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Thyme on Section • 33 North Section St, Fairhope, AL 36532 • (251) 990-5635
Some restaurants are a flash in the pan. They hit it hard, come out strong, and lack the staying power despite serving impressive cuisine delivered by well-trained wait staff. Most of the time we never know the real reason why they hung up the chef’s coat. Your friends will guess and spread rumors, but I can assure you it wasn’t because of that one Yelp review.
Then you have those that stick around. These are the ones that after a couple of years you can feel the solid footing, even if behind the scenes the shaky ground is about to open wide. These guys weather storms and keep the doors open with great execution, and they do it with a smile.
I was looking for one of those places this week.
It was Sunday, and with my eldest home for the weekend, his brother and I fancied a trip across the bay for something different. We were headed to Fairhope in search of a good brunch. Fairhope usually has no shortage of that sort of thing, but there was a place or two that had shut down for the weekend in order to give some overworked employees a much-needed break. There is still a staff shortage, you know.
Walking down the mean streets of this colony town, we peeped into windows looking for open restaurants, simultaneously combing the internet for ideas while enjoying the morning sun and steps. At one point we passed Thyme On Section. I like to give the kids a little rope when choosing restaurants, but on this day, I knew I’d sweet talk them out of whatever choice they made. We were eating here, end of story.
The last time I ate at Thyme it was a different location. They were Thyme By the Bay before they moved to their current spot. The first place was so tiny. The Section Street building is marginally larger. A decent crowd was filling up the room before noon. We were just in time.
Graham was a little pouty that we weren’t having sushi, but I assured him he’d respect my choice. The easy way to win him over was to start with an appetizer of Truffle Fries. After doing my best at getting him to understand what a truffle is, he finally just relaxed and enjoyed the show. “I don’t know why these are so much better than regular fries, but they are.” Truffles, Graham, truffles. More accurately probably truffle powder, but whatever the case, the green onions and parmesan lit these things up.
The fries themselves appeared to be hand-cut and rather thin for maximum crispness, and Lucas and I enjoyed the ranch-like dip that was too good to have come from a bottle.
Lucas was drinking water, Graham a Sprite, but I was the only one with enough nerve to have a glass of rosé. It threw me for a loop when it reached the table. “Are you sure this is rosé?” They assured me it was, but they had served it in a green glass. I’m not going to lie, it kind of messed with my head a bit, but I enjoyed it all the same.
The first attraction was Lucas’ Grouper Sandwich ($15). The fish was grilled just right, and the slightly messy sandwich benefitted from tomato, arugula, red onion and some kind of sweet chili sauce. It’s a sizable hunk of fish on, if memory serves, a soft brioche bun. I was happy with the portion he gave me while he worked on his side order of Conecuh sausage.
Graham almost ordered the pancakes which seemed outrageous with toffee, toasted almond, and fudge brownie in the batter (you could subtract any or all of that), but in the end, his fear of too many options led him to the simple French Toast ($12). I say simple, but simple in name and description, only.
“This is the best French toast I’ve ever had,” said Graham, wiping whipped cream from his face as he passed the plump blueberries partially covered in syrup to his brother. He kept the strawberries to himself. I’m not so sure what made it so great, but he wouldn’t shut up about it. He ate himself sick with half of it left to take home, and he barely finished his side of curly, crispy bacon.
I was tasked with taking on the Eggs Benedict ($16). Poor me. I love finding different perspectives on the classic. This one stands out. First off, the eggs were perfect. The description read that it had “smoked oyster dip,” which I had trouble detecting amongst the creamed spinach and hollandaise, but you’ll get zero complaint from me. Maybe that is what lightened up the sauce.
A little arugula accompanied the dish, and the side of cheddar grits (50 cents extra) were perfect with a sprinkle of green onions. A lot of people use Gouda with their grits, and I use havarti. This is a reminder of the power of cheddar and a testament to the quality of the grits.
We also got a side of hash browns (non-truffled), but after those fries we barely touched them.
I didn’t specifically cross the bay for brunch at Thyme On Section. Without much signage they are kind of out of sight, out of mind for me. After today I plan on making it a destination spot. This is exactly the type of restaurant I was searching for this morning. I think of Thyme as a classic Fairhope dining experience with staying power, no matter how young they may be.
The brunch menu changes monthly, I’m told. The pancakes may be different, you may have an added menu item or the seasonings may change with the seasons. There will always be a sandwich and more than likely shrimp and grits, but a periodic tweak is good for the soul.
Wait until you see their dinner menu.
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