Neighbor’s Seafood and Chicken
5830 Three Notch Road
Mobile, AL 36619
This week I needed to get out of my comfort zone. We dodged the hurricane bullet, losing only half a limb from a pecan tree. The power never went out. I watched a bit of Netflix in the comfort of my air-conditioned living room. We cooked on the grill whenever there was no rain. What was factored to be a week of excitement was nothing more than a thankfully boring week of comfort.
I was stuck in the rut of eating at the same places, the same food, with the same people. But in the back of my mind, I could hear a conversation I’d had a month ago about a spot in Tillman’s Corner called Neighbor’s.
This is a popular place with the western lunch and dinner crowd. Neighbor’s may not be a familiar name to those of us who reside in the Midtown and downtown neighborhoods, but when you get west of that line of demarcation known as Interstate 65, that name carries some weight.
It was my first time entering the building, which despite being at capacity (save the social distancing booths blocked off with upturned chairs), was spic and span. It looked as if most of the people there were regulars, but as a newcomer, I needed someone to show me the ropes. The sign boasted “seafood, chicken and vegetables.” I was going to try all three with a little guidance from our waitress.
Seafood gumbo ($4.99 per cup) wasn’t bad. It had a good bit of chicken and shrimp with a lot of rice and not much roux, but a touch of Crystal hot sauce sparked it up.
A seafood platter ($17.99) was much closer to the mark. They call this the “four way,” alluding to the crab claws, shrimp, oysters and fish. Today’s catch was catfish, I was told, with a look as if she was asking for my approval. “Is that OK?” Yes, ma’am. That is perfectly OK.
This platter is a lot of food. Nothing was overdone. The fish was perfect in its gritty batter as the rest were heavier on the flour. Of all the things on my plate, the most plentiful were the crab claws. I’ll wager half of the plate was claws, the most expensive of the four, and their size was not lacking. I didn’t want to be rude and was trying to finish the whole thing, but I couldn’t.
To make matters worse, there were two sides. Cheese grits were thick, best when chasing a bite of fish. The turnip greens were excellent with small bits of the root peeking from under the blanket of hot sauce I doused them with. I’m not too big on yellow cornmeal hush puppies, but using them to soak up that pot liquor gave them their purpose.
After I’d checked off my seafood card, it was on to the chicken. The three-piece fried chicken dinner ($7.99 for the dark) did not disappoint. Two legs and a thigh were a steal compared to any fast-food deals. So crispy and juicy, it was remarkable how not greasy it was. I thought the seafood was good, but this chicken was better.
I’d succumbed to the lima beans that accompanied the meal, the waitress warning me they were the white ones, another statement that seemed to have a question mark at the end of it. I’m a fan of all limas, even the chalky white ones that beg for cornbread and, yes, more hot sauce.
She also helped me navigate through the sides saying, “I don’t know if you like cabbage or not, but we have the best cabbage in the world.” That sounded like a dare. With small bits of bacon, this cabbage had a sweet, buttery taste. You could tell they knew what they were doing.
Of course, the lion’s share of this came home dressed in Styrofoam, but I wasn’t done. My brain kept going back to the menu, especially to the section of livers and gizzards. Let me be clear when I say I am not especially fond of gizzards. I do, however, love livers.
My dad was a gizzard man, but I inherited the liver love. My friend David A. Rasp is the last of the gizzard-loving men I know, and we’ve been known to share one or two, trading a liver for a gizzard, if they’re cooked right. I immediately thought of him when I saw this and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try a few.
I ordered a pint to go, and told our waitress, “If they aren’t any good I will be coming back to raise some cane.” She didn’t skip a beat when she said, “Honey, I can tell you ahead of time that they aren’t any good. I can’t stand those things.”
By the time I reached the house, I had worked up enough of an appetite to eat one while they were still hot, this time with ketchup and Louisiana Red Dot. If these aren’t the best livers in town, they will at least be in the top two. I’ll be dragging Dave to Left Mobile the first chance I get so we can have a crack at the gizzards.
Getting out of my comfort zone and driving a little was the right thing to do this week. There really isn’t anything necessarily special about this place, other than the fact that they execute very well. That says a lot. If you find yourself in the area, give this gem a shot. The sign said, “seafood, chicken and vegetables.” They are killing it with all three.
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