Mobile really has a downtown gem in the Battle House Hotel. We’ve had Nappie Awards after-parties by the pool for the past couple of years that have been really enjoyable. The Trellis Room has a menu that is to die for, and the Joe Cain Café has great pizza and occasional acoustic acts. But if you are looking for something between a fine dining sit-down meal and a casual place with guitar players then look no further than their Royal St. Tavern.
Royal St. Tavern is just to the right of Joe Cain Café and has a slightly elegant feel without being too stuffy. There’s a piano in the corner that on most nights has the great John Anthony of Wet Willie fame at the helm. An impressive list of bourbon and scotch accompany a decent beer list and a menu that is nothing to sneeze at. With Bubble out of town it was time to recruit a dining companion who was already familiar with the place. Enter my booking agent, babysitter, and grammar correctorer, the social butterfly Courtney Anthony.
Courtney is a long-time friend of the family and knows the Tavern well. She was quick to express her thoughts on the best menu deals, the names of the bartenders, the best place to sit for good service, etc. Seems to me I found a pro. So we bellied up to the bar with a little business to discuss and hope for a stellar meal.
Sweetwater 420 was on special for a mere two bucks, so I had to grab one of those. Courtney started off with a water before getting into the Jim Beam and diet Cokes. I ordered the house made potato chips ($.99) to get the evening started. These come with a South Alabama smoked bacon and chive dip. The dip was creamy and fairly sturdy, which was fine for those rugged chips.
As we munched on dipped chips, I overheard the bartender say the fellow playing the piano (John Anthony had the night off) was simply a guest of the hotel who wandered into the bar. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call him incredible. Apparently he used to play cruise ships. What a treat it was for us that he played for hours. A pleasant distraction to say the least, but we had to get some grub.
It was like pulling teeth to get my short attention span cohort to order food. I think she didn’t realize what the goal of this mission was. So I decided to order a few things and hoped we would just eat it family style. It began with the Grilled Tuna Nicoise Salad ($11). Baby greens and a few slices of hard-boiled egg supported expertly cooked tuna and olives (with pits) along with an amazing Balsamic syrup. This was right on target. I’d be interested in the recipe for the syrup.
Tell me if this description gets your mouth watering. Buttermilk fried shrimp with jalapeno apple jelly ($10). It is probably not very close to what you are thinking. I can’t remember ever having a batter like this. I would call it crunchy but not too thick. The jalapeno apple jelly makes this dish, keeping your mouth guessing whether the experience is sweet or hot. The jelly is thin enough to be called a sauce, and the jalapenos are subtle but effective. Miss Courtney was especially fond of this one, and she hates fried seafood.
It became apparent that as the bourbon and diets took effect my dining companion was less than interested in talking about food (though she seemed to enjoy everything we had ordered so far) and more interested in talking to our new bar friend from New York. That’s fine by me, but we had one more dish to evaluate.
Tavern wings ($13) were not bad from my angle. They are only offered coated in chipotle barbecue sauce with celery and bleu cheese dressing on the side. The sauce was a bit sticky and sweet. The chipotles by design didn’t bring the heat as much as I’d have liked, but the bleu cheese dressing was fabulous. Still, it is my fault for liking more fire. Whoever came up with this dish deserves a pat on the back. These wings are very good.
I was not receiving much help from my fellow carnivore, so a box was needed. No worries. I don’t mind a cold wing midnight snack at all. We said our goodbyes to Mr. New York and headed west toward a would-be sunset with one of us a lightweight nursing a dizzy head and the other a full stomach.
So here is the skinny on Royal St. Tavern. I find it’s a great place to enjoy a little music at a level you can still hold a conversation. Add to that above average food. Drink prices don’t break the bank. Also, you should know you could come casual or dressy and not feel out of place. The menu on the website did not match the one in the bar and I would like to have tried the duck confit quesadilla, but there’s enough there I will be coming back for round two. I’ll see you there.
Royal St. Tavern
26 North Royal St.