334 Fairhope Av
Fairhope, AL 36532
It’s difficult navigating through a masked shopping season, pointing your ship toward the businesses that feel the safest, trying to make the most of your holiday without breaking the rules or spreading disease, but we do it. An early return from our Thanksgiving vacation found us walking the mean streets of Fairhope on a sunny Small Business Saturday with our noses covered and our Ray-Bans fogging.
It seems we were on a bit of a mission to find Christmas clothing for the youngster, cutesy shirts with Santa Claus on the front and seasonal pants. It’s that mission where I don’t have any say-so in what the boy wears, I’m just along for the ride. I do have a limited power of veto, though I’m waiting to use that on anything that makes him look what I consider out of place.
I understand my taste in fashion isn’t stellar, and I happily let my wife pick out my own clothes. If it were up to me, the kid would roll into Mother’s Day Out programs in Zeppelin and Stones concert tees and a rotation of Clarks Wallabees and Doc Martens. I picked a decent year and stuck with it. Anything else in my closet is there because my mother, sister or wife told me to wear it.
It was after we made a dry run through the toy store that the hunger got the best of us, and we needed a drink. Just across the street sat R Bistro, a place I’ve neglected for too long.
Faces covered and ready to dine, we entered and a masked hostess welcomed us with a touchless thermometer. To be honest, I was glad to see it. It made the experience feel a little safer, and knowing I didn’t have a fever after stacking firewood in the Friday rain was a relief. We were the first couple to enter the narrow building before any sort of rush set in.
Our waiter, Adam (also the bartender), gave us a couple of pointers and answered questions we had about the menu as he poured us two glasses of Belleruche rosé ($12 each), but rightfully warned us the homemade bread was fantastic. With that in mind, we ordered around it. Katie started with the soup du jour, a French onion ($12) with a really dark broth and onions as sweet as candy, cut by the saltiness of the aforementioned bread and Gruyère.
I believe it was the same bread in the basket on our table that I couldn’t keep my hands from, as the waning hours of my weekend break from my diet afforded me more than I should. The creamy butter spread had me captivated, and I dunked a little into my cup of gumbo ($7). With a darker roux and a hearty amount of duck and Conecuh sausage, I was reminded I left the turkey carcass in Mississippi. This was a great sub, not thick like a gravy, but bold with a little bit of okra.
It was only lunch, but this was certain to be our big meal of the day. The fried Brussels sprouts appetizer ($12) seemed like a good post-Thanksgiving choice. Frying them actually sweetened the sprouts a good bit and a spectacular aioli was a nice complement. I liked how I had to dig and swish around for it. It bothers me when any sauce drowns out the food, and this was the perfect amount.
Katie had a quiche ($13), which she enjoyed as a barely done, “loose custard” feel with a layer of spinach and Manchego cheese over a homemade crust. It came with a Salad de Maison ($7), which was a nice mix of lettuces, grape tomatoes of various colors, red onion and a bit of feta with roasted pecans and a balsamic vinaigrette. It’s a better salad than I normally make.
I, too, had a Salad de Maison, but added a salmon filet ($8). The perfectly cooked salmon called for a switch to a Sauvignon Blanc. Adam chose for me a Peter Yealands ($10) from New Zealand. It was smooth and not overly acidic, but was great with the salmon and salad.
Now you didn’t think I’d make it through a meal on a diet-cheating weekend without some kind of French fry, did you? Not a chance. When a nice place such as this has fries, they tend to call them pommes frites ($5), and when a nice place has pommes frites, they tend to be better than your favorite French fry. These were better than my favorite French fry. Served with a side of ketchup, these crispy beauties must have been slightly dusted in a batter, super hot and thin — all that a potato should be. Get them.
I can say the lunch was excellent. Imagine what dinner must be like. Visit their website at rbistroandpastry.com and you’ll find there is also a retail side to this restaurant, as they sell baguettes (flavored and unflavored), steak sauce, smoked tomato glaze, dressings and gift cards as well as their crawfish gravy by the quart. Some of these items must be ordered in advance, but if you need crawfish gravy for an emergency today, you may find large containers at the Piggly Wiggly.
I came hungry, I left full and I felt safe through the entire experience. R Bistro is a gem. Staff is what you want them to be. Though it’s pricey if you make it, I needed to unwind.
We walked to the end of Fairhope Pier, trying to get in a few steps at the finale of a successful holiday, socially distanced and loving the weather. One more stop for a beer at The Mill on their outdoor dining area and we were home in time for an Egg/Iron Bowl. I had played the day by ear, but I had done it well.
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