We were coming off a dry spell like I’d never seen in all of my time as a Port City resident. Yet today the bottom fell out. It was raining cats and dogs the way Mobile knows better than most, similar to a summer storm, but in the early days of December wreaking havoc on holiday transportation.
I’m not sure it dampened the spirits of those doing their Christmas shopping, but it certainly increased the degree of difficulty for doing so. I was content to work from home that day. Avoid the nastiness. Let the others deal with it. But I got the call from old college pal Jonathan Hilbun mentioning he was locally attending a seminar and would have an hour lunch break.
Hilbun is a true class act, somewhat of a rarity among my close friends. He was a year behind me at Mississippi College, and of all those I knew, I credit him with being the guy who held it all together and kept everyone in contact through social media. He’s from the coast, Gulfport to be exact, a Braves fan and holds a law degree from Ole Miss. Despite all of this adversity, he turned out great. You’d be hard pressed to find a soul who speaks ill of this man.
His seminar was on the Beltline, and with rainy-day traffic I told him I’d rearrange my schedule and pick him up for something close by. That led us just around the corner to Bishop’s Grill and Bar.
In the former Baumhower’s Wings, Bishop’s is on the frontage road on the south side of Airport near Interstate 65. Hilbun and I were meeting one of my students, Mark Saunders (whose schedule I’d interrupted to make room for lunch), and found him at the hostess’ table.
The place is very similar to Baumhower’s. I guess I shouldn’t have expected much change. There were plenty of televisions and the wait staff was friendly, so we took our seats and ordered a couple of iced teas (two for $5.18) and a free water.
The first thing on the menu that caught my eye were fried Wickles ($6.99). Wickles are by far my favorite pickle, delightfully sweet with a little bit of heat. To get them fried was a treat. Served with a side of their house-made ranch dressing, I was drawn to these more than my dining companions. Like them or not, this was a good attempt at shaking up fried dills.
Bishop’s was heavily promoting their Nashville Hot Chicken, so we all agreed the group should sample. Rather than sliders, a sandwich or a platter, we thought the Hot Chicken Tender plate ($11.99) would give us a cross section of the heat Bishop’s was serving.
I’m a novice enthusiast who has made my own hot chicken, but Hilbun has eaten his way through the real deal in Nashville. The three of us concur that although this was very good chicken, the heat was absent. Nothing. It was not hot at all. Nobody grabbed the french fries. Nobody reached for the ranch. There were no refills on our drinks. This is certainly not the “eat at your own risk” dish we’re used to.
Hilbun, who is maybe a buck fifty soaking wet, surprised Mark and myself when he ordered the Mac + Cheese Burger ($10.49). I knew there was no way my old pal would plow through this half-pound burger with a slab of homemade macaroni taking up residence where the lettuce and tomato usually hang out. I was right. It proved to be a little much, but he at least offered that the burger itself was really good.
Pretty soon the monster burger became a deconstructed meal on a plate to be eaten with a fork. I’ll give him this, he did finish the meat.
Saunders, an engineer by trade, had studied the menu and with his keen eye discovered the Pot Roast Platter ($9.50). This was a nod to a Southern classic of falling-apart chuck roast smothered in beef stock gravy. Green beans were the side of the day and although they were good, they paled in comparison to the hand-mashed potatoes. Mark’s only complaint was the saltiness of the roast.
I knew we needed to have some sort of sampling of wings so I ordered Golden Barbecue ($12 for 10 wings). This is a deal where you order your heat followed by your sauce. I asked for mine hot, which apparently is a problem here. What I received were some pretty good wings that tasted exactly like the “Eli Gold” flavor from Baumhower’s. Yeah, they were fine, I guess, but not hot. If there is a next time I should go for “X-Hot” or the cutesy “Damn Hot,” which are actually menu choices.
I’m not saying this place is a bad spot for lunch. The normal, everyday menu items seem fine. They fancy themselves a Southern traditional restaurant (the website is www.bishopssoutherntradition.com) and seem to execute that pretty well, but the problem we had was generally the heat.
Nashville Hot Chicken is a thing right now. When you put it on your menu it opens you up for some harsh criticism. I’m not even one to enjoy the super intense heat of the stuff I’ve made but I’d sure rather have something to talk about besides darker fried chicken tenders.
It’s kind of like when someone says “New Orleans style.” Say those words and you’d better be coming up with something worthy of being served in the Crescent City. Nashville Hot has become a comparable phrase.
All in all I enjoyed my meal, with a few criticisms, and loved my time with my two friends. It’s great introducing someone from your past to someone from your present. If rainy days and Mondays bring you down, that’ll cheer you up.
Bishop’s could tweak a couple of things and cheer me up, too.
Bishop’s Grill and Bar
3673 Airport Blvd.