I can see why. Last Saturday I was at the bar of Southern National for a little nibbling, sipping and ogling with Tim behind the bar and Chef Duane Nutter working the kitchen. Grilled okra with peppers and a pimiento cheese dish blew me away, as did the wine.

I spent a little time with the bourbon menu and found a delightful Colonel E.H. Taylor (from Buffalo Trace) complementary to the dessert menu. I love bourbon with chocolate but it’s even better with panna cotta with crushed Nutter Butters.

Nutter and restaurateur Reggie Washington have made quite the pair. “We are just so very happy for our team and my hometown of Mobile,” says Washington. “We are so thankful to have had the opportunity to bring our talents to the Gulf Coast and truly appreciate the warm welcome and overwhelming support we’ve received so far.”

When I heard Southern National was a semifinalist in the category of Best New Restaurant for the James Beard Awards, there wasn’t much shock. They’ve taken the city by storm, always busy with no reservations (except Valentine’s Day), and it seems the new hasn’t worn off. The ink on the menu never dries, with Nutter constantly creating masterpieces, so best of luck to them.

Southern National wasn’t the only Alabama restaurant to be nominated. A trio of Alabama chefs was nominated for Best Chef South. Bill Briand of Fisher’s Upstairs in Orange Beach is a name we’re familiar with. David Bancroft of Acre (Auburn) and Timothy Hontzas of Johnny’s Restaurant (Homewood) also made the cut. Highland’s Bar and Grill (Birmingham) is up for Pastry Chef and Outstanding Restaurant, while The Atomic Lounge (also Birmingham) is up for Outstanding Bar Program.

There’s a lot of talent in this state. I’m glad to see it being recognized. We will know the finalists Wednesday, March 14, at 8:30 a.m. central time as they are streamed and live-tweeted from the James Beard Foundation website.

WeMo Bier Garten nears completion

The former Hungry Owl at the corner of Schillinger and Cottage Hill roads will soon be the new LoDa Bier Garten serving our thirsty and hungry neighbors to the left. Expect a sleek look with plenty of taps and enough German potato salad to feed both sides of the city.

In a building known for its hamburgers, it’s fitting that LoDa West (as we are certain to call it) will be serving up the amazing burgers we fell in love with in the downtown location, but in a more kid-friendly environment. Shooting for a mid-March opening, things may stretch closer to April. Either way, it will be here soon.

Dublin to open before St. Paddy’s

Not open as of yet, The Dublin Pub and Eatery has announced they will be open in time to have their first annual St. Patrick’s Day party this year. Plans for an Irish breakfast at 6 a.m., a fish and chips eating contest and six bands throughout the day show they’re coming out of the gate hot.

No word on the actual opening date but social media shows they are shaping up their menu and putting the finishing touches on the building.