South Mobile County is largely uncharted culinary territory for me. I don’t spend a lot of time in the Forest Gump region of our fair state. But recently I heard about a place that would make the drive worthwhile, with a menu so eclectic you may end up with something country fried next to your Pad Thai. For this we look no further than Von’s Restaurant and Grill.
I’d had an all around rough week. I nightmarishly moved from midtown to another part of midtown in the midst of what would normally be a positive transition, but there were a couple of bad days where things beyond my control were crashing around me. Yes, I do not get them often, but I was coming down with a good ol’ case of the blues. In this rare occurrence the best thing to do to combat the situation is to change the scenery. So I called up Rob and we jetted on down to Bayou la Batre to Von’s.
The smallish unassuming building looks just like some place you’d find on a road less traveled and if you were a betting man you’d gamble it housed a country buffet. Rob and I walked into a handful of open tables in a room that looked exactly as I expected sans said buffet. It was the two of us at a table for four, but when I am down and out I can eat enough to compensate for the space. Call it emotional eating. They weren’t serving anyone else whiskey that day at 11 a.m., so we opted for the wiser choice of water with lemon, you know, just trying to fit in.
I mentioned this menu was eclectic. The description is American and Asian cuisine, but it’s more than that. We were choosing from stuffed burgers, seafood baskets, five different fettuccine dishes, Panini, po-boys and other sandwiches, fusion appetizers and a good sized Asian menu. On top of all this there are two American daily specials and one Asian special.
There was a lot of ground to cover so we decided to sacrifice our health for the sake of journalism. Our first dish was gulf crabmeat and cheese wontons ($5.99). There were eight of them on the platter with a little bit of sauce for dipping. I’d say we were off to a good start.
Rob was craving the gumbo ($3.99 per cup) while I eyed the crab bisque at the same price. The gumbo was not as thick as some but good. The bisque was buttery, but maybe the better choice.
We were trying to touch on all parts of the menu (except salads) and neither one of us was feeling the pasta. Rob had the grilled grouper ($14.99). It was cooked fine, there just wasn’t too much to it for the price. It came with sweet potato fries that were well seasoned and he enjoyed a salad with bleu cheese dressing. He’s a bit of a health nut.
I was certainly in the mood for some spirit-lifting Asian cuisine. I was keen on a couple of things, but the waitress said most folks order the Hibachi Express ($8.99). I ordered mine with shrimp. This was the usual veggies and fried rice, but it was exactly what I needed.
We couldn’t come all this way and try this much food without having a burger. The one that drew the attention was the Inside-out burger ($6.99). We asked what made this one inside-out, and the answer was that it was stuffed with bacon and cheese. Cut in half we couldn’t find any bacon and cheese on the inside of the patty, but the outside was smothered in both. This is the kind of burger I enjoy. I didn’t have to unhinge my jaw to eat this one. It was cooked medium, but still tasty.
Needless to say after all of this food there was no room for bread pudding, strawberry shortcake or brownie delight, but they sounded good.
Von’s is definitely worth the drive if you are looking for something different or at the very least a lot of variety under one roof. It’s nothing fancy. It’s a local’s place for sure. I get the feeling Bayou la Batre is happy to have them grace Wintzell Avenue. To a Midtown boy like me it seems like it’s a billion miles away. Once we knew where we were going the drive was quite enjoyable.
But if you don’t want to drive that distance or simply don’t have the time then check out their food truck. This is where they shine with daily special eccentricities. Loaded Boston butt tots seem to be a recurring item. Seafood nachos with parmesan and Creole sauce are often the norm. Banh mi, egg rolls and bisque are just as likely to be on the menu as chicken sliders and shrimp and grits. Check in on Facebook for truck locations and daily specials by searching Von’s Food Truck.
I paid the very affordable bill, and Rob and I hopped in the car for our journey to the center of our daily grind. Sure, I’d had a tough week. But the fog was lifting. Spirits were a bit higher and the sun shone brightly over midtown. For some it would be a hassle to head down to Bayou la Batre for lunch. For me, it was just what I needed.
Check them out at www.vonsrestaurantandgrill.com