(L-R) HICKORY PIT TOO Photo | Facebook; SABAI THAI CUISINE Photo | Facebook; SAKURA SUSHI AND HIBACHI Photo | www.sakuramm.com; SEMMES HOUSE OF PIZZA Photo | Facebook
Time for something different. I got a call from my friend Stu Donald. You may know him as the chewable part of the radio program “Sip and Chew with Mike and Stu” that airs every Sunday morning on FM Talk 1065 at 8 a.m., or maybe as the guy who’s gained experience at many of our Gulf Coast restaurants. A chef/media member who has returned to his native homeland of Semmes, Stu had the great idea for the two of us to experience the up-and-coming scene of his city.
Semmes, after all, doesn’t come to mind when you mention the greater Mobile area’s hotbeds of cuisine. When I said we were hitting a bunch of restaurants, my brother unfairly asked me how many were in gas stations. Stu was out to show us a view of Semmes through a different prism, one of small town living with more good restaurants than traffic lights.
I was very open to the idea of traveling Moffett Road to find even one travel-worthy spot, but the goal was far greater than that. Our plan for the day was a true ”food crawl,” kinda like a pub crawl without the booze. Instead of focusing on one restaurant, we were going to tackle the absurd, with four homegrown establishments under the microscope.
Hickory Pit Too
8919 Moffett Road
Here’s where we started. The original Hickory Pit in Citronelle has since gone on, but the second version in Semmes on Highway 98 is still going strong. They have a humongous menu full of burgers, chicken, sandwiches and loaded fries. All of it sounded good as we waited at a table in this early 1970s building, which far outdates the city itself, but we’d have none of it.
We were here for one item and one item only: chick-arrones. You’ve had pork skins, lest you should be under some dietary restriction. This is the chicken equivalent. Our order of the battered, well-picked poultry was fried bronze and crispy with the occasional chunk of meat still attached and appreciated.
To make our first stop even better, there was no shortage of sauces. The buffalo sauce was pretty standard. The sawmill gravy was good, but would be better if we were lucky enough to have this for breakfast. Teriyaki was getting closer to what I was looking for, but my favorite sauce was a tie: The sweet heat was deliciously hotter than the buffalo, and the garlic Parmesan sauce had me swooning.
Sabai Thai Cuisine
4154 Wulff Road
Flipping channels, Stu hopped in the car with me and we were at Sabai in less than two minutes. This is a sharp-looking dining room and where we, accidentally, did most of our dining today. Our waitress was the owner, so I got a great explanation of the menu items I was eyeballing. We each began this leg of the trip with a Thai iced tea ($3.95). This is one of my favorites. The dark tea is almost black, and the sweetness (often from sweetened, condensed milk) helps to combat any of the spicy foods associated with Thai.
We’d need it for our Crawfish Dynamite ($8.95). With more heat than expected, this mix of crawfish and mushrooms in an aluminum foil vessel was cooked in a spicy mayo and topped with green onions.
Larger cut green onions topped the Goong Ob Woonsen ($12.95). The name means shrimp baked with noodles. Presented in a lidded crock, the glass noodles and shrimp had a bit of mushroom and pepper with a sauce from coconut milk. That’s a good entrée at this price point.
We weren’t allowed to leave without trying the new fried bananas (yet to be on the menu). They looked like little hand-rolled egg rolls dusted with powdered sugar, chocolate syrup and whipped cream.
Sakura Sushi and Hibachi
4276 McCrary Road, Suites A&B
With to-go boxes in hand we crossed the highway to Sakura. With no room in our stomachs or schedule to sample more than one item, Stu was anxious for me to try my first beef egg roll ($3.95). You get two per order, and despite being close to full, we never intended to share. Two is perfect per person, and what makes these so delightful is the beef with cream cheese and vegetables.
These are fried, rice paper-style egg rolls, not the bulky, cabbage-filled rolls of Chinese fame, so I could barely detect any vegetables. Though the beef was hearty, the cream cheese pretty much steals the show.
Semmes House of Pizza
3958 Snow Road, Suite C
I was gassed, but we had one more stop. Returning south of 98, Stu wanted to take me to Semmes House of Pizza. I’d been to SHoP before, years ago, but was glad to return. Good thing we made this our final destination, as we were about to go big. We each had a slice from a 28-inch pie. Yes, I was holding a 14-inch slice of pizza. Should you feel the size is a gimmick, let me reassure you it isn’t. It was very delicious.
I had my usual pepperoni and meatballs while Stu had the signature Carmela, which is spinach, garlic, tomatoes, black olives, feta and mozzarella for the win. I believe the name is in honor of the owner’s grandmother, which is a nice touch. At any rate, they are really cooking up a storm over there. It’s even better than the last time I visited.
With a Subaru full of leftovers, I high-tailed it back to Midtown to lethargically teach a few more music lessons, wondering why Semmes has had such a jolt. Still a newly incorporated city, hopefully this new growth is a sign of more to come. Not one bad dish was had that day. Stu’s a total pro. Thanks for the tour!
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