It was a golden opportunity. Bubble’s birthday fell on a Friday night, and it just so happened that both of our wives were out of town. Of course we had to have a guys’ night out, so I figured I’d take the old fart out for dinner. To sweeten the pot, his identical twin Scrubbin’ (older and wiser by three minutes) flew in from Virginia, a rare treat, to say the least.
I often forget how exact the replication of these two can be. It was as if God was creating one awesome being and decided the world could not handle it, opting instead to split it down the middle, and therefore giving mortal Earth two extra mediocre replicas. Same laugh, same beard, same corny sense of humor and vocal skill. Of course Scrubbin’ has a bit of a DC accent. I don’t care what the map says. Our nation’s capital isn’t entirely in the South, but that is the only way I could tell them apart.
Our night began with some informal picking and grinning with Scrubbin’ wailing on the five string banjo, Bubble sawing on the fiddle, and myself choking the notes out of a mandolin due to the absence of a guitar. It was their night, so I let them choose the restaurant. Without hesitation Bubble rattled off Benjamin’s.
He’d been before and is a big fan of their burgers. Missy and I have visited on an occasion or two and had good luck with their fried catfish, so we knew what we were getting into.
The current owners bought the business when it was known as MiMo’s and turned it into MiMo’s Gastropub. They recently changed the name to Benjamin’s, but kept the idea of the eclectic Gastropub menu. You can expect things like fried mac’n cheese, Conecuh sausage cheesecake, chicken and waffle sandwiches, and a burger known as the Homer Simpson where the bun is actually, you guessed it, a doughnut.
So Scrubbin’, Bubble and I load up in the family truckster and head to the trendy midtown location. First things first. We have to introduce our friend from the north to some down home beer, and luckily Benjamin’s serves Fairhope Brewing Company. It was a mix of Everyday Ales and Fairhope 51s ($5.75 per pint) as the elder twin ordered a cup of corn and crab bisque ($4.49) and I got a plate of Buffalo chicken fries ($6.99) for the table. The bisque was not too shabby. The fries were awesome. Crispy waffle fries were topped with shredded chicken in Buffalo sauce with a fairly stout bleu cheese crumbled across the dish. Finished with diced celery, it was that all-in-one meal that I liked about it.
For our main courses, Bubble struggled to narrow down his burger to the Rocky ($8.99). It’s a blackened patty with that same bleu cheese we’d just had. Get it? Black and bleu/blue. Served on a pretzel bun (a new craze that I rather enjoy) this burger was fit for Balboa himself. I suggest a Clubber Lang version with the cheese only striping the center top of the patty like a Mohawk. This came with a side of sweet potato fries.
I couldn’t resist the country fried steak ($10.99). It isn’t what you think. Believe it or not these jewels are breaded strips of filet mignon with sawmill gravy and mashed potatoes. Tender to the core. I was also offered a side and chose the sautéed green beans, and it was about time I added some greenery to the meal.
It was Scrubbin’ who knocked it out of the park, though. Meatloaf cupcakes ($10.99) were perhaps the dish of the evening. The “cake” portion was meatloaf wrapped in bacon and the icing was garlic mashed potatoes. A side of collards with bacon brought our meal to a close.
The portions were sizeable. We had a lot of food on that table, but it was nothing our generously silhouetted brothers couldn’t handle. I was just along for the ride. We were offered some crazy desserts, but had to politely tell our waiter to kiss our grits. There was no room at the inn.
Sure, some of the menu items sound a bit odd, but what these guys are really all about is just good food. It isn’t the slightest bit odd when you are consuming it — just packaged a little differently. The meal we had was basically good old down home comfort food, which is what a growing boy needs every now and again.
With bellies full and a little less pep in our step, Scrubbin’, Bubble and I retired to the house for a little more picking and digestion before heading out to familiar downtown haunts to play a few rounds of twin games like “Let’s pretend you’re the other one” and “The only difference is the tattoo.” We fooled a handful of people and nobody got hurt.
I know we’ve seen the Benjamin’s building house many tenants over the years. Midtown Café, Trolley’s, Canon Grill and MiMo’s are the few that immediately come to mind. The truth is I never cared for the layout of that building, but with Benjamin’s it just seems like it works. I don’t know what they changed, but they changed it for the better. I wish them a long tenure.Benjamin’s
2101 Airport Blvd