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“Give a Hoot” — Eat at West Mobile’s The Hungry Owl

10 Dec

The Hungry Owl is a relatively new addition to the West Mobile dining scene. Although I work in the immediate vicinity, it actually took a somewhat recent episode of TV’s Man vs Food to alert me to the Owl’s delicious culinary offerings. The object of host Adam Richman’s carniverous desire was Chef Tony Nicholas’ Ultimate Tony Burger.  

The chow at the Hungry Owl is Nappie Award Winning (as the above banner obviously implies). And the Ultimate Tony rules the roost. This bulging burger is absolutely massive with toppings like a fried egg, two kinds of cheese, crispy bacon, and jalapenos.

This retro van sits outside the Hungry Owl — too cool!

There’s even a Doggie Park outside – how’s that for added value?

The Owl accents are evident at every turn — inside and out.

The Owl wing door handles are a very creative designer touch.

This (above) is the Original Tony Burger. Big? You’re dern tootin! This baby was priced at $11.99 (c0mes with one side). My side this day was the mashed sweet potatoes — pretty tasty. The taters were served in a tin cup, which briefly reminded me of an old Warner Brothers prison flick. Ha! I must try the smoked gouda grits next time. Now that sounds just dandy. The burger may look well done in the picture, but it was actually cooked just right. Nice and charred on the outside, a little pink on the inside. It’s blending of quality ground beef and Alabama-made Conecuh sausage is pure genius. Mad scientist genius, even — and I mean that in a good way, Tony.   

 So, you may inquire, just what makes the Ultimate Tony so, well, ultimate? They basically take the the Original Tony and further accessorize it with a slippery fried egg, a big ole slab smoked gouda cheese, and a mess of chopped jalapeno peppers. The Ultimate Tony will set you back about $14 buckeroos and also comes equipped with one side item.

Now don’t get me wrong. I may have led you to believe that this is nothing more than a glorified burger palace. If I have, then I should apologize. It’s quite a bit more than that, folks. The menu, which I’m quite anxious to further explore, is surprisingly adventurous. Some of the Cajun and Creole dishes look especially interesting. You might say the non-burger portion of the menu is Southern with a gourmet flair.

So here’s wishing Chef Tony continued success.

We give a hoot about The Hungry Owl — you should too! 

I hope to catch you nesting here soon.

The Hungry Owl – 7899 Cottage Hill Road, Mobile, AL 36695

(251) 633-4479; www.thehungryowl.com

Open for Lunch and Dinner; closed Sunday and Monday

Make The Old 27 Grill Your New Friend in Fairhope

1 Oct

The Old 27 Grill can be found on Alabama State Route 181 (once known as County Road 27) just south of Wal-Mart. It’s somewhat off the beaten path, although this part of Baldwin County is growing more bustling by the day. The local residents are a mix of farmers (cotton, corn, pecans, etc.) and Mobile-based professionals seeking a little more elbow room & greenery.  

The front facade of the restaurant looks relatively new, but the overall vibe is retro general store. As a matter of fact, the word GROCERY actually appears on the sign which tops the eatery’s entry. I was in the vicinity one weekday (late morning) and decided to drop in for an early lunch. Cool looking little joint, I thought. And the reports I had been receiving about the food quality were pretty encouraging. Spotting motorcycles parked out front is another positive indicator. I must add that the American flag flying to the right of the main doorway is a nice touch too.

The patio courtyard at the Old 27 is inviting, for sure. But it was a steamy day in late September and most diners had opted for indoor seating. I joined them inside. The surroundings were clean and appropriately appointed. My glass-topped table had a decidedly Ducks Unlimited theme. Picking up the menu, I was immediately impressed with the variety of choices for such a tiny kitchen.

Hot Dogs & Sausage Dogs are principal players at The Old 27 Grill. The dogs are all beef and offered in your choice of 7″ or 10″. Beyond that, the possibilities are pretty endless. 27 toppings, yes 27, in all. Figures, right? All the basics are here, along with more quirky condiments such as “Comeback” sauce, Green Chili sauce, and that omnipresent Sriracha red chili sauce. The first dozen topping options are free. Others require an additional modest financial commitment.  I also couldn’t help noticing the ambitious list of beverage options. Abita Root Beer, Vernor’s Ginger Ale, Stewart’s Cream Soda, Yuengling, Lazy Magnolia & Abita Beers, and a better than average wine list (bottle prices range from $12-$16). The Old 27 also sells local honey and a variety of their bottled sauces. I guess that is where the GROCERY comes in, huh? 

Beyond weenies, there are several appealing sandwich choices at lunchtime. The burgers are popular, yet I decided to go with Comeback Chicken Sandwich. Marinated chicken breast, bacon, Swiss cheese, crisp lettuce, thinly sliced red onion, and a heaping dollop of Old 27’s signature Comeback sauce. Comeback sauce is a prevalent condiment in the Mississippi Delta. You might say it’s the Magnolia State’s answer to Louisiana’s remoulade. Take some mayo, add some red chili sauce, mix well. That will give you the general idea. Each sauce is slightly different to the next — everyone introducing their own spin or secret ingredient to the party.   

This Comeback Chicken Sandwich (seen below) is elevated by a fresh brioche-style bun at Old 27 Grill. The sandwich was tasty (how could it not be?). My lunch basket was rounded out with a generous helping of Old 27’s housemade potato chips. You can upgrade to fries or onion rings for a slight upcharge, but sticking with the standard option was not a misstep. The chips were great and I was soon a member of the clean plate (or should I say basket?) club.

A closer look at the Comeback Chicken Sandwich at Old 27 Grill

The housemade chips at Old 27 were large, crunchy & delicious

I must say I was tempted by the dessert menu at Old 27. Not that I was still hungry. The sandwich and chips, along with a tall glass of iced tea, had made for a quite satisfying mid-day meal. Brownies, crepes, and soft serve ice cream all make for excellent post-entree selections. I was drawn to the Strawberry Crepe, but that will have to wait for another visit. This first trip to the Old 27 Grill was, in my mind, a success. Sure, my tea was a little weak for my taste. But if that is your biggest gripe, then you are likely doing pretty darn well. The service, I should add, was friendly & swift. The atmosphere homey & welcoming. The overall attention to detail impressive. Looks like I have found a new dining partner in the Old 27 Grill.  

OLD 27 GROCERY & GRILL – 19992 Highway 181, Fairhope, AL

(251) 281-2663; www.old27grill.com

Open Tuesday-Saturday 9 am – 9:30 pm; Sundays 11 am – 8 pm

Tilmo’s Bar B Que Slices It Up Thin in West Mobile

24 Apr

Tilmo’s Bar B Que is located just west of the Mobile Airport on Airport Boulevard. It is fairly easy to find — but way out on the western outskirts of town. Dreamland BBQ, The Shed, and Brick Pit continue to battle it out inside the city limits of Mobile. Tilmo’s has created it’s own little niche with this one and only location. Motor much further west and you’ll be hitting the Mississippi state line.   

Tilmo’s is housed in a rather spartan concrete block building with a most understated sign. It’s not that they’re not proud of their establishment. It’s just that big signs are pricey and this joint was apparently started on a shoestring and a dream. Can’t blame ‘em for that, can we?

After you place your order, your server will bring you a black plastic basket toting a couple slices of fresh white bread and a cup of Tilmo’s signature BBQ sauce. It’s pretty special stuff and you’ll have to fight the temptation to fill up on it. Dip a single bread end into the sauce and take a little taste. It’ll surely get your taste buds revved up.

There’s not a lot of decor or atmosphere inside Tilmo’s. They are obviously going with a “keep it simple” philosophy. I did find the above painting somewhat amusing. They’re not doing whole hog BBQ at Tilmo’s … they specialize is pork shoulders smoked on the premises and then thinly sliced “deli style.” The owner (who was also my server this particular day) explained that his father had fond memories of an Old Mobile restaurant serving their BBQ sandwiches in this manner.

The sliced pork BBQ sandwich at Tilmo’s was very good indeed — smoky and surprisingly lean. Sure, there were a few streaks of pork fat throughout, but that only added to the distinctive flavor. Fat = Flavor, right? I sampled a couple slices sans sauce and found the pork to be quite tasty. I love the little crispy burnt edges. The meat tasted of country ham and/or good hickory smoked bacon. The sauce is great — one of the best in the Mobile area. It’s got a nice bite to it and I dig that.

I had been told the cole slaw at Tilmo’s was special, so I made sure to make that my side order. In hindsight, I wish I had tried the fried okra or sweet potato fries. I’m sure the slaw has its loyal followers, but I was not that impressed. It was a tad dry and bitter for my liking. I had pre-ordered some banana pudding for dessert, so I only polished off about 1/2 of my cup of slaw. You might say I was pacing myself.

The banana pudding, as advertised, was excellent. You will find it especially rewarding if you like lots of whipped cream on top. They certainly do not skimp here at Tilmo’s. The pudding was rich and creamy. There were also plenty of vanilla wafers at the bottom to provide the appropriate amount of counter-texture. A mighty fine way to conclude my lunch.

Tilmo’s probably won’t alter your universe, but they do make a very good pork BBQ sandwich. Their homemade sauce is first rate and the staff is working extremely hard to make this place the best it can be. We invite you to give them a try. We’ve heard the ribs are excellent and BBQ beef brisket is something you don’t normally find this far removed from the Texas border. Stop in and give ‘em a shot. Tell ‘em Dixie Dining sent you over. And don’t forget to save room for some of that nanner puddin’!

Tilmo’s Bar B Que – 10130 Airport Boulevard; 251 633-8109

Our first stop at Huckleberry’s Bar-B-Q in Fanning Springs, Florida

2 Jan

We had passed Huckleberry’s before, but it wasn’t exactly meal time. This time, we found ourselves in the heart of the lunch hour. The sign out front on Highway 19 (pictured above) looked promising enough. The boys were asking for BBQ and this was pretty much the only BBQ joint in town. Fanning Springs isn’t exactly Orlando, you know.

The view from the outside of Huckleberry’s. Great name. And who can resist the image of a pink pig roasting in red hot flames? Well, perhaps the pig. Or a vegetarian. I am neither one. These types of visuals usually result in a fine roadside meal. You are always taking a bit of a risk, yet that is what the adventure of road trip dining is all about. Sure, we could have stopped at Burger King or KFC. But how many times do you find yourself in Fanning Springs, FL? It was time to once again step out of our comfort zone and try something new.

This festive pig greeted us as we stepped into Huckleberry’s .

Luckily, we weren’t packing any heat this day.

Words of wisdom.

My BBQ pork sandwich — it was OK … not great. The service was fast and friendly, but the chopped pork seemed old and tired. Huckleberry’s offers several sauce options. All of them were fine. However, none of them stood out as being exceptional. The baked beans (my choice of side item) were also just so-so. Straught out of the can??? Maybe.

A taste of the interior decor at Huckleberry’s. Lots of country chic and FL plates.

An old timey bacon press. They really do exist. I haven’t seen one — or heard anyone speak of one — in quite some time. What does it do? It flattens bacon in the pan during the cooking process, insuring that the entire strip of fatty goodness is cooked evenly. Who likes those white, chewy curls at the end of a piece of otherwise perfectly cooked bacon? Not this guy. Perfectly cooked pork … something that is hard to find … even in the Deep South. And sadly, you won’t find it at Huckleberry’s either. Fun little dive, nice folks — but not on our A list of Q joints … that’s for certain.

www.huckleberrysbarbq.com

UGA Press publishes “The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook”

5 Oct

The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook

Edited by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge
Foreword by Alton Brown

“Local recipes from the worldly South”

“Each page herein delivers a strong sense of community; the contributions are from real people with real names; the collection is democratic, but with nary a sign of culinary chaos; and the food is just plain good. And here’s the best part, as far as I’m concerned: Regardless of whether it looks back into the past or ahead into the future, this book looks ever Southward.”
—Alton Brown, from the foreword

Everybody has one in their collection. You know—one of those old, spiral- or plastic-tooth-bound cookbooks sold to support a high school marching band, a church, or the local chapter of the Junior League. These recipe collections reflect, with unimpeachable authenticity, the dishes that define communities: chicken and dumplings, macaroni and cheese, chess pie. When the Southern Foodways Alliance began curating a cookbook, it was to these spiral-bound, sauce-splattered pages that they turned for their model.

Including more than 170 tested recipes, this cookbook is a true reflection of southern foodways and the people, regardless of residence or birthplace, who claim this food as their own. Traditional and adapted, fancy and unapologetically plain, these recipes are powerful expressions of collective identity. There is something from—and something for—everyone. The recipes and the stories that accompany them came from academics, writers, catfish farmers, ham curers, attorneys, toqued chefs, and people who just like to cook—spiritual Southerners of myriad ethnicities, origins, and culinary skill levels.

Edited by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge, written, collaboratively, by Sheri Castle, Timothy C. Davis, April McGreger, Angie Mosier, and Fred Sauceman, the book is divided into chapters that represent the region’s iconic foods: Gravy, Garden Goods, Roots, Greens, Rice, Grist, Yardbird, Pig, The Hook, The Hunt, Put Up, and Cane. Therein you’ll find recipes for pimento cheese, country ham with redeye gravy, tomato pie, oyster stew, gumbo z’herbes, and apple stack cake. You’ll learn traditional ways of preserving green beans, and you’ll come to love refried black-eyed peas.

Are you hungry yet? Place your order now!

http://www.amazon.com/Southern-Foodways-Alliance-Community-Cookbook/dp/0820332755

Salted Caramel – “Where Sweet Meets Savory”

16 Jun

We recently received some Salted Caramel treats in our Dixie Dining company mail box. I had seen a write-up about Smoked Pecan Bourbon Caramel Corn in Garden & Gun magazine and I had to give it a go. Turns out the company also makes a killer Bacon Bourbon Caramel Corn. Now that’s about as Southern as it gets! Founded by confectioner Ginna Haravon in 2009, Salted Caramel is a Chicago-based company with it’s heart in the South.

The Bacon Bourbon Caramel Corn is shown above — after I spilled it out on our granite countertop. The Smoked Pecan Bourbon variety was devoured in a flash. Our crew circled and attacked it like a hungry flock of seagulls (insert 80’s hairband joke here). The smoky flavor was subtle, yet very much there.

The pork-laced corn produced a slightly different reaction – as you might imagine. Some dug in heartily, while others popped individual kernals in their mouths and swirled it around like they would a fine wine. In this case I would say fine swine because it was, to my taste buds, mighty fine. The sweet/salty trend has been with us for some time now. And the whole bacon mixed with anything sweet has, along with chocolate covered pretzels, led that culinary charge. Doughnut shops have introduced maple and bacon creations and they have flown off the shelves. Who says pigs can’t fly??? 

Our consensus is that these treats are extra-special and would make an excellent gift for any Southern foodie in your life. Someone once said “Bacon Makes Everything Better” and that certainly holds true with caramel corn. The smoked pork flavor is not overwhelming, but it does provide an extra layer of savory, greasy goodness. So buy some for a friend and don’t forget to score a couple bags for yourself. Eat some for breakfast: “Relax, it’s got bacon in it!” You may even catch yourself “oinking” as you pig out on these delicious, golden brown nuggets. And don’t be surprised if you hear its praises being sung from the kudzu shaded trailer parks to the finest gourmet kitchens throughout Dixie.

As Porky Pig would say … “That’s all folks!!!”

www.saltedcaramel.net 

“Pig – King of the Southern Table”

1 May

We were genuinely excited to receive a review copy of this beautiful new cookbook. It offers up great porcine-centered recipes for any true lover of the mighty Southern hog. James Villas, the natilly attired former Food and Wine Editor at Town and Country,  has obviously put together a winner. Yes, a rather unlikely source — you might think. Town and Country is not exactly a source we mention very often around here. Classy magazine, but not exactly our target audience.  Villas, on the other hand, has already authored The Bacon Cookbook, Biscuit Bliss and Crazy for Casseroles. Feeling any better now? And who, I ask you, can resist 300 pork recipes from a native North Carolinian? Not this guy! 

I flipped through this 424-page beauty and targeted several must-try recipes. These included Outer Banks Muddle (“a mess of fish”), Sherried Ham and Squash Casserole, Betty Jane’s Braised Pork Chops with Port Gravy, Tarpon Springs Greek Burgers, Florida Mango & Prune Stuffed Pork Loin, and a curious breakfast dish known as the Kentucky Scramble.

It all adds up to one fine collection of dishes from a high-brow dandy who has surely not forgotten, nor forsaken, his downhome Dixie roots. Pig out, y’all! 

From Publishers Weekly

If pig is indeed king, then there is trouble at the castle, for Villas (Dancing in the Lowcountry) has stormed the gates and had at him, leaving no sweetbread, shoulder, or chop untasted. So let the commoners rejoice: here are 300 recipes from Southern hog heaven that are juicy, flirtatious, and, at times, scary. Brave hearts will want to immediately dive into the Variety and Special Meats chapter for some deviled pork liver; hog’s head stew; and brains and eggs. The upper crust might prefer a pork pie. Choices include spicy Tennessee sausage; Pork, Apple and Raisin; or Bacon and Corn.
 
A section on barbecue and ribs includes both North and South Carolina styles of BBQ and half a dozen sparerib options. And where lesser authors might stray off-topic when moving to side dishes, Villas, with 13 cookbooks and two James Beard awards under his belt, knows better. All 39 vegetable and rice dishes are chock full of oink, from the mushy turnips with bacon and pork to the slab bacon hoppin’ John.
 
Similarly, there are 20 breads that are decidedly not fat-free. That other Southern king, Elvis, would surely have appreciated the bacon-peanut butter muffins, perhaps chased down with a lard hoecake or some bacon-grease hush puppies.
 

Introducing … Bacon Flavored Envelopes!

26 Feb

From the folks who brought you Bacon Salt & Baconnaise …

Technology has given us a lot lately. The car. TV. X-rays. The refrigerator. The Internet. Heck, we even cured polio. But what have our envelopes tasted like for the last 4,000 years? Armpit, that’s what.

Really, people? If we can’t overcome this kind of minor technical challenge, it’s only a matter of time until some super-advanced race of aliens with lasers, spaceships and a delicious federal mail system comes down and colonizes the world. And nobody wants that (except for the aliens, of course).

So, after thousands of years and kajillions of horrible tasting envelopes licked, we’re happy to report that J&D’s Bacon-Flavored Mmmvelopes™ are here to save the day. No longer will envelopes taste like the underside of your car. You can enjoy the taste of delicious bacon instead.

That’s right, bacon. It’s not real bacon, mind you, so you won’t have to start storing your envelopes in the refrigerator. But it really does taste like bacon. Which is what you really wanted in the first place, isn’t it? And it only took us 4,000 years to get there. Eat that, alien invaders.

Get to lickin’ at www.mmmvelopes.com

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