I was dog sitting last week for my three good friends Maggie, Baxter and Mud. They have their own house on the bay near the Dog River Bridge (no pun intended) and I occasionally get to escape the hustle and bustle of big city living to gaze upon the sleepy waters of the western shore. It’s a dog’s life, for sure, rocking on the back patio, throwing the ball with great care to not launch it past the confines of the invisible electric fence, getting hypnotized by the rippling waves.
As if the view and environs aren’t enough, these three hounds are a joy to be around. I knew my boys would love to meet them and take in the scenery so I ran into town and grabbed them from their mother’s house for a day off the beaten path. This, of course, gave us the chance to try a restaurant not normally on our radar.
It was a Sunday so on our way back to the house we stopped in at the Grande Mariner seeking crab claws. Their Facebook page said they were open but we found out otherwise when we got to the end of the snaky drive through the neighborhood. We were an hour early. No worries. We then consulted my handheld Apple supercomputer and changed course to Bayley’s (opening at noon), in search of the original West Indies salad. We found an empty parking lot and a locked door.
Foiled by social media twice in a row, we went back the way we came, only this time with tears in our eyes and pangs in our stomachs. When we made it to the Dog River Bridge I saw the sign for The River Shack. I’d passed this place four times today and it just didn’t register. The parking lot had been empty just before 11 a.m. Now it was jammed.
Lucas, Graham and I made our way to a table with a view of the water as boat after boat filed in and tied up. I thought to myself, “It must be nice bringing your boat to a restaurant.” The boys must have thought the same thing. Immediately they started asking when I was going to get a boat, and each had picked out their idea of which boat it should be. I only had enough money for lunch.
We had a friendly waiter named Chris who had a pretty good grip on everything, and apps were soon on the way. Crab claws ($9.25 for quarter pound) were still on my brain so I figured I’d give theirs a whirl. I wasn’t let down with the flavor. I should also add that whoever is weighing these things is doing a poor job. This had to be more than a quarter pound. Needless to say I did not ask to speak to a manager.
These boys are growing fast and have appetites of much larger children. Crab claws were not enough for them. Lucas is not a fan of onions. We are seeking some type of therapy. Graham loves onions if they are cooked. A short argument over whether to order fried dill pickles or onion rings was solved by Chris.
The River Shack has an app simply called The Combo ($7.95). Would you believe this is a plate of onion rings and fried dill pickles? No substitutions, but who would? Graham powered through the onion rings like a 50-pound ball of fury but there was no way his big brother was going to tackle the mound of pickles. It was an absurd amount.
For the entrée portion, Graham began with a kid’s size order of popcorn shrimp ($10.95). Sounds pricey for a kid’s meal but the amount was a little overwhelming. He made a pretty good dent before throwing in the towel. His choice of side was coleslaw, which had a lot of purple cabbage but seemed to be good enough for him.
Lucas went for the fried shrimp plate ($17.95). I guess he thinks he’s too big for kid’s meals these days. The dozen fried shrimp were a very good size and like his brother he gave it the old college try. Baked beans and mashed potatoes were his choice of two. Neither of us knew why he ordered the beans. He’s never liked beans.
I asked Chris to tell us his favorite entree. He said he loves the blackened catfish, but the fried catfish has won best catfish in Mobile for years running. I didn’t bother asking who voted on this. I just wanted to know who else in Mobile offers catfish! We both brainstormed five or six places, all of which were closed except for the Dew Drop Inn. True, we have a shortage of catfish in Mobile but a win is a win. I wasn’t shy on trying.
My fried catfish plate ($13.95) was a decent enough amount of fish and quite tasty. I was glad to see white cornmeal in the hushpuppies and the side of lima beans I had was OK. For filets I think they do a good job. I’d drive over that bridge more often if they served whole fish.
Leaving, we walked along the dock so the boys could get a closer view of which boat(s) they wanted me to buy and made our way to the car with an armload of leftovers. If you’re looking for a massive amount of food then the River Shack is the place for you.
It’s really a shame we couldn’t share fried pickles and crab claws with the dogs. The ranch would have matched Maggie’s white coat perfectly. For Mud, the gravy from the potatoes were more his color and Baxter could have been an onion ring guy. These pups are on a much better diet than we are, but I am certain their owners visit The River Shack from time to time.
Dog sitting is a heck of a gig. I later found out Nicolas Cage stayed here when he was filming a movie. Spoiled rotten pups, I wonder what they paid him to dog sit?!
The River Shack
Under the Dog River Bridge