Photo | Daniel Anderson/Lagniappe
The Cheese Cottage • 650 St. Louis St. Mobile 36602 • 251-308-8488
We see restaurants come and go. Some are poorly executed great ideas that don’t take off. Some are bad ideas that find their footing and do well for a while. I’m sure it’s the same all over the country that the restaurant scene is predictably unpredictable. Never ask the question, “What else could happen?” You may just find out.
As we navigate this path of new restaurant after new restaurant, there are some we don’t pay much mind and others that are unique enough that we develop a cheering section for them. Such is the case of The Cheese Cottage.
Open since January, these guys have made a splash not only as part of a revitalization of downtown’s St. Louis Street with their sharp-looking building, but also as a unique business model for a Mobile restaurant. I was at the grand opening but have waited to return, letting them get a few plates under the belt before I get knee-deep in the fromage.
In case you’re unsure of what this place is, The Cheese Cottage is a specialty cheese shop/delicatessen that also serves sandwiches, salads, charcuterie and more. There is wine sold by the bottle (and in some cases half-bottle), craft beer and rarely found sodas. It has a nice-sized covered patio capable of shielding sun or rain, a few outdoor tables and a table or two indoors where the action is. But on this day I was flying solo and getting a mountain of food on wheels.
The Cheese Cottage, one of downtown Mobile’s newest culinary destinations, offers salads, sandwiches and, of course, dozens of different cheeses from around the Southeast and other regions of the world.
I first noticed the chalkboard menu and decided I should start with a Green Apple Salad ($10) before going crazy with the cheese. Good choice. It was beautifully presented with nicely chopped greens, pecans and cranberries with diced apples and chèvre (goat cheese). Top this with a blueberry vinaigrette and you know these guys mean business.
With a muffuletta on the menu, you know I can’t say no. I’m at the very least a minor enthusiast. At most I’m borderline expert on the subject so let’s meet in the middle and call me a fanatic. The Cheese Cottage goes nontraditional (as most in this area do) and have what they call the Mobile Muffuletta ($14). It does have the capicola, Genoa salami and olive salad with smoked provolone cheese, but the whole thing is more like a panini with Italian bread subbing for the famous muffuletta roll you would expect. The result is an excellent sandwich anyone would be proud to eat but it won’t appease the muffuletta snobs on a quest for traditional. I’m thankful they gave it their own name.
Pimiento cheese is still a hot-ticket item across the South. The Cheese Cottage does a unique version in their Pimiento Cheese and Gouda Bacon Jam ($10). With pimiento cheese made in-house using goat cheese from Alabama makers and aged Gouda, you can imagine the results are pretty good, especially with a bacon and onion jam. Sourdough bread was the best route to take with this sandwich, and the whole thing came together nicely. None of it punches you in the face. It’s a little sweet and subtle, but the kids will love it.
For an extra charge I tried my first bag of Keogh’s Sweet Chili and Irish Red Pepper chips ($2). This brand is all about hand-cooked, gluten-free chips. You can even trace in which field your potato was grown. I also enjoyed one of my fru-fru favorites in Fentimans Rose Lemonade ($3.50). You can taste a hint of ginger in this fermented soda.
Dessert was no less exciting with a slice of chèvre cheesecake ($4). From Alabama makers Belle Chèvre, this slice was thankfully on the small side. I say that because it was rich enough for two. My slice had pecans and blueberry syrup atop the smoothly sweet “cake.” I’ve never used goat cheese in cheesecake. I may start.
So Katie comes home to find styrofoam containers of partially eaten lunches, evidence of a visit to The Cheese Cottage without her. I felt a little ashamed I’d not included her, as she is a bigger cheese fan than I. Next thing you know, we load up the truck and head back for dinner.
This time we kept it light and split a Ploughman’s Lunch ($14.95). This was a simple cheese board with two cheeses, one meat and all the amenities. The Beehive TeaHive cheese was mild and soothing, its rind rubbed with Earl Grey tea. As good as it was, we both preferred the BellaVitano Black Pepper with the hot capicola as our meat. Skinless almonds, white grapes and apple slices were highlights, along with honey that I believe came from Hurley, Mississippi.
Katie drew on a ginger beer ($3.50) and I nursed a Peroni ($6). It was a nice evening finishing before sundown with time to spare.
Yes, things can get a little pricey at The Cheese Cottage, but you get what you pay for. It’s great for a special lunch or a little wine and cheese before you go out for a main course. I love what they have going on and I think that neighborhood is about to explode with business.
Keep an ear out for cheese tastings and specials, and know that this is the cool new place to be. Hours are seasonal, but they appear to close around dark.
The Cheese Cottage has a lot of people cheering for them. They just earned another. Visit them soon.