14 S. Conception St.
Mobile, AL 36602
Downtown is certainly prepared for Mardi Gras this year, at least as far as food is concerned. There are more restaurants between Broad and Water than at any point I can recall, all ready to seat the wary parade-goer, tipsy traveler or anyone in need of a decent meal. The celebration is upon us, ready to once again put our eateries to the test.
That’s it, isn’t it? You don’t go on vacation and come home telling your friends about the clothes shopping you enjoyed. Maybe you mention a park or a museum, a band or beauty queen you caught at a bar, but ultimately the climax of the conversation boils down to what you took in. Internally speaking. Your friends want to know what you ate, and you can’t wait to brag about it.
We have our hot dog stands and taco hotspots as well as finer dining intermingled with sports bars and burger joints. The only thing missing from Mobile’s Lower Dauphin area (and perhaps the whole city) was an old-fashioned diner. Enter Truman’s.
Located on South Conception between Conti and Dauphin, Truman’s (named after a dog that was named after, well, you get it) is in an old hotel with a giant skylight. The long, slender room gives off a retro vibe with booths hugging the wall on the right and a counter on the left. I decided to test their patience one parade-free day with a baby stroller and two guests.
Baby Henry and I wanted to meet Katie for a downtown lunch before things get too exciting around here. Rob joined us at high noon as I found a suitable table in the back under the aforementioned skylight. There was just enough room for the stroller, and barely enough seclusion to hide the shenanigans of a 16-month-old in need of a nap. Chewing straws, eating napkins and demanding he drink from a “big boy cup” was just the beginning. We’d not even seen our appetizer.
Speaking of, loaded fries ($8) were a great opening act. Old-school, crinkle-cut French fries were topped with nacho cheese and our choice of beef, pork or chicken. In a rush, I ordered beef. I’m not implying it was a “mis-steak!” This was more of the kind of shaved beef you’d get on a steak sandwich or Philly. Flying solo or under the influence post-parade, this would be a good meal for one, without augmentation.
Rob fancies himself a connoisseur of chicken salad. Despite his blood-boiling hatred for mayonnaise, this guy eats gallons of it annually via chicken salad, but wouldn’t dare allow any on his bread. I knew his lunch order would be the chicken salad sandwich ($8). You can get it on white or wheat, toasted, with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle on request. The wheat version was really good, but may have been overshadowed by his side of fried cheese curds that came with it.
No, it wasn’t a plate of mozzarella sticks. It was much more. Soft and gooey, these sweet nuggets were served with an even sweeter marinara sauce for dipping. I was in love.
I figured it a good idea to try Truman’s cheesesteak ($8) and couldn’t help but wonder if this was Truman the dog’s favorite or his idea. The seared prime beef was the same from the fries with sweet onions and bell pepper under the cheese, and the 6-inch hoagie roll was super soft. Good dog. They were out of their acclaimed potato salad, so I ended up with jalapeño poppers. They were good, just not a cohesive choice with my sandwich.
Sweet Katie fell for the pulled pork sandwich ($8). She spent some of her formative years in Memphis, so you can’t keep her from barbecue. The menu says, “We rub it right and smoke our pork, in house, to perfection.” The brioche bun was a nice touch, and any dryness could be cured with a dose of Mad Dawgs or Harry Baby Honey BBQ.
Just to show how country she can get, my bride ordered fried okra as her side. Let me tell you how particular I am about okra. I cannot stomach the heavily breaded, flour batter that covers most okra (and oysters) around this town. It’s a waste of okra, and oysters, for that matter. The okra here was the cornmeal-type batter like my grandmother made. It’s important you can see the okra and know what you’re getting. I’ve found no better in this town.
If these guys ever decide to fry oysters, they should use a similar batter and will have my money weekly.
The rest of the menu is hot dogs and burgers, but daily specials slip in a surprise or two. The cook gets to stretch his legs here, and that’s where the beacon flashing “classic diner” shines most. You may find red beans and rice on a Monday. Shepherd’s pie, jambalaya or spaghetti and meatballs are classics, but don’t be surprised if street tacos or wings make an appearance.
Closed on Saturdays, Truman’s is basically a lunch place with Sunday Champagne brunch. Keep an eye out for the “yoga brunch,” when Truman’s teams up with Sway Downtown, the next-door yoga spot. You can take in a class and an omelette of your choice with a mimosa for one low price.
There are some good things happening on Conception. This will be their first Mardi Gras, so we will see how they handle it, but the prices are good, it’s quick enough service for strict, lunch hour dining and the daily specials keep it interesting. It’s also worth mentioning they are serving a Truman’s-only flavor of Cammie’s Old Dutch ice cream.
Definitely try these guys. Sandwiches and sides under $10 are hard to beat. I’ll be back.
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