Over the past year and a half we have seen a rise in downtown restaurants that are a small-to-moderate step above casual. That’s what Mobile cherishes the most, right? This is as much of a fine dining/casual atmosphere town as I have seen, which isn’t all that bad.
Maybe you think we could use a couple more “jacket required” restaurants here in the Port City, but you can be more than happy to be the guy in the jeans and a nice shirt as long as the girlfriend is pleased with your attire.
As these types of restaurants are seeing their share of popularity, you’d be hard pressed to find one more popular right now than Five. Many of you have visited the Birmingham and Tuscaloosa locations, and I am certain more than a few Crimson Tide fans hummed a couple bars of the fight song when Mobile got its own branch. But the success of our Mobile location seems to be well deserved.
Located in the former Bull restaurant next to Wintzell’s Oyster House, Five is in a prime location. With a few cosmetic changes and enough light fixtures to be seen from outer space should the roof ever disappear, the new restaurant/bar will still feel like home to fans of the building’s former tenants. I was certainly a fan of the Bull but am pleased with what it has become. Mobile must think so too as it was so packed we had to eat at the bar on a Wednesday evening.
With five entrees, five appetizers, five daily specials and a wine list of five reds and five whites, it doesn’t take Lt. Columbo to detect a theme here. It may sound like a bit of a gimmick but it suits me fine. I don’t need too many choices.
So on a night where I got semi-gussied up, sans tie, I took my favorite real estate mogul Catherine and our friend Priscilla Bell Jenkins out to Five so she could celebrate making an offer on a new house. Priscilla Bell was so excited that we had to start with a round of drinks.
Of the five cocktails (all $8) on offer, I broke the ice with Bordeaux Bourbon — Maker’s Mark, St. Germain and ginger ale garnished with Bordeaux cherries — what had sort of an Old Fashioned taste. Catherine predictably had the Prosé, a combination of rosé, peach schnapps, St. Germain and Champagne. It was Priscilla Bell who wisely ordered the Jalapeño Margarita, a wonderful combination of Camarena tequila, pineapple and jalapeño slices.
If there is an appetizer (Five prefers the term “snack”) for which the restaurant is known, it would be Uptown Chicken ($7). Asian slaw that is a little sweet and a tad spicy was complementary to the crispy chicken. I see why it’s a favorite. For the three of us we needed a second snack before the big show and ended up with a delicious Baked Avocado ($8) stuffed with shrimp and bacon.
When it came to entrees Catherine decided to stay with the snack side of the menu and ordered Stuffed Mushrooms ($7). With Italian sausage and mozzarella, how could you go wrong? The larger-than-bite-sized ‘shrooms were enough for a smaller appetite.
For our hopeful homeowner, a Cheeseburger ($13) sounded like an unlikely way to celebrate, but wait until you hear about this one. In between two thin patties was a slice of melted cheese and the properly sized bun housed a tangy bacon relish. This is a new style of burger — almost retro — compared to the monsters we’ve seen over the past decade. With hand-cut fries and a house salad, it seems like a good price.
Shrimp Capellini ($21) grabbed my attention. For some reason I was feeling the angel hair that night, much to the surprise of my dining mates. With wonderful Gulf shrimp and asparagus mixed in with the pasta, the tomatoes and herb butter dressed the dish well.
This also came with a house salad of mixed greens, almonds, goat cheese and strawberries with white balsamic vinaigrette. Yes, it is an amazing salad. My only complaint is that it didn’t go well with my dish. I love fruit, nuts and goat cheese but my pasta would have been better served with something a little less sweet, perhaps a Caesar. But I’m not complaining too loudly.
Washing all of this down with a half-priced bottle of Sea Glass Rosé, I would say we had a pretty stellar meal for a moderate price. For dessert there was some type of bread pudding (sadly they do not offer five desserts) and I just wasn’t feeling the heaviness of it. Maybe something cold, light and summery would’ve gotten me to bite.
Our dessert was replaced with a couple of creamy shots, each with a dash of cocoa powder. I can’t recall the name of these clever libations but our bartender was making sure we had a little bit of sweetness to polish off our meal. She was great. Smart, knew the menu well and was attentive without being annoying.
As if I didn’t give you enough reason to visit Five, the menu also offers vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options for those of you on special diets. Mostly considered a dinner hotspot, they are open every day 5-10 p.m. (until midnight on weekends), but do have a lunch crowd Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. as well as a Sunday brunch that begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m.
For a restaurant that feeds the jeans and button-downs as well as the suits and cocktail dresses, I think Five has some staying power. Best of luck to them, and good luck on the house, Priscilla Belle Jenkins.