It's time for one of my restaurant reviews and if you've been following me on Urbanspoon then you know that I am pretty hard on the local Mobile, Alabama restaurants. Well; I'm pretty hard on most restaurants except for buffet style restaurants because we all know just how bad they suck and the trick is to find the buffet that sucks least.
What happens when you open up a high end hamburger joint that ultimately fails because the people in the area don't get the concept? I am not trying to insult Mobilians by saying that we lack a refined palate because I’ve lived here all my life and I know that our refinement extends to Mississippi and Florida. It’s understandable that we would not get it and a restaurant of the sort would fail? I mean, we can get a hell of a nice greasy burger for a fraction of the price at some Airport Blvd fast food dive. Am I right?
I’m talking about the BGR burger that closed down. The owner saw that BGR was failing. His clientele just did not understand, so he closed up shop, took two steps back, re-thought strategically what would work in this area. Out of his decision; the Fiddlefish Seafood Café was built.
I was really apprehensive because I’ve seen remastered restaurants in the past and they had all failed for one reason or another. Owners would rethink their ideas and rebuild but ultimately it would be the same food but with a different name. Not so with Fiddlefish. The owner went completely batty in his thinking and let loose a product that Southern Alabama is known for – Sea food and beautifully fried seafood at that!
My wife and son arrived Fiddlefish one Saturday for lunch and we were greeted very nicely. One of the waiters told us to have a seat anywhere, so we did. Typically I like to sit where I can see the food preparers because I like to see the mannerisms of the people handling my food. Upon sitting we were greeted by such a lovely waitress. She was awesomely nice and energetic and brought us our drinks quickly.
The menus were small, clean, one page menus. It’s important to have small menus so as not to confuse and make the customers have a hard decision on what to order. I also loved that the menus were clean. It sickens me to no end to use a menu that has filth and left over food stuck to it…(if you’re reading San Miguels, I’m coming for you). The menu was laid out nicely, and easy to read for these old eyes of mine.
Our waitress took our order. For appetizers we ordered the crab balls, and a cup of gumbo. For our entree’s my wife ordered the Shrimp Poboy, I ordered the large fish plate and my son ordered the small fish plate.
As our waitress went to give our order to the back I watched as they handled the food in the window. It was good. They appeared to be cognizant and mindful that others would be eating their food so minimal touching was done.
Our waitress returned with our gumbo and crab balls. The gumbo was thick and filled full of seafood. It was absolutely incredible in flavor. The only thing negative I have to say about the gumbo is that the waitress didn’t bring tabasco with it. Everyone knows that a bowl of gumbo should be paired with a bottle of tabasco. I certainly hope they have this infraction corrected when I return. The crab balls were tasty and nicely crispy on the outside. They were filled with lump crab meat, but the bread stuffing inside was a bit undercooked I thought. They had a tremendous taste and I was pleased to see that they were not too salty.
I watched our entrée’s hit the window. Before I go on, I want everyone to understand where I am here. If I am at a restaurant and someone touches their face and then serves or touches my plate with the same hand that they touched their face with, even if it is the edge of the plate, the whole plate has ruined and needs to be done over. This did happen at Fiddlefish. I was watching the frontline handle my son’s plate. The plate was pushed forward, then the person at the window rubbed his nose, then he grabbed the edge of the plate and pushed it more forward after throwing a kitchen ticket on top of it. To me, even though the food was not directly touched, it didn’t need to be served. I told the waitress as she brought it and without question she took it back. I was then greeted by the owner of Fiddlefish and he let me know that the plate was being redone. He was genuinely concerned and I could tell that he felt real bad.
After a few minutes my son’s plate was brought out along with another plate. The chef misunderstood and remade mine and my son’s plate. I felt really bad but the owner gave it to me on the house which was very nice. I talked with the owner for a bit and I perceived him as a very passionate person in this business that will stop at nothing to make sure his clientele’s expectations are achieved above and beyond.
My wife’s poboy was HUGE and filled with gigantic golden brown Nan Seas fried shrimp! I wish I had taken a picture because you wouldn’t believe how big this poboy was. The shrimp were crispy, and Nan Seas tasty. If you’re an old Mobilians, I’m talking Nan Seas down on Dauphin Island Parkway delicious. They had the batter perfect on these shrimp. The fried fish was phenomenal. Perfectly fried and battered; not too heavy and lightly salted. The fish was white and flakey. My son scarfed it down quickly.
While we were eating, the owner gave us a plate of their Fiddleshrimp. Huge fried shrimp smothered with their own special sauce called Fiddlesauce. With a slight heat edge on the sauce the shrimp was unreal. I can’t even describe how good the Fiddleshrimp was. I could have died eating these shrimp. I would have died happy though. Wow. That’s all…wow.
Served with the meal as a side we got the cheese grits. These were real grits and not something a Yankee would like. I found them pleasantly refreshing and the soft bread on top was a nice touch. Also given was a nice homemade coleslaw that was pretty darn good. Both sides were a fine accompaniment to the symphony they had on the plate.
My experience at the Fiddlefish Seafood Café was an excellent one. The owner has done a good thing in bringing a good fried seafood venue at a reasonable price to the area - our meal, 3 people, with tip was $45. This restaurant will last because it has several things going for it.
1. The owner is a passionate restaurateur that wants to serve and is very passionate about serving Mobilians.
2. The owner believes in his product and is extremely proud of his product.
3. The price and the quality of the food is phenomenal.
4. The staff appear to be treated well and are actually enjoyable.
This has gotten a lot longer than I intended, but the place was wonderful and probably the single best restaurant I have been to all year…well, it’s only January, so all year 2012. If you get a chance, then go. I highly recommend this restaurant and get the Fiddleshrimp!
Fiddlefish Seafood Café
3972 Airport Boulevard
Mobile, AL 36608