I’d like to think of myself as a good Mobilian, one who tries to embrace and participate in the traditions, visit the spots that have stood the test of time, immersing myself in the things that give the Port City its character, all while inviting others to do the same. There is one place I regret never having visited until now — The Royal Knight Restaurant and Lounge.
I’ve heard a few folks speak on its behalf, singing the Knight’s praises for its good Southern food, but it has slipped my mind for so long. Ashley and I were just saying how it’d been so long since she and I had a meal to ourselves, so I thought this shady spot was the perfect place to take the boss on a lunch date.
This was new territory for both of us and we weren’t quite sure what to expect. I arrived first with my dark sunglasses, fedora and trench coat, making my way past the bar to the collection of tables scattered about the would-be dance floor.
“Is this the kind of place you just sit where you like?” I asked. I was assured it was by the bartender, who was slinging more tea and water than beer and whisky, so I sat at a comfortable spot with a great view of the front door.
Only a minute or two passed before the lovely Mrs. Trice came in from the parking lot dressed as inconspicuously as I was, sans fedora but more expensive eyewear. I had a glass of unsweet tea waiting for her. There were too many things to do today for this to be a drinking meeting, though I’d gladly have ordered her something with more potential should she have expressed interest. She seemed as busy as I was so we did not deviate from the straight and narrow.
When you think of this place, what comes to mind is country cooking, but I will say the menu is a lot larger than I would have guessed. I counted 20 different appetizers including gems like Dang Bang Shrimp, Bacon Wrapped Oysters and Crab Stuffed Jalapeños. That’s a lot of goodness to narrow down.
Ultimately we chose two apps beginning with Ditch Dogs ($7). Bite-sized pieces of Conecuh sausage were battered and deep fried, served with a side of ranch, of course. This seems like a signature dish for the Royal Knight. Toothpicking a nugget or two and dipping it in the preferred bar food condiment led Ashley to say under her breath, “There ain’t nothing wrong with that.”
Out of 20 appetizers you cannot just pick one. Debris Fries ($8) made the cut this time. I knew I wasn’t going to order the debris po’boy for my entrée so I had to get my debris somehow. The roast beef was a little on the chunky side and the gravy was what you’d expect. It was a pretty good way to carb-load before the main course.
The specials of the day were lasagna or dumplings. There was a back and forth on the part of Ashley as everything sounded so good. You could tell she wanted the dumplings but the Hamburger Steak ($10) won her over. This is definitely the one you want if you like that sort of thing. The brown gravy and the thick, juicy patty were every country girl’s dream come true.
With a choice of two sides, Ashley first chose a side salad with blue cheese dressing. This somehow counteracted the fried sausage and french fries we’d been picking on. She brought it all back to reality by ordering fried okra as her second option.
Though she loved her hamburger steak, I could see she’d had to make a tough decision. I ordered the Chicken and Dumplings ($10) like a gentleman should and offered her as much as she could stand. Again, this is really good Southern country cooking. I too was feeling the effects of our appetizers so the same salad was a refreshing option. I ate as much of it as I could. Unable to stand anything else fried on our table, I thought it best to have turnip greens as my other choice.
We ordered a ton of food and took our time eating it. One thing I should say is that Ashley is a really good listener. I must have rambled on about myself for the better part of the meal as we discussed relationships, what the kids are into these days, the latest trends and fashions. We must have had a good conversation because there were gravy stains on our clothes and our table looked as if we’d made several trips to a buffet.
I have no idea if The Royal Knight has dessert or not. I didn’t look for it. I didn’t want to think about it. And although we didn’t finish a single thing, we did enough damage to each dish that there wasn’t enough to take home for any sort of a proper future meal.
I love this place. The food is good. The ambience is that of the bars in which I hung out during the late 1980s and early 1990s. It’s terribly unromantic and just what I wanted it to be. They will get by just fine serving solid Southern fare with quirky appetizers. But wait, there’s more!
The Royal Knight also serves breakfast daily. Weekdays they open at 6 a.m. but wait until 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. You can have your eggs, biscuits, pancakes and build-your-own omelets until 11 a.m., when the menu shifts to lunch.
This place has been around since 1967. What took me so long to get here? Embrace the old places like this one. They are around for a reason. You won’t need your glasses or trench coat.
The Royal Knight
3004 Government St.