I think of West Mobile as a totally separate city from the Mobile in which I reside. The landscape is very different from our ’06 ZIP code once you cross the river of automobiles traveling I-65. Points beyond have a different look, feel and vibe.

I’m not speaking disparagingly about our neighbors to the left. Twenty years ago when I moved to Mobile I was one of those people. I spent exactly 730 days living near the intersection of Hillcrest and Airport before I headed east and finally settled down. It isn’t that West Mobile doesn’t have a lot to offer. It’s just different, that’s all.

Out of sight, out of mind, but I do get excited when I find a gem of an eatery in the higher-numbered area codes. It’s out of my area of expertise and makes me feel like I have unearthed a clever spot in a foreign land. Truth is I am making more of a big deal out of this than I should. After all, what’s a 15- (to 45-, depending on traffic) minute drive for some exceptional grub? I’d say it’s something I should take advantage of more often.

I wrote about Micheli’s opening a while back but hadn’t made the drive to the corner of Hillcrest and Cottage Hill. The Carriage Towne Shopping Center is its own budding metropolis and can have a pretty hairy entrance/exit depending on the direction you’re coming from or heading to.

A friend of mine was in town and we were in the mood for something different. Micheli’s seemed as good a place as any for me to take semi-pro wrestler Douglas Laertes. Doug is in the waning years of his weekend career, but an interesting character with whom to share a dining experience. I’m all ears when stories of the squared circle come into the conversation, so the extra few minutes in the car were welcomed.

Micheli’s is a sizable café that was bustling with customers before the noon hour. We spotted a table and took our seat near the back of the building and ordered a couple of health-conscious, caffeine-free waters and perused the menu. The special was oven-fried chicken with macaroni and cheese, which despite sounding like heaven on a plate, was too heavy for me to handle this morning.

Four signature salads, three quiches, combination plates and homemade dressings were looking a little more my speed, and I knew Duggy was trying to drop a few pounds before his next match. Fans from the ‘80s remember him as “Dig Dug” but in more recent years you would find him (spoiler alert) as the softer, masked Mr. Wrestling V. As we move into our 40s it’s a little tougher to maintain our shape.

Before I went the lighter route I had to try the soup of the day. Chicken tortilla ($3.49 per cup) sounded a bit boring, but was not what I was expecting. The flavor was incredible and the broth packed such a punch I almost ordered a second. I’ve never been this excited about that particular type of soup, but even the tortillas were perfect as I crumbled them into the cup. Round one was a winner.

For my second round I chose the old standby for the less hungry diner. I’m speaking of the Three Salad Combo ($11). For this you get your choice of any salads including the signatures, as well as pimiento cheese, chicken and tuna salads. I chose the last three. This was kind of a knee-jerk reaction when I had trouble deciding, but once again I was not upset with the result. All three were very well executed and even better with the kettle-cooked potato chips I ordered for an extra buck.

Dig Dug isn’t really a salad man. For him a light lunch is abstaining from the rib-eye. But I must hand it to him, he won the ordering battle as he summoned mix and match sliders ($9). With a choice of two, Duggy bypassed the shrimp and chicken sliders, selecting the pork tenderloin and meatloaf versions.

It was a tense moment when our waitress proclaimed they were out of meatloaf. You should have seen his face. Like magic, she went to the kitchen and returned to say, “We have one left.” Whew! That could have gotten ugly. The pork tenderloin slider was served with horseradish tarragon sauce on the side, and the grunts and groans told me it tasted as good as it looked. But when Duggy sank his teeth into the meatloaf slider I knew he’d struck gold. This tiny patty has a sweet tomato glaze and crispy bacon. Of course I was not offered a bite, nor did I ask.

He was also treated to jalapeno kettle-cooked chips and an Asian slaw that he seemed to enjoy. He hates mayonnaise more than the Iron Sheik, so luckily this was vinegar based.

For dessert I had the perfect-sized lemon square ($1) and he the oatmeal cookie ($1.50). We wrapped it up without feeling too guilty.

Another feature of Micheli’s is the Gourmet-To-Go menu of entrees ready for the oven. I knew someone who would need a quick dinner on the fly when his wife was out of town so I grabbed a baked ziti ($13) for two and a smoked chicken and sausage jambalaya ($12).

Micheli’s also offers a delivery service for meals on the go that runs every Thursday. Check out its Facebook page and place your orders early.

The ride home was a little longer than the ride in, but Duggy and I traded Mid-South Wrestling stories of figure fours, Sugar Bear Harris and other heartwarming tales from our youth that shaped us into the men we have become: a little on the hefty side, willing to hide our identities and fans of good meals. Follow our lead and you can find a good lunch at Micheli’s.

Micheli’s Café
6358 Cottage Hill Road
Mobile 36609