I spent the majority of my 20s waiting tables. Tips and $2.13 an hour helped fund my college education and kept me floating as we were starting Lagniappe, and I got to see what poverty tastes like when you are starting and building a business from the ground up. It tastes like ramen noodles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, in case you were wondering.

I am naturally an introvert and quite clumsy, so I was never what you would call a great server. I didn’t want to hear your joke about how horrible you thought the food was as you handed me your empty plate and if you heard something crashing in the kitchen — like an entire tray of dishes — that was probably me. I think I wore home about as much food as I served.

But I made some of the best friends — friends I still have to this day — and some of the best memories of my life were made while slinging lobster bisque, shrimp po’boys and Tanqueray and tonics in downtown Mobile.

You learn a lot about yourself and humanity while waiting tables.

After a shift one night, a group of us randomly decided to drive over to Destin — you know, at like midnight or so. Sounded like fun. After a few cocktails some other server provided us over there, someone thought it would be a good idea to jump off the Destin Bridge. If someone ever asks me the age-old question “If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” I would sadly have to answer in the affirmative.

Granted it was a low part of the bridge from which we leapt into the darkness. But being the spaz and klutz I am, I predictably flailed my arms the whole way down and when I hit the water, my shoulder popped. I spent the rest of the evening soaking it in the healing waters of a Days Inn bathtub. But hey, at least I didn’t die.  

I did want to die, however, one year during Mardi Gras (one of the most lucrative-but-grueling times to wait tables) when some lovely Mama decided to change her baby’s poopy diaper on one of our cocktail tables right in front of God, King Felix, King Elexis and everyone else trying to gobble a chocolate moonpie down. I guess those pesky lines to the bathroom were just too long. After all, the parade was a-comin’.  

And if that wasn’t horrible enough, Mama didn’t even bother to dispose of the diaper herself, she just left Junior’s big blowout on the table and the associated soiled wipes used in the butt-cleaning process for us to get rid of for her. I guess there is a
reason they say Mobile is America’s “family friendly” Mardi Gras. Such Klass with a capital K!

Every server has their collection of war stories from the front lines. Some are magnificent or even magical; others are maudlin or morbid, but they are all pretty unforgettable. And you never forget the brothers and sisters you served with in aprons.

Though I still cringe when I think about the woman who would always tell me the exact percentages of sweet and unsweet tea she wanted in her glass (“Now, I don’t want a half and half, I want more of a 65/35.” Go home and make your own damn tea then, lady!), I still have fond memories of those days. And of the people who know exactly which woman I am talking about to this day.

Perhaps this fondness is what has me so excited about this issue of Lagniappe and the special promotion we are having this week. Thumb to the middle section to find out all the details of Mobile Bay Restaurant Week.

This week is dedicated to showcasing our local restaurants and talented chefs. All of the participating restaurants have come up with a special or a special menu just for this week. Some are presenting their most popular or award-winning menu items or classic fare, while others are coming up with creative menus designed just for the week.

Our hope is this will encourage our readers to try or reacquaint themselves with these restaurants. There is a lot of culinary talent in this town — from the hot, new kids on the block to the ones who have been building our food scene for decades. And this week is all about celebrating them and our local flavor in the most literal sense possible.

And it’s easy. There are no special tickets required. All you have to do is check out the participating restaurants and start eating. And with prices ranging from just $5 to special menu prices for fine dining establishments, you can try many different restaurants from across our culinary spectrum.

We hope this week will just keep getting bigger and bigger and become something Mobilians look forward to each year.

Don’t worry. Diaper-changing Mama and 65/35 lady are not invited.