode our bikes into town one afternoon from the officially closed Gulpha Gorge Campground where Miranda was parked and had lunch at Superior Bathhouse Brewery. I'm sorry to report there's appears to be no online menu to reference and my old memory being what it is, I can't be exactly sure what either Melanie or I had for lunch, but I do recall fresh ingredients prepared very well. And I do remember the great double IPA I had to accompany lunch. Eat there. Then go indulge yourself in a bathhouse.
San Antonio, Texas
The Esquire Tavern
Melanie and I were started out an evening at The Esquire Tavern with friends who live in San Antonio. Located above the River Walk, The Esquire claims the longest wooden bar top in Texas at over 100' long. Opened in 1933 to "celebrate the end of prohibition," the bar is a cool spot to find a favorite libation with friends. They've also received a nod from the James Beard Foundation for "Best Bar."
We ordered snacks to have with our drinks. Melanie and our friends ordered cocktails off The Esquires menu and seemed pleased. I ordered my usual Hendrick's martini shaken and up with a twist. It was nicely done. We had the artichoke dip, shrimp toast and a pimento cheese sandwich sliced up for four people. Solid bar snacks.