758 Downtowner Blvd.
Mobile, AL 36609
Coronavirus, storm damage, a week without pay, a fridge and air conditioner in need of attention … what else? May as well go ahead and stub a toe. In a bleak week, as citizens of Mobile and Baldwin counties do their best to pull it all back together, the blessings will have to be counted and attitudes will have to be adjusted.
The sadder part of the week was when my eldest moved back into the dorm at ASMS. This slightly depressed dad needed some QT with his second in command, Graham. I started this journalism pursuit when he was in the womb. He will be 11 this January, but he’s a century’s worth of inspiration. He’s always been the adventurous eater. I wouldn’t call him fearless, but I could comfortably deem the young man culinarily brave.
He’s still doing the distance learning thing, so when I needed a Chewie to my Han Solo (we don’t call shotgun; we call Chewbacca), this mini-me was the one on speed dial. We’d seen signs around the city for the newish Biryani Pot on Downtowner, so I knew my open-minded buddy would be the perfect lunch date.
We were one of the first tables that day, walking into the smell of incense and cleaning products. Our tight schedule needed us back home by 12:45 p.m. for his second round of online classes, but we weren’t rushed.
I wasn’t intent on giving him too many parameters for the large menu, so he took the reins and ordered sweet corn soup ($3.99). It took awhile for the light broth and corn to cool off enough to eat, but when it did, his expression told me he loved it. I’m not sure what I expected it to look like, but this wasn’t it. For what it lacked in attractiveness it made up for in flavor.
They didn’t have any momos on the menu, so we had to settle for the samosa chat ($6.99). Samosas are a fried Indian pastry with chaat being a broader term for street food. Basically, the crunchy samosas were drowned in a sea of what tasted like chickpea curry. The fresh onion and tomatoes make it a bright-tasting appetizer, and I’m pretty sure this will be a dish I will always get. We were both sold on this one.
Our waiter recommended we try the masala dosa ($8.99). I was told this was also great for breakfast. I can see why. The dosa is like a giant, thin crepe. By giant I mean two or three feet in diameter! I’d really like to see this being made just to get a grip on the circumference and to see them flip this fancy pancake. Rolled up like a burrito, this monster stretched across the real estate between Graham’s side of the table and mine. With a mild filling, we just tore into it with our hands and tried the three different dipping sauces with varying levels of spice.
Goat Chops of Heaven ($15.99) were a must. I don’t get enough goat in my diet. These were marinated in very aromatic Indian spices topped with fresh herbs, raw red onion and a lime wedge. They are hotter than you think, taking a few seconds for the sting to set in. I noticed the heat, but wasn’t severely affected by it. They had Graham reaching for the water, but we both thought they were delicious. Heavenly? I don’t know for sure, but they were pretty close.
We figured the tandoori chicken ($8.99 for half) would suit Graham. He grabbed a leg and I grabbed a thigh as the slightly spicy, glowing red chicken was dipped into a light-green, yogurt-based sauce. I’d say it was as good as any, and we still had a couple of pieces to take home. But we weren’t done.
There was a rice special called lamb biryani ($13.99) that needed some investigation. A gorgeous dish arrived with a heap of rice noodles that resembled a Mexican blend of cheese cresting over what looked like chili. This plentiful concoction of chunky lamb in a dark red sauce could feed two people on its own, but we knew we weren’t paying for supper. The medium heat was a little much for Graham, but I found it eye-opening. The huge chunks of raw red onion and fresh greenery appealed to the eyes, nose and tongue.
Several customers came in for takeout, staring at the less-than-intelligent amount of food on our table as if we belonged to the More Money Than Sense Club, but I think they were just jealous. I overheard one customer inquire about the currently out-of-commission buffet. From what I pieced together, it’s making a comeback in the next week or two. I’d be very interested in seeing the style of food they serve en masse. Those five pages of entrees and apps will have to be narrowed down, but it will be a much more cost-effective way of sampling than what we did that day.
We walked out of that building with two armloads of leftovers, future dinner for two houses. Graham spoke of how awesome his lunch had been, but said he really liked the sweet corn soup the best. From the goat to the lamb, from the chicken to the samosas, I’ll have to say the meal was dynamic and adventurous. If the soup was his favorite part, I was proud for him.
I didn’t say it out loud, but my favorite part was eating with him.
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