Neighbor's Seafood & Chicken

 5830 3 Notch Road
Mobile, AL

Review: Neighbors Seafood & Chicken

I have been living on the south end of Mobile County now for two years and I finally made it over to Tilman’s Corner to try Neighbors Seafood & Chicken.

Friends and family both have long applauded this local staple and for good reason. I found the atmosphere a little sterile but the food more than made up for it. Though I was dining too late to take advantage of the all-you-can-eat catfish and flounder I did order a seafood combo with both fish plus fried oysters to boot with o-rings and red beans and rice.

I expected two fillets, one of each fish and three oysters along with the obligatory breaded onions so prevalent these days and a spicy mix of Louisiana long grain rice and red beans. Quite reasonable for the price. What arrived was what the Italians call frutti di mare, the fruit of the sea.

There were two catfish fillets and three of flounder. Also hidden under the catfish were the three oysters, no wait four! Make that five perfectly fried oysters. The fillets were fresh and crispy. The red beans and rice did not stand up to the rest of the meal; they tasted like canned beans and steamed rice with no seasoning. The onion rings, by contrast, were the stuff of legend – the real deal. Also underneath the fried bounty was a small handful of fries, presumably there to absorb any extra oil but they were consumed regardless. The plate was accompanied by two hush-puppies and a solitary fried crab claw. I do not know if the claw was a fortuitous faux pas or lagniappe but it I do know it was yummy.

There is one criticizm of Neighbor’s, their drive-thru is the slowest ever. Figure on 10 minutes per car in line. If you are the only customer you will be there 10 minutes. If there are two cars in front of you then you will be there for 30 minutes, five cars = an hour. The drive-thru is so slow that they really should discount the menu prices or include a $5 dollar gas card.

Other than the drive-thru, the service is prompt and amiable and as asserted above the food is terrific. I will definitely put this on my list of quality spots.

Neighbors Seafood & Chicken
5830 Three Notch Rd
Mobile, AL 36619

3 way sampler

Catfish, flounder and oysters all fried up nice and crisp. Very good and filling.


Hideaway Pizza

 326 N Main St
Crestview, FL

Review: Hideaway Pizza, Crestview, FL

The town of Crestview, Florida is not really a destination in and of itself. Sure it is the seat of Okaloosa County, but it is primarily a jumping off point to more interesting locals like Destin, Ft. Walton Beach or DeFuniak Springs. Heck, the sheriff’s department isn’t even located there. The preponderance of business in this tiny Emerald Coast hamlet has migrated from the old city center where State Hwy. 80 and US Hwy. 90 intersect to the junction of Ferdon Blvd. with Interstate 10. There you will find all of the typical monuments to corporate ambiguity.

However, back on (not so much anymore) Main St. in downtown Crestview you will find The Hideaway Pizza. Aptly named because though it resides at 326 N Main St, the pizza joint (and Main St. itself for that matter) are a little hard to find. Ah progress. A descent GPS should save you a few minutes of zigzagging and confusion with quite the payoff at the end.

You will not find much in the way of a wine list at Hideaway nor is there an extensive selection of craft-brewed ales. What you will find are good old Italian/American standbys like Stromboli, pasta, salads & subs, and of course pizza. And what pizza. For toppings they have all the usual suspects and they use a “1950’s New York Pizza Recipe” which means no artificial ingredients, 100% mozzarella and everything made from scratch.

But the eye-catcher on the menu is a pizza called “the Hideaway.” A 15" pizza with eight huge slices and each slice is covered in a different topping – one slice of pepperoni, one of sausage, one of mushroom, you get the picture. It looks amazing with such a colorful display. The most surprising slice of the set? One totally covered in black olives, unbelievable. There were so many you couldn’t even see the crust and the flavor was so robust it hurt.

If you are visiting the beautiful sugar white sands of the Florida panhandle and need a reprieve from all of the incredible seafood to be had there then tell Tom Tom to lead the way to The Hideaway Pizza. You’ll thank me later.

the Hideaway

The look is brilliant with each slice of the pizza having a completely different topping. The taste is great, too.


Chuck's Bar B Que Incorporated

 905 Short Ave
Opelika, AL

Review: Chuck’s Bar-B-Que, Opelika, Alabama

Auburn, Alabama, home of Auburn University, has a population of 42,987. But that number swells to over 130,000 on Saturdays in the fall when the Auburn Tigers hit the gridiron. Legend has it that a crowd exceeding 200,000 was on hand for Auburn’s game with the University of Georgia in 2004. Football is a religion in the South, and Alabama is its holy land. The Auburn Tigers are undeniably the best team in the state and are arguably the best team in the nation’s best conference. The phrase “game day” is a bit misleading in this small college town as the RV’s begin showing up at 5 p.m. on Thursdays. Why 5 p.m. on Thursdays? Because they aren’t allowed in any sooner.

For many, a trip to Auburn for the big game is not complete without a visit to Chuck’s Bar-B-Que in the neighboring town of Opelika. The central Georgia/Alabama area has a barbecue style that is distinct to this region. It originated in the 50’s at a place in Columbus, GA called Smokey Pig by Buck Ferrell. Buck is the uncle of Chuck’s owner, Chuck Ferrell. Chuck’s Bar-B-Que has become the standard barer for the Smokey Pig style of cue.

So what is unique about this style of barbecue found exclusively in the villages of Auburn, Opelika, and Phoenix City in Alabama and Columbus and LaGrange in Georgia? Well, there is a lot involved. First off, they use a very specific cut of pork called a CT butt. Essentially it is a Boston butt that has had the bone and the fat cap removed. Therefore it is a leaner roast usually weighing between 2½ to 4 pounds.

Secondly, Chuck’s uses a wood fire of oak, hickory, and occasionally pecan rather than the usual bed of coals. This creates a hotter fire so the barbecue is done faster. It is an intense cooking method that requires constant attention. Ferrell prefers to oversee this himself. “I like to cook the product. I have some guys that work for me that can cook it just probably as good as I can. But for some reason, I just don’t think nobody can cook it as good as I can; so if I’m there, that’s what I like to do is cook,” he told The Southern BBQ Trail.

The finished product is a roast that is a little bigger than a softball with a good deal of char on the outside. Chuck’s offers the pork three ways, chopped, chipped, or sliced long ways. The most popular is the chipped (or finely chopped) because of the quality of sandwich it produces. The busiest days of the year are during Auburn home games and it is not unusual for Chuck’s to sell 2,000 chipped pork sandwiches on those days.

The final originality that signifies the Smokey Pig style is the sauce. It is a combination of ketchup, mustard, and cider vinegar with a few spices thrown in. The mustard sauce is used not just on the barbecue but it is also the sauce for their uncommon coleslaw as well which garnishes each sandwich. It even flavors the Brunswick stew which is another house favorite, often topped with a little chopped pork for good measure.

One last bit of business when visiting Chuck’s, it is not uncommon for folks there to greet you with the phrase, “War Eagle.” Don’t ask any questions, just say it back to them and go your way.

Chuck’s Barbecue
905 Short Ave.
Opelika, Alabama
334) 749-4043

The restaurant is just a mile or so off of Interstate 85. The town of Opelika is about 45 minutes east of Montgomery, AL and an hour west of Atlanta, Georgia.

Chipped Pork Sandwich

Tender, smokey, tangy sauce. Everything you could ask for from a BBQ sandwich.


McGuire's Irish Pub

 600 E Gregory St
Pensacola, FL

McGuire's Irish Pub, Pensacola, FL

No visit to Pensacola, Florida is complete without visiting two locally owned restaurants, Flounder’s on Santa Rosa Sound and McGuire’s Irish Pub on E. Gregory St. As fate would have it both are owned by the same people. We’ll visit Flounder’s another time, for now we’ll focus on the Irish pub with the oak and copper brewery.

McGuires Irish Pub is bursting with personality. From the iconic double decker bus that helps confused tourist find their way to the dollar bills hanging from the ceiling everything at McGuire’s screams character. Oh, and be careful when going to the restroom, that’s all I’m going to say on the subject. But schtick and charisma will only get you so far in the restaurant industry. To make it since 1977 you have got to have the goods.

McGuire’s features both remarkable food and a full blown brewery churning craft beers like Wild Irish Raspberry Wheat, Red Ale, Light Ale, Porter and Irish Stout. Brewery tours with brewmasters Tom Anderson or Madison Roane are available upon request adn home brewers are even encouraged to take home a bit of McGuire’s yeast.

The food is an adventure it and of itself. Appetizers like Senate Bean Soup (only .18 with a meal) and Ruben Eggrolls set the tone for a meal just left of center. They half an ocean of seafood, plenty of pasta, steaks, chops and 28 (count ’em 28) different burgers.

Sausage Sampler

A length of five different types of sausage: Southern smoked, Kielbasa, bratwurst, knock wurst and chicken sausage. Served with garlic mashed potatoes and sauerkraut.


3 Banderas Restaurant

 7765 Airport Boulevard
Mobile, AL

Review: 3 Bandera’s Restaurant

I spent most of the 90’s in Nashville, TN and one of the things I have been missing since returning to Alabama is real South of the Border food. As many a Texan can tell you, Mobile’s Mexican scene is poor. Most of the places we think of as being “traditional Mexican” restaurants are actually Tex-Mex, bad Tex-Mex at that. They all have the same menu and their food tastes pretty much the same. They rely mostly on precooked foods that they microwave – even ground beef which comes pre-cooked in one gallon cans. Yes cans.

There are a few chains like Chili’s and El Chico’s but they are actually what is termed “Gringo Mex.” Gringo Mex is a super watered down form of Mexican. Not bad, mind you, but far from authentic. The few shining lights in town have been La Cocina on Airport which is this town’s lone authentic Mexican (ask for the Spanish menu – it’s different) and Armando Rodriguez’s three eateries Aztecas and the two Hacienda San Miguel locations which all put out stellar Tex-Mex.

Now there is a new source for serious Latin flavors, 3 Banderas is classic Central American food. You know, pupusas! You don’t know pupusas? They are kind of like corn flour pancakes that are stuffed with anything from cheese to roasted pork. Top them with a little curtido (Salvadoran vinegar-based slaw) and you are set from some tasty and cheap eats (less than $3). For dessert I recommend the empanada de platanos, from plantain and pudding concoction that is battered and fried. Be sure to wash it down with one of their flavored waters like agua de melon (water and cantelope) or horchata (rice milk with cinnamon and nutmeg). For you iron-clad gringos they do have chips, salsa, and many of the other dishes we mis-associate with Latin cuisine.

3 Banderas Restaurant is located at 7765 Airport Blvd at that dense Schillinger’s Road corner.


Light and fluffy with a crispy exterior. Filled with whatever you want; I usually opt for pork and cheese. I love these things!


Banana Docks Cafe

 36 Hillcrest Rd
Mobile, AL

Review: Banana Dock's Cafe - Mobile, AL

Over the holidays, my siblings and I took my mother to the Banana Docks Cafe. I had long wanted to try this locally owned seafood place since I moved back from Nashville in ‘98. You see prior to moving to Tennessee to become a rock and roll super star I had live in an apartment across the street from Banana Docks, only it wasn’t Banana Docks then. It was a late night rock club perfectly placed so that I could drink to excess without placing the public at risk by drinking and driving.

Much had changed. Gone was the plain cement floor and minimalist decor (in other words unpainted cinder block walls). Someone had turned it that dingy old dive into something somewhere between a Tiki hut and a beachside eatery, only without the beach.

Our group split an appetizer portion of the Docks famous Hand Battered Onion Rings made with red onions. They were delicious especially dipped in the house Remoulade.

One sister ordered the Caesar salad with blackened Gulf Grouper. She was quite happy with her choice. My mother, the guest of honor, ordered the chicken salad on croissant which she only ate half of. I was to benefit for her eating too many onion rings by taking home the rest of the sandwich. It was one of the best I have ever had. It wasn’t sweet which is rare in the South.

My brother ordered the fried seafood platter and though satisfied with the freshness and portions of the dish was not found of the flour-heavy batter preferring more cornmeal for his seafood. My other sister got the fried oyster Po’ Boy, a staple around these parts and judging by her silence was quite happy with her choice.

The menu includes many of the usual Third Coast delicacies like fried dill pickles, West Indies Salad and award-winning seafood gumbo. They also have some dishes particular to Banana Docks like the aforementioned Oyster BLT and Thai shrimp salad. The service was quite good especially considering that they were a little understaffed. The five of us left full and more importantly with another great memory of time spent with family. Oh yeah, and I had scored half of that chicken salad croissant for a snack later.

Banana Docks has a very popular champagne brunch each Sunday packed with omelets and seafood. You can find them in the Westhill neighborhood at 36 Hillcrest Road or call 251-342-2775.

Oyster BLT

I ordered something a little out of the ordinary (as I am apt to do). There on the sandwich menu was an Oyster BLT. Crisp lettuce, thick cut applewood smoked bacon, ripe red tomato and a handful of crispy fried oysters all on a croissant. It was terrific. I would never have thought the croissant would have worked with the other ingredients but it did. As my side I tried a cup of the soup-of-the-day, Brunswick Stew. It was nice, more tomatoey (if that’s a word) than BBQie (dito) and full of potatoes and meat.


Dick Russell's Bar-B-Q

 Hwy 90 W
Mobile, AL

Dick Russell's BBQ, a Legendary Alabama Haunt

At the main Interstate exit of the Mobile neighborhood of Tillman’s Corner you will find one of those nondescript chain BBQ places. You know the type – bland food, prefabricated decor and little in the way of originality. A few blocks over you will find Dick Russell’s BBQ, an Alabama Legend. Dick Russell’s does as much business on a typical Friday as that chain joint does in a week. Why you may ask? Because Mobileans know good BBQ when they taste it.

Mobile isn’t on the same level as Memphis or Kansas City, but it’s getting there. Dick Russell’s has been at the forefront of the Mobile Que scene for decades. It is the very embodiment of the Mobile style, well smoked with a sweet but not too sweet sauce.

But there is a lot more to Dick Russell’s than just world class barbecue. It is also the most popular place in Mobile County for breakfast. And why not with eggs any way you want them, omelets, hot cakes and waffles all made to order. The show stealer, however, is the biscuits and sausage gravy. Just $2.95 will get you an egg, two biscuits and grits or hasbrowns. There are plenty of breakfast combos for under $2 that will have you so stuffed you’ll need to go back to bed.

The seafood is also killer. In a town with seafood that stacks up against any city in the country, Dick Russell’s does it better than most. The steaks and burgers are epic as well. But the BBQ is why most people come and it is why I stopped by recently.

I have been eating at this place for over 20 years and every time the food is first rate, the service is genuinely welcoming. This visit was much the same as dozens I have made before, down right good.

BBQ sampler

I got a sampler plate with baby backs, brisket and pulled pork. It came with two of those legendary biscuits and baked beans and slaw. I do not care for slaw so my server was nice enough to let me substitute for some fried dill pickles at no extra charge. If you have never had fried dill pickles, you just haven’t lived.


Shed Barbecue The

 5753 Old Shell Road
Mobile, AL

A Pig of a Different Color

Mobile, Alabama is a city with a pretty good BBQ pedigree. Not quite the juggernaut of Memphis, the Carolinas, Texas, or Kansas City, but certainly on that next tier. Two local Que joints have been featured on national TV and in magazines and books. A third is a branch of another well publicized North Alabama legend. It is also home to one of the most important stops on the professional barbecue circuit, The annual BBQ Championship & Hog Wild Festival. Well, another famous BBQ place has opened a satellite in the Port City.

The Shed’s original Ocean Springs local has been featured on the Food Network, Travel Channel and countless other places and now they have brought that distinct M’sissippi style to Bama. The question is, just how does the Shed stack up?

In a word, different.

First off you don’t sit at a table and order at the Shed. You go to a pick up window to order, pay, then go sit down. A little while later someone shouts your name and brings you your order. At this point your interaction with the restaurant is done. Unless you are indulging in adult drinks. You go to the bar get your adult beverages and why wouldn’t you get an adult beverage? They have over 100 types of beer including some of those trendy high gravity craft brews. (We enjoyed selections from the North Coast Brewery that were a whopping 10.2% ABV.)

Your food comes out in “to go” boxes with plastic-ware. Unless you ask otherwise your barbecue comes out swimming in sauce. Swimming isn’t the right image. Think of a saber-tooth tiger wallowing in the Le Brea tar pit. There’s a lot of it. And it is sweet, really sweet. One of the sweetest sauces I have ever tried. Man, was it sweet!

The ribs had a good smokey flavor with perfect texture. The brisket had ample smokiness and, too, was tender. The baked beans were quite good and the loaded potato salad was tremendous. You are welcome to loiter as long as you want watching any of the large TV’s scattered about showing sports. And for those in your group who don’t care for BBQ, well, you’re SOL. There are no burgers, there are no chicken fingers, no Caesar salads.

The sauce is different from anything in Mobile. The service is different from anything I have ever experienced before. The Shed is different from any BBQ joint you have ever seen. Different.

BBQ sampler

Good smokey flavor and very tender. The sauce is very sweet. The potato salad was terrific.

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