Every year we take at least one trip to see my husband’s family near Mobile, and every single time I resolve that we are going to eat at decent restaurants. However, it is a bit of a battle considering that most restaurants are either chains or fish houses. Typically we would eat a meal at Mellow Mushroom followed up by something along the lines of Blue Gill, but finally this trip I quit procrastinating and did some research.
For our first night out we stumbled across Master Joe’s in downtown Fairhope as we didn’t have the time between family visits to drive to Mobile or Spanish Fort. Although I have been trying to cut flesh from my diet, the interior looked like I could persevere and order vegetarian if I wanted. While the interior is upscale, the space itself in tiny; they have a bar (with half of it being across from the chefs) that spans most of the restaurants length. Divided by a narrow isle for the servers, the other side of the space has a row of banquette seats and tables with one larger (six or so) on the other side of the door (the same side as the bar). There is not an atrium or really any space other than the sidewalk to wait, and in the next couple of weeks, they will (wisely!) stop taking reservations. Our service was attentive and prompt; our server didn’t have a deep drink knowledge, but she readily confessed it and was willing to ask the bartender. Being the spoiled Ashevillian I am, I was only slightly disappointed that they couldn’t make my dark and stormy, but the generous pour of my Ginicolada (a rocks pour of half Myers and half Malibu) erased any traces of ill will.
We enjoyed a heaping bowl of salty, steaming edamame for our appetizer, and I had a basic California roll and a Mexican roll (spicy tuna, cucumber, masago/roe, spicy mayo, and tempura crunchies) for my main course. My honey enjoyed an Ocean’s Eleven (spicy tuna, crab and cucumber, wrapped with salmon, tuna, yellowtail tuna, and avocado served with banzai sauce and tobiko/flying fish roe). The portions were standard and in line with the pricing.
Embarrassingly enough, our next plan was to eat at a restaurant tucked away in the Eastern Shore Center so we waded through the Saturday log jam only to find our destination closed until dinner. As we were both fairly hungry, we opted to cross the street into Guglielmo’s. Of course this a small regional chain so my goal of eating at local establishments was quickly blown. Our server, Fabio, provided mediocre service much like one would expect at a chain but without the scripted sales pitches. I started with a caesar salad, and my husband munched on the bread. My salad was overdressed with a passable caesar dressing and straight out of a box croutons, and the lettuce had more than one brown spine. The bread and oil could have been so good, but the bread was obviously a frozen hoagie roll; the oil was winning with probably four diced gloves of raw garlic seasoning it. For my main course I opted for a vegetable panini which consisted of roasted red peppers (as well as green peppers that the menu didn’t mention), onions, mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, and more arugula than I could have hoped for and was served with french fries (coated in salt and cheese). The sandwich was good, but the french fries just didn’t seem to fit. They were fine fries in and of themselves, but the sandwich was cheesy and salty enough. My husband went with stuffed shells that were served swimming in an overly sweet tomato sauce; the shells were large and stuffed. Another down side is that the bread refills cost $1.50, which would be fair if the bread were good.
After our lackluster lunch, we headed back towards to the bay and a stop at the Windmill Market. The market promotes itself as a sustainable venture with huge cisterns out front, and of course a small wind turbine. According to my father in law, the turbine contributes about a quarter of the electricity consumed, and their website mentions solar panels and passive solar skylights. The vendors offered run of the mill crafts and food, but I loved my lemon poundcake from The Perfect Pear. I was bummed that my mother in law was mistaken about the toilets being composting toilets, but the website says they are flushed with grey water.
Even though I failed to keep it local, this trip was a big improvement, and our next trip to the Gulf will be even better (we will stop in Mobile).