Photo | Lagniappe
It’s worth navigating road construction and all other obstacles to indulge in Bay
Barbeque, one of the newest additions to the Florida Street cuisine corridor.
Bay Barbeque • 59 N. Florida St. • Mobile, AL 36606 • 251-408-9997
I am sick of the road construction at Florida and Dauphin. The proximity to my home has it affecting me daily — altering my commute, impeding my grocery trips or pushing traffic onto normally quiet side streets in my neighborhood, now bustling thoroughfares on the verge of needing crossing guards, extra traffic lights and the like for the narrow strips of asphalt that already can’t handle the “turn channel” between their north and south lanes.
I was told, “Two more weeks.” That was two weeks ago. Now I am told they’re at a standstill over some dispute. Hopefully it’s just rumors. Either way, I think it’s time we start chanting, “BUILD THE FLORIDA STREET BRIDGE!”
All of these new businesses are tucked away in the Publix compound, new stuff is going into the old Bluebird Hardware building and we now have a 15-minute commute from UMS-Wright to Cammie’s Old Dutch Ice Cream Shoppe. So with all the traffic, who is suffering the most? Florida Street businesses between Old Shell and Emogene. From the bigger CVS to the antiques stores, there is a definite decline in visibility and foot traffic, but restaurants may suffer most.
I know this construction has left a mark on the popular Butch Cassidy’s, but Roy will see the other side of this just fine. People are still meandering through residential areas risking damage to their cars, driving over dust, gravel and potholes and pole vaulting over what is now a midtown wasteland for those burgers and wings. I know because I’m one of those people. But today I was thinking of another business in the area and it gave me a craving for barbecue.
Bay Barbeque (note the spelling) fired up its smoker around mid-2017 and eased into Florida Street right next to Wimpee’s Flooring Center. I was tempted to call up Paul Wimpee and his son Stuart, but figured they were either sick of barbecue or too biased to form an honest opinion (another time, boys!). I turned instead to barbecue connoisseur and landlord Warren Hopper.
Warren spent a good portion of his life in Memphis. His mother was my dear friend and the owner of Picker’s Paradise from its inception with her husband, Jim Ball, so when Warren inherited the property it wasn’t long before I took the reins. Like a true Memphis boy should, Warren has a glow about him when you mention barbecue. It is a sacred word to those who’ve lived near that bluff. He didn’t bat an eyelash when I mentioned our lunch spot.
The best route to avoid the Florida Street shenanigans is to take Alexander Street from either Dauphin or Old Shell Road. Taking an east on Dohm Street places you in Bay Barbeque’s backyard parking lot. Enter in the front as we did, where friendly staff greeted us and breezed us through the relatively small menu. Basically it’s chicken, pork and brisket but they have some secret weapons. A new smoked catfish item had my attention so we ordered more than we should and sat down.
When the food arrived Warren got the scoop. The owner has a background in commercial real estate which led him to help develop a few restaurants. That’s where he got the barbecue bug and hit the competition circuit. Success in that arena led to his current location, a repurposed house on Florida.
His pit is modeled after Memphis’ The Rendezvous but his meat is prepped differently. Pretty much everything gets brined. He’s a brining fan as am I. He and Warren went back and forth on how the Rendezvous dry rub is great but the better Memphis barbecue is Cozy Corner when it comes to ribs, etc. — a nice conversation between two who love the ‘cue more than I do.
Deviled eggs were the new item. These aren’t church picnic eggs at all. The four we had were filled with loose, runnier stuffing made so by the juice of their homemade pickles and sprinkled with herbs. Nice!
Warren was treated to the sliders. These aren’t pulled from a Boston butt or a pork loin. These are Pulled Rib Sliders. Are you reimagining pulled pork right now? Good, because it’s better this way. A side of pico and a cup of vinegar-heavy BBQ sauce and pork rinds gave life to the humdrum pulled pork sandwich.
I was fond of the open-face Smoked Beef Brisket. This is no Kansas City-style brisket. The brine keeps it juicy and the meat is sliced chunky rather than the usual long and thin. I was doing my best to save a bit for Katie, but it was tough. I traded a small chunk to Warren in exchange for some pork but this beef was higher currency. The simple slaw was thin-sliced cabbage in a touch of vinegar. No mayonnaise or pickles, just light and fresh.
I messaged Katie and told her she’d never guess what I was bringing home for her lunch. You won’t be able to, either. Smoked Catfish Sloppy Joe didn’t even sound good. I was wrong. Bits of firm catfish smothered in tangy sauce that was a little bit spicy were overstuffed on sliced French bread. It was the surprise of the trip. Also served with pork rinds and a jalapeño ring, I would call this a fresh take on sandwiches.
I couldn’t help myself and also nabbed a jar of their pickles. Very good.
You’re missing out if you haven’t been to Bay Barbeque. I knew when they first opened they had the potential to do good things. Now they are doing great things. You have to catch them at the right time, though. They’re only open 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Make it a point to scurry through the surface streets, crawl through backyards and swim the drainage ditches if you must. The are some great things going on in that block.
BUILD THE FLORIDA STREET BRIDGE!