I’ve had a lucky streak of dinners with the wife here lately, but that streak finally came to an end. We had a good run, sweetheart, but the kids are in the way when the booze comes out. So what is a boy to do? Call Mr. Bubble, of course.

I’ve got a tip on a hot new (sort of) restaurant with a chef that is rocking it out. It’s Red or White, across the street from our lovable Dew Drop Inn on Old Shell Road. When you mention this place most people will say, “I didn’t know they serve dinner.” Well they do, but don’t tell anybody. They are packed to the gills already, and I would love to eat there more often.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy hanging out with Bubble, and he enjoys me paying for his dinner, but this place is one of the best places I can think of to take a date. You can see why I am apprehensive about taking him, though I’m sure he will behave himself. It’s a little loud, tables are squeezed in rather tight, but the people are friendly and it doesn’t have the air of pretension that similar places wouldn’t be able to resist. Oh, and there is wine. Lots of wine.

Wine is the lubrication in the gears of the tongue. I call it truth serum. It’s a completely different buzz than a few pints of brew or the oft angry tinge of bourbon. For me it’s heady and lovable. Want to know what I got you for Christmas? Pour me a glass. Who really broke your favorite lamp? You’re a cork away from finding out. Once a bottle of Chianti Ruffino convinced me to ‘fess up everything bad I ever did at college along with current gossip I otherwise never would have told my attentive (and sober) dear sweet mother. Lucky for me (and for Bubble) my secrets are few.

Tables were full on the night of our visit. One 10-top had two empty chairs and we were seated next to a man and six women. What kind of cologne was this guy wearing? Apparently the six women (who called themselves the Dog River Girls) are regulars. I got the feeling he was a husband along for the ride. But they were friendly enough, especially after we interrupted them mid-meal, which looked delicious.

We ordered a bottle from the $10 table (plus $5 corkage fee). Next thing you know the conversation loosens up at our table from “we’re on a secret mission,” and “we’re married, but not to each other,” to all sorts of ridiculous things coming out of my mouth. They recommended everything on the menu and we began with bacon wrapped dates ($5.99). Unbelievable. It was a fight for the last one, and I would have taken it to the parking lot, need be. It was a great way to start the show.

I’d done a little Facebook research before we got there. Chef Arwen Rice usually has a nightly special plus a specialty pizza along with their regular menu. She’d just returned from Albuquerque and this evening was pushing tacos al pastor. Evidently the staff pushed too hard and they were out by 7:30 p.m.

No worries. We tried the Antipasta Board ($16). Well worth the price, the cheeses were as exceptional as the bread and pork. Roasted nuts were a nice touch. But the surprise was the seasoned white beans. Fantastic.

The specialty pizza ($10) was not to be ignored. Caramelized plums on a pizza? Yes, sir. Add to that rosemary ham and cow’s milk cheese and this was a winner. If these are the kinds of things Chef Arwen does regularly then Mobile needs to pay attention.

The Red or White signature pizza ($10) was a little more traditional as a take-home pie for Missy with sausage and peppers, but it was also very good. Smoky red pepper sauce and feta cheese dressed up the ricotta and mozzarella. I loved it. All this is coming from a guy who isn’t crazy about pizza. I could eat this twice a week.

As we finished our second bottle of good, cheap wine and bid adieu to the Dog River girls the chef brought out our to-go boxes. “I’m sorry we were out of the tacos, but I had enough to make one more.” Chipotle seasoned pork, tomatillo salsa, and fresh avocado is good enough. Add grilled pineapple to the mix and you’ve got the taco of my dreams. Even on top of the mountain of food we’d consumed that evening one was not enough.

I didn’t inquire about dessert. I probably would have just confessed my secrets to it.

So this secret is out. Chef Arwen Rice brings her western influence to Mobile, and we are lucky to have her. Facebook posts from Red or White are the best ways to keep track of her creativity, but you can view the full regular menu at www.redorwhite.com.

Red or White Gourmet Center
1801 Old Shell Rd
Mobile, AL
(251) 478-9494