107 St. Francis St., Suite B165
Mobile, AL 36602
It was an evening of secrets. Katie and I managed to find ourselves free of children for the first time in maybe months. We told no one. We left our cars at the house and took an Uber downtown. We didn’t text our friends. We kept everything on the DL as we entered ArtWalk, snaking down Dauphin Street after bailing out of our ride at Moe’s BBQ. I wanted to give her my full attention, and I wanted the same in return.
It was a hefty ArtWalk, well-attended, as floods of polite people clogged the streets making it impossible to follow a straight line. I can’t tell you the last time I went to Hayley’s, so it was the perfect place for us to remain incognito while grabbing a beer on wheels. At the end of the walk, Bienville Square had been transformed into a giant roller rink. It was a little surreal.
As I chugged the last of my beer, Katie poured hers out, and we entered the Trustmark building as skaters sped past us. We hit the elevator, taking it down to the basement. After a couple of twists and turns we arrived at our destination — Las Floriditas.
A pleasant woman standing in an area decorated with a few nicknacks and a bookcase asked, “Do you know the password?” I said, “Is it ‘rascal basket?’” She shook her head side to side as I opened the Las Floriditas Facebook page and deciphered the word of the day. I whispered my answer, and she opened the bookcase, ushering us into a bustling room with a bar and several small tables. “Sit where you like,” she said.
We had trouble finding a table for two, so we ended up in the old bank vault just across from our secret passageway. This room is more of a sofa or loveseat spot, but we grabbed two chairs and a tiny table, assured by the cocktail server that we were welcome to eat in this room. I got started with a perfectly mixed Cuba Libre ($9). Katie ordered a Legendario ($11) from the Mojito section, slightly sweetened by a little honey to go with the muddled mint, lime, rum and soda. The cocktail game was pretty strong.
I was starving, so when Katie saw raw oysters ($24 per dozen), she knew we were about to cover that tiny table with a tray. Medium-sized, cold, we usually just do a squeeze of lemon and a dash of hot sauce. I did send one in for a dunk of cocktail sauce, which was very smooth and easy on the horseradish. I never asked the origin of the oysters, but they were fine as frog’s hair.
Next up was the Ceviche Havana ($12). Made with Gulf seafood, it was a good marinade for the chopped shrimp served with a side of fried plantains in place of chips or crackers. This could have been a low-carb meal for anyone counting. There was only one more dish on the appetizer menu, so we decided to clear out the category. Spanish Tapas ($16) were centered around a delightful roasted red pepper hummus with toast points and crackers. A handful of cheeses and olives were nice, but my favorite was a bit of aromatic bleu cheese, a dab of guava bacon jam and a sprinkle of spicy pecan bits. The salt-meets-sweet combination was a sum far greater than its parts.
Katie was still nursing that mojito, so I had my second beer of the evening and ordered a Cuban Sandwich ($14). If you are unfamiliar with the Cuban, know that it has to have pork roast AND ham, Swiss cheese and pickles get the mustard treatment, and the bread is pressed firmly to toast and flatten the sandwich as per tradition. This one checked all of those boxes, and I found it a very nice version. Split in two, Katie and I could have called it a night, but you know me better than that, right?
The Hemingway Bowl ($14) sounded interesting enough. It’s a simple bowl with a rice bed, black beans and barbacoa. Huge chunks of avocado and a lime wedge were nestled to the side, but you were most fortunate when you got a taste of everything at once.
We had a great time, made friends with some girls from Kansas, listened to some live music and eased our way through the evening. Here is where we screwed up. I thought we should change scenery and hit another nightspot for coffee and dessert. It was 9 p.m. We went by four different places in search of something hot and sweet. All four of them had already shut down their kitchens. The streets were still crowded with ArtWalkers and perhaps a roller skater or two, plenty of potential business staring through the windows, and we couldn’t sit down for a piece of cake or a cup of joe and perhaps a side of whisky.
Had we stayed at Las Floriditas, we could have had plenty of both. Looking back at the menu, I am ashamed of myself for not seeing it through and having some Cuban coffee, guava flan, pastries, mousse or coconut tres leches.
Las Floriditas is owned by Bob Baumhower, who also owns the fine dining spot Dauphin’s atop the same building. He’s stretching the menu from one end to the other, and doing a good job of it. The Cuban speakeasy vibe in a windowless room with a vault is a huge contrast to the panoramic view from upstairs, but the food is on par with what you would expect. There aren’t many more menu items than what I’ve spoken of today, but at least I have an excuse to go back for dessert and coffee.
It was my first visit. It’s not a secret anymore. What took me so long? I’ll be back.
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