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At Table
Gas bids us adieu

By M.B.T. Gastronome
March 13, 2008, was a significant date for the Mobile Bay Times as readers caught the inaugural restaurant review by M.B.T. Gastronome. The Ides of March or thereabouts was a rather admirable or ignominious beginning, depending on the reader’s point of reference and personal bias concerning local food establishments. At any rate, it has been an interesting adventure for Gastronome (aka Gas).

Since that beginning review of Zorba the Greek and continuing through thirty-eight additional reviews, ending with Los Casadores, Gas simply called them like he saw them. Having no relationship with any restaurateurs, eating at his own expense, and without compensation, Gas felt the freedom to either praise or criticize, depending on the quality of the dish ordered and consumed on that particular day.

Gas is grateful for the reader praise he received. It is always comforting for Gas to know that there are those who agree with his opinion. Gas is equally grateful (and often amused) for the criticism he received. Recognizing that ours is a free country (at least for the time being), and that all citizens enjoy the inalienable right to be wrong, Gas took the criticism in stride, hoping that the critic realized the opinion was based not only on the particular day he ate at any given food establishment but also on the particular dish he chose. Another day and ... well … the verdict could have been different.

Bay Bama, a discerning reader of MBT, made an interesting comment on May 15, 2008, saying, “Enjoy MBT’s reviews, once I discounted for his Louisiana homerism. It’s nice sometimes to see folks stick up for wherever they’re from, even Louisiana!” Interesting comment, Bay Bama. Gas is pleased that you enjoyed the reviews. You assume Gas is a Louisiana boy. Well, he lived there for many years and loves the uniqueness of Louisiana cuisine and Joie de Vivre culture. In fact, he still goes back periodically for a “food fix.” That is not to say that he doesn’t enjoy good Mobile cooking. He gets out as often as he can to Felix’s for seafood or Mama’s for home cooking. Also, any time he ventures into central or north Alabama, he enjoys some really good barbecue. One more thing. Gas is not into music or movies per se, but he does like “Sweet Home Alabama.” So, even if you are correct in assuming Louisiana is home, so is Alabama.

Actually, home is where Gas and his lovely dining companion reside. Alabama is a wonderful state in which to live and her people are equally wonderful and gracious. The same can be said for Louisiana.

Gas will never forget when he moved to Alabama more than thirty years ago and someone asked him, “Who do you pull for, Alabama or Auburn?” Gas responded, “I have no preference.” He received a quick retort, “Nope,  that’s not a good answer. You have to choose.” Since the interrogator was his new boss and since the office was laden with Alabama memorabilia, Gas astutely responded, “Since you put it that way, I will have to pull for Alabama over Auburn.” The boss seemed to like that answer. However, as the years went by, he realized that the favorite SEC team for Gas is the one that Gas hopes will geaux all the way again this year. By the way, Gas was pleased to see the MSN website headline on August 23 proclaiming that purple is the hot new fall color. That must mean Gas stays ahead of fashion trends since he has been wearing purple clothing for many years.

As can be surmised from previous statements, Gas enjoys Felix’s and Mama’s. He also enjoys many other Mobile area restaurants. Perhaps a brief mention of some of his favorites might be worthwhile. Perhaps not.

For overall seafood, Gas likes Felix’s. The food is very good, although the service is a  bit over the top for a Causeway establishment. The gumbo is average, the crab soup is very good and the turtle soup (with the proper amount of sherry) is excellent. The “come back” sauce is as good an attempt at a remoulade that can be found in this area. For fried seafood, Gas tries to drop in at Mariner or Blue Gill.

For a good lunch, look for Gas at Mama’s, especially on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays (check the menu). He likes Veet’s also, except for the parking (or lack thereof). Both Mama’s and Veet’s serve a very good lunch. It’s just that Gas prefers table service.

The best hamburger in town? Callaghan’s.

Best specialty sandwich in town? Beef shawarma at Zorba the Greek.

Best seafood po-boy? The French Loaf. 

Best roast beef po-boy? Not to be found. 

Best lamb? Zorba the Greek.

Best pizza? Carrabba’s.

Best Mexican? Azteca’s, Los Casadores and Los Rancheros.

Best steak? Ruth’s Chris, a place that excites the erythrocytes.

Best Chinese? Taiwan.

Best barbecue? Go to central or north Alabama; however, if you do go locally, head to The Brick Pit, (more the pulled pork than the ribs).

Best overall upscale restaurant? Probably True, although Gas has not eaten there and bases his opinion solely on numerous verbal and written accolades from True diners.

Best overall sho’nuff good eatin’ economical restaurant? Dick Russell’s. (By the way, did you know there is an actual Sho’Nuff BBQ restaurant in Tallapoosa County?)

Best country breakfast? Dick Russell’s.

Best fast food? Raising Cane’s.

Yes, Mobile has some very good restaurants. She also has some mediocre restaurants and some that are not good at all.

Mobile also has some very good attractions, but the greatest asset of Mobile is the people. Gas finds Mobilians to be very hospitable and gracious. They make very good neighbors. Gas likes living in Mobile. He will always be glad that circumstances brought him here. Mobile is a great city. 

Who is Gas, you might ask? Following are some hints that should help pinpoint his identity.

Gas is, I suppose, somewhat of a bon vivant sans drinking, except perhaps for a long neck Barq’s, unsweet iced tea or a large glass of very cold milk. Gas is the guy you see driving the speed limit on I-10, Government or Airport. Gas also is a fellow who has never had the privilege of meeting Chip Drago. Oh, they communicate by email, but have never met.

Gas is a WASP who always votes Republican or Democrat, depending on the individual candidate. His favorite national politician? Ronald Reagan. His favorite state politician? Little Jim (Folsom). His favorite county politician? Sam Cochran. His favorite municipal politician? Connie (Hudson) and Gina (Gregory) (tie).

And whom, you might ask, does Gas intend to vote for in November? He doesn’t like either of the Presidential candidates. He would have preferred a race between (Hillary) Clinton and (Mitt) Romney. Since his choice has been limited to Obama and McCain, Gas made up his mind to vote for the lesser of two evils; namely, McCain. Then Gas learned that Obama had tapped Biden as his running mate. With that new knowledge, and without knowing who McCain will choose, Gas quickly rethought his political position and decided, without a doubt, that McCain is still the better choice, regardless of whom he taps as his running mate.

His favorite movie? Old Yeller and Sergeant York (tie). His favorite movie actor? Louis Burton Lindley, Jr. (aka Slim Pickens). His favorite movie actress? Sandra Dee. His favorite TV actor? Howard Morris (aka Ernest T. Bass). His favorite TV actress? Can’t think of her name but she really was pretty (Editor's note: Probably Barbara Eden). His favorite TV show? Andy Griffith. His favorite comedian? Red Skelton. His favorite musical group? Original Statler Brothers. His favorite TV commentator? Tony Snow and Brit Hume (tie).

His favorite car? The 1953 Corvette that he could not afford when it was offered to him about forty-five years ago. His current vehicle? That would be two: a SUV and a full-size pickup. The vehicle of his dreams? A new SUV.

His current residence? Within one mile of the Grelot/Cody intersection. His opinion on the current move to annex more of west Mobile? An emphatic NO

His pet peeve? Whiners, slackers and those with an entitlement view of life. Of course that tends to be one and the same.

With all of those hints, a reasonable reader might be able to identify Gas. Perhaps not.

This has been in interesting gig. Gas has enjoyed it. But … it is time to go and timing is always important. Gas would, though, like to see other readers submit restaurant reviews and would enjoy reading them. Perhaps someone will step in and write reviews on a regular basis. Perhaps not. Perhaps different folks will write periodic reviews as the mood strikes them. Perhaps not. Meanwhile, Gas will be looking for you as you dine throughout the Mobile area.

In parting, Gas has only three bits of advice for Mobile. (1) Build a bridge! (2)  Build a bridge! (3) Build a bridge!

Auf wiedersehen.

(Editor's note: Our pseudonymous gourmand visited area dining establishments and reported on the experience. Wherever food was served, our peripatetic critic was likely to arrive with an appetite and depart with an opinion. He dined at his own expense; remained anonymous to all; reported only on those restaurants he frequented in the regular course of life, primarily reasonably priced places. However, he splurged on occasion. Bon Appetit & Adieu!)
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