Let’s face it: Dieting sucks. I have enough rebellion in me that if you tell me I am not allowed to do something, I will crave it. Here I am in the midst of a strict diet and exercise program that, by design, should get me into that summer bod I’ve been wishing I had for the past few years. Catherine and I are doing this together, and it has been relatively easy. Nothing could stand in our way of shedding the pounds, or so I thought.
“Who should I review this week?” I asked Rob.
“Let’s do Dumbwaiter for lunch,” he replied. No arguments. We put the diet on “pause” for a couple of hours.
A late lunch would be the perfect way to suspend the running (more like flailing about the streets) and restrictive meal plan of salad and more salad. I’m not much of a sinner these days, but I was long overdue a little gluttony.
We each grabbed our best gal and drove downtown for a 1 p.m. double date at what has become one of Mobile’s more popular upscale restaurants. Dumbwaiter is a go-to dinner spot for me, but this would be my first visit in the daylight hours.
The dinner menu is a touch different from lunch but there are some similarities. You do not go to Dumbwaiter without getting the New South Brussels’ Sprouts ($10), and lunch is no exception. One of my favorite dishes in the city, their sweetness comes with the tartness of balsamic vinegar with red onion and bacon. It’s a perfect appetizer for two. Was it enough for four? I almost asked for a second helping but figured I was already cheating on my diet.
Of course ladies order first. Beth (currently not on a diet) had the audacity to order a Baby Spinach Salad ($9) with added chicken ($15). How could she do this? It really makes me look bad. At least this health-conscious pile of baby greens came with crumbled goat cheese, onion, tomatoes and candied bacon. The healthy balsamic vinaigrette counteracted the garlic croutons. I was afforded a bite and can say the candied bacon brought it all together.
For Catherine, the choice between the Blackened Chicken Sandwich ($11.95) and the Mobile Benedict ($14.50) was a tough one. The sandwich had mozzarella and Wickles, but in the end the Benedict won her heart. A fried egg on a crab cake on a biscuit was adorned with grilled asparagus and a creamy Bienville shrimp sauce. It was a little decadent, and very tasty.
I was pleased to see Rob order Chef Chris’ Shrimp and Grits ($14), as I have never tried them. Stone ground white cheddar grits are the base but an andouille and Conecuh sausage cream reduction with sautéed gulf shrimp made this dish. It’s rich, for sure. You won’t leave the table hungry. This version ranks high among the popular shrimp and grits in our area.
I know it isn’t a competition but I would like to think I out-ordered everyone. The waitress tried to talk me into their hook-to-table special but I couldn’t keep my mind off the Pecan Crusted Chicken ($13.75). The chicken was excellent but the star of this show was the butternut squash ravioli. The menu says there is a pumpkin and brown-butter puree with a creamy maple and onion soubise, but our waitress said they took the pumpkin out of the equation. Pumpkin or no pumpkin, I was thoroughly impressed with this. It was quite filling and just what my calorie-deprived body needed that day. Did I out-order everyone at our table? I think I did.
I couldn’t help but eye the accompaniments portion of the menu, more specifically the black eyed peas ($5). If you’ve ever wondered what a five-dollar bill’s worth of black eyed peas tastes like, I would tell you they were worth a 10-dollar bill. A little dab of hot sauce and these were as good as homemade.
Of course the obligatory “did you save room for dessert?” question was uttered and I had to take it home with me. Dumbwaiter has a ton of desserts, so many the waitress was out of breath by the end of her presentation. I settled on Banana Pudding Cake ($10). Confused? The cake part was banana nut bread with banana pudding and vanilla wafers in between the layers with an icing on the outside. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Imagine being at home, on a diet, staring at this confection knowing you are allowed to do nothing more than taste it. That may be the definition of self control. Of which I have none. I ate half of it like a real man.
Dumbwaiter’s dinner menu is full of signature entrees on top of larger-sized versions of the lunch items we enjoyed. They are very fond of the pig and even have a dish called the Alabama Study of Pork. Having oysters of the day from different areas is certainly a draw. I don’t have many complaints, but one would be that they don’t offer gumbo by the cup. The market-priced daily gumbo special only comes in a bowl. I’d have gladly paid over half the price for half the gumbo, but I was scared off by the word “bowl.”
If you haven’t heard the news, Dumbwaiter is taking steps to extend its presence from one end of Dauphin Street to the other. They still may be a couple months out, but plans are to open a second location in Legacy Village, just west of Interstate 65. Can Mobile handle a second Dumbwaiter? Why not give the people what they want — more of a good thing!
Let’s hope this diet gets back on track. I need to make room for more.
167 Dauphin St.
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