It seems our mayor is looking to put a few of our restaurants in the spotlight while ramping up his “Chat and Chew” lunch series.

Despite his slim physique, Mayor Sandy Stimpson is obviously a fan of our local dining scene and recently launched the city of Mobile’s “Eat Local” initiative. Citizens are encouraged to break bread with the mayor as he showcases local businesses, particularly restaurants, and opens the dialogue for citizens to discuss my favorite topic: the direction our city and its restaurants seem to be leaning.

“Eating local isn’t just about the food. It’s about bringing people together to support our community,”  Mayor Stimpson said. “Dining establishments will have the opportunity to share their local flavor, and citizens will have the opportunity to share their thoughts of where Mobile is headed.”

No word just yet on where the next “Chat and Chew” will be held. We’ll let you know as soon as we hear. If you’re interested in having your restaurant involved in this series, please contact Laura Byrne at [email protected].  

Diners beware. You must not be allergic to bears if attending these events. Sandy Bear, the furry friend to our fair city, is rumored to be making appearances on the dining scene. Do not be afraid, for he is friendly and rather technologically advanced. He has his own Twitter account (which is more than I can say) @TheSandyBear. Check regularly for updates, but I doubt he will visit very many vegan restaurants.

Von’s to open downtown location
What is the next step for a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Bayou La Batre with lots of attention and a Nappie award-winning food truck? A downtown restaurant is the logical answer. If you read this column with any regularity you’ll recall I gave Von’s Restaurant and Grill a very favorable review, and our readers gave the food truck two thumbs up. It makes sense that Von and Paul Larson would bring their Asian fusion talents to the downtown scene.

The less mobile, yet more Mobile, version will be called Von’s Bistro and will be located at 69 St. Michael St., between Royal and Dauphin. For now, plans are to serve lunch Monday through Friday and dinner Friday and Saturday. The husband and wife team hope to open by the end of August. Keep your ears on.

Milkshake Monday at area Chick-fil-A
Have you ever had a hand-spun peach milkshake from Chick-fil-A? If not, you’re missing out. Good thing they didn’t have those when I was working there in high school. I’d have been as big as a house by the time I was a sophomore.

Times have changed and milkshakes are the summer months’ rage at the Georgia-based restaurant chain. Now you can consume those delicious extra calories with a guilt-free conscience. From now until Aug. 31, Chick-fil-A of Bel Air Mall will be donating 100 percent of the proceeds from every milkshake sold on Mondays to Make-a-Wish Alabama.

There’s no tastier way to help grant wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses in our neck of the woods. Let me be clear, this is only at the Bel Air Mall location. One milkshake per week for a month is good for the body. Knowing your donation is going to Make-a-Wish is good for the soul.

To learn more about Make-a-Wish Alabama, visit www.alabama.wish.org.

Bartender of the year coming to Gulf Shores
Bartender of the year sounds like a grand title. If you think you have what it takes then you better hone your muddling, shaking and stirring skills because the regional competition will be here before you know it.

The Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance (ARHA) along with local convention and visitors bureaus are looking for someone to crown best bartender in the state. Mixologists will be looking to make it to the big dance at the Stars of the Industry Awards Dinner held Sept. 28 in Birmingham, but first must claim victory in his or her regional competition.

Our regional contest will be held at Lulu’s Homeport Marina on Monday, Aug. 31, at 5 p.m.

Contestants will be judged on speed and accuracy, taste and creativity, and flair and crowd interaction, and must undergo a written test. It’s open to all working professional bartenders, so apply online at www.ARHAonline.com or call 334-244-1320.

First-place winner of the regionals will receive $200 and a plaque will be given to the top three contenders. The state finals give out $1,500, $500 and $200 for first, second and third place, respectively. The real reward, though, is keeping the coveted trophy for a year.

This is a contest for those who take their drinking and mixing seriously. I’ll see you there.

Sip and Chew with Mike and Stu gave me a shot at stardom
I must thank Mike Bailey for inviting me to be on FM Talk 106.5’s Sip and Chew with Mike and Stu radio program this past Sunday. It was an honor to fill in for Stu, who is out for a while recovering from a work-related accident. The highlight of my morning was fielding a call from a certain John who is NOT from Fish River as we were originally told. His question related to the darkness of my roux in comparison to a D minor seventh (Dm7) chord.

Any Nigel Tufnel fan worth his salt knows that D minor is the saddest of all keys. Therefore, the roux must be darker than caramel to make your gumbo go to 11.  

Get well, Stu. They miss you over there. Recycle!