It’s high noon on Dauphin Street. Well, almost high noon. I was given the task of reviewing one of Mobile’s latest favorites, The Noble South, and it was a task I would not take lightly, no culinary pun intended. The latest craze features as much fresh and local ingredients rendering it the closest thing to a true “farm to table” restaurant downtown has to offer.
Nestled in the former Busaba’s building, The Noble South charmingly offers plenty of natural light through the giant north facing windows illuminating the exposed and whitewashed brick on the interior. I’d been in the place once before and was pleased with the mason jar of pickled shrimp ($7.00) with bits of onion. This maybe my favorite appetizer on the lighter side. Served simply with saltine crackers, it’s difficult to not drink the juice straight from the jar.
On that first trip I also enjoyed the chicken thighs, catfish, succotash and macaroni and cheese. All of these lunch portions were top notch and priced in the $10 range. I felt with the success of my first visit I was glad to be there for a review of some other items. Then the door creaked.
The light through the windows shone straight down. Time stood still for a brief moment. The piano ceased to play. You could hear a pin drop.
I looked up from my menu and walking through the double-hinged door was the roughest, toughest carnivore to ever park his horse on Bienville Square and stuff the meter with pesos. The wait staff began to tremble. It was rival food critic David “Medium Rare” Holloway of al.com and the Press-Register.
This here is what you call an Alabama showdown.
Holloway spotted me a couple tables apart and made his way over just to let me know he had his eye on me. “You workin’?” says he as his spurs lost their jangle. “I’m working,” says I. “Good, good. Enjoy yourself.” My God, this man has a poker face.
The piano player started into a ragtime number and the buzz of conversation seemed to crescendo to a roar. I couldn’t be outdone, high noon, in my own territory by a man with an entourage. I have a couple folks to call upon should things get out of hand.
Doc Denison the undertaker (he’s not a real doctor) is at the bar but isn’t drinking. He’s no good sober. Miss Calamity Courtney is there, but refusing to eat. Stressed about her propensity toward breaking things, I guess. Looks like I am flying solo, and I better make it count.
My idea was to try as much of the menu that I missed on my last excursion. I began with the Snacks menu. Deviled eggs ($5.00) were sadly overlooked on my first visit. These have bacon, arugula and caviar on top. A hint of spiciness that I enjoy, the four halves were not going home with me.
Hummus ($6.00) was an interesting take. Served with cucumber slices rather than chips or pita, the tapenade of roasted jalapeno and eggplant was delightful. I actually asked for more cucumber to finish the job.
The best appetizer was the pork rillette ($5.00). The minced pork was served in a tiny Mason jar with incredible toast. Spread it on the bread and top it with the provided peach chutney and heaven awaits. I liked this as much or more than the pickled shrimp.
From the sandwich menu I couldn’t get past the bacon, egg, and pimiento cheese sandwich ($8.00). This is a monster, and though I had to take most of it home with me it held up much better than I expected when consumed the next day. The sweet potato waffle fries didn’t make it to the buggy. Delicious.
I know you can’t believe it, but I was just getting to the entrée. Grilled shrimp with two sides ($10.00) were to die for. My only complaint was the portion was a mere four shrimp. I did eat the shell and all. I’m not kidding. The fried okra served as a side were all well seasoned and sliced lengthwise. I’ll do that from here on out.
The only hitch in the giddy-up was that I ordered squash casserole but received macaroni and cheese. It’s great, don’t get me wrong. But I needed more vegetables at this point. I brought it to our waitress’ attention and was up to my chaps in casserole in minutes. I was thinking it would be yellow squash but it turned out to be zucchini. I would call this a well prepared, lightly breaded version of something a talented grandmother would provide.
I didn’t see any sweet treats on the menu, but if you think I would have had any of that you are crazier than a road running lizard. There was no more fight in this dog. I had eaten all I could. It was time to pack up the duds and scoot.
Walking out I passed Holloway’s table. I had to stop.
“What did you get?” he inquired, trying to get me to spill the beans. “Durned near everything,” I replied. We talked for a bit about how he was sick of hamburgers as his posse cautiously listened in. Then ol’ Medium Rare Holloway did the unthinkable. He offered me a bite of the one thing I didn’t order. Braised pork. He got me.
Though I declined, I realized he wasn’t the ornery cowpoke with loaded holsters. He was a good man with good taste. Maybe this town IS big enough for the two of us. See you around, kid.
The Noble South
203 Dauphin St.