A cranky 3-year-old who only wants to eat a bowl of cereal means a night on the town for dear old dad and Lucas. Poor Missy stayed home so we could go for a review, on the condition we came straight back and brought her plenty to eat. I think she secretly prefers it that way.

This is actually one of my favorite ways to do a review. Lucas doesn’t eat much, he’s pleasant to talk to, and if he doesn’t like what he chooses, he’s a scoop of ice cream away from a great meal. This week’s mark: Mugshots Grill and Bar.

Mugshots’ story begins in nearby Hattiesburg when friends Ron Savell and Chris McDonald opened the first one in 2004. Its meteoric rise in popularity opened the door for 10 more locations throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The secret to their success? Burgers.

The burgers here range from the big and messy to ones with a designer flair. Of course barbecue sauce is a topping we are accustomed to seeing, but here you are just as likely to find pineapple (The Big Kahuna), pepperoni and marinara (The Pizza Burger), and peanut butter and jelly (Anthony’s Peanut Butter Burger). The real test is how these fancy burgers will hold up against our town’s favorites.

So there we were in the remodeled Ruby Tuesday’s on Airport Boulevard. After a 10-minute wait for a table for two, Lucas and I were surprised to see how large the menu actually is. There’s a lot going on, so I suggest you take a peek online instead of going in cold. We quickly settled on a couple of lemonades and a Mombo Combo ($10.79). This is a choice of three appetizers served in smaller portions. Lucas wanted queso dip and fried mozzarella wedges. I added the Pow Pow Shrimp.

Here is where the confusion sets in. Ro-Tel dip is used in various parts of this menu. But in the appetizer section there is a Queso dip that is white cheese with beef in it. That is what we thought we were getting, but instead Ro-Tel was served. Normally we wouldn’t consider it a problem, but this was bottom-of-the-barrel, thick-skinned, almost burnt Ro-Tel served with stale chips. Make sure you specify.

The battered mozzarella was pretty good. It’s decent fried cheese with a lovely marinara. The Pow Pow Shrimp would tickle most people’s fancy. I wasn’t in love with the batter, and question the origin of the shrimp, but it was still good. The sweet and spicy Thai sauce was heavy on the sweet so don’t bother to have another pitcher on standby.

It’s a good thing Lucas didn’t love his appetizers because he did enjoy his entrée. Grilled cheese sandwich with French fries ($4.99) was his third cheese-based order of the day. It was a little overdone, but the good man never complained. There was enough cheese that he picked the black parts off the bread and disassembled the sandwich. He was eating it no matter what. He also bragged on the French fries, which I agree, are very good.

As goofy as it sounds I had to try Anthony’s Peanut Butter Burger ($8.79). They give you the option to add bacon ($0.59) and grape jelly ($0.29) and of course I did. The result was very good. It’s a great flavor on a fluffy bun, but oh my, is it ever filling. We nowhere near finished our appetizers and I could only eat a quarter of this burger. The peanut butter and jelly sweetens it up, so I find it imperative that you get the bacon for some salty, savory contrast.

Missy wanted bar food. A few annoying questions to the waitress and a couple of text messages later we settled on Spencer’s Nachos ($7.99) and Southwest Eggrolls ($8.99). There was really no need in ordering two of anything. The portions were huge. The Southwest Eggrolls were very similar to some that were served in this building years ago (I’m not complaining), but the nachos were exactly what you would want them to be. Ro-Tel, chili, tomatoes, red onion and jalapeños may not sound like much, but it was built well. The only thing that could make it better would be the sour cream that was held per Missy’s request. Her chips and Ro-Tel were much better than ours.

I am definitely interested in trying more of Mugshots burgers. That seems to be their strength, and though I’m not sure you’d mention them in the same breath as our award winning local haunts, but they have their spot. You may ask where they fit in with Callaghan’s, Butch Cassidy’s, Hungry Owl, and Blind Mule, all excellent burgers that in my opinion are all perfectly different from each other. Mugshots fits in that designer burger spot, when you want an odd flavor or two.

To sum it all up, Mugshots is a good burger and fries joint, but the rest of the expansive menu is racked with burnt cheese and mediocrity. They have a good thing going if you see it for what it is. I am certain their burgers that are closer to “normal” are probably good. The problem for me is in my mindset I think, “Well, I’m here. I might as well get something weird I can’t get anywhere else.” Maybe someday I’ll break that streak. For now I welcome the oddity.

Mugshots Grill and Bar
6255 Airport Blvd
Mobile, Ala., 35216
(251) 447-2514