Just when I think I’m over the “food” in “foodiecology” and want to focus my writing on lifestyle-centric things, I eat a meal so overwhelmingly delicious that it almost brings tears to my eyes.
I may not be a natural-born cook, but good food is the way to my heart. I adore the stories it tells, the cultures it exposes us to, the laughs and conversations it inspires, and the memories it helps create.
I enjoy searching for that one delectable bite that sends my taste buds dancing with joy.
My taste buds were in fact dancing last Saturday night—Mark’s and my first night out (sans bébé) in months and our first visit to The Dumbwaiter Restaurant.
The Dumbwaiter is downtown Mobile’s newest upscale dining establishment, and it’s no wonder our reservation was the last one available that night.
The décor is beautiful. The exposed brick shows off the city’s historic charm, and the dining floor is much more open than Samurai J (its predecessor). The tables are rustic, and there’s not a white tablecloth in sight. I like it.
Mark and I were swiftly seated in a corner next to the bar. Our waiter was friendly and his recommendations proved our choices (we’d perused the menu beforehand) were on point.
To begin, we ordered a bottle of the Chasing Lions Cabernet Sauvignon (the waiter’s recommendation). It was fruity and slightly acidic, and very smooth (a sommelier, I am not); we’ll purchase it again if we find it in stores.
I am not exaggerating when I say there is literally nothing on the menu that I wouldn’t eat. Every single appetizer and entrée sounded incredible. Since our pockets and bellies are unfortunately not bottomless, we chose 2 small plates and one entrée to share: Pan Seared Scallops ($15) with garlic braised mushrooms, plank of small batch bacon, and Good People Brown Ale reduction; New South Brussels Sprouts ($10) with bacon confit, shaved red onion, and maple-balsamic drizzle; and Tensaw Tournedos ($36) consisting of two beef filets topped with fresh crab and served over crawfish and garlic confit mashed potatoes, and grilled asparagus.
Mark and I agreed the scallops were our favorite course.
They tasted fresh-off-the-boat and were incredibly buttery and tender. The mushrooms—just ordinary button mushrooms, it appeared—were delicious, too. Each scallop was served atop a perfectly thick and smoky slab of bacon, and neither of us could get enough of the peppery sauce (made with Alabama ale).
Moving on to the Brussels sprouts. My love for this underrated vegetable runs deep, but dare I say I have a new favorite preparation? The sprouts had a nice brown crust, and the shaved onions, acidic balsamic vinegar, giant slab of bacon, and sweet maple syrup were a striking balance of flavors.
And let’s not forget the main course. The dish comes with two filets. It wasn’t the best filet I’ve ever had, but the crawfish mashed potatoes were a wonderful surprise and the asparagus was enjoyable (the humble asparagus is rarely remarkable). My only complaint would be that my steak was overdone. We’d ordered medium, but mine was a still-tender medium well, with very little pink.
The serving sizes were appropriate and reasonable; dinner left us both satisfied but not so full that we didn’t splurge on dessert: sweet potato bread pudding ($10)!
I’m a bread pudding snob, but this was hands-down the best bread pudding I’ve had (better than locally-famous Callaghan’s). Lightly sweet, full of seasonably appropriate cranberries, and topped with whipped cream and cinnamon ice cream—it was impeccable. We nearly finished the entire thing.
We’ve had some remarkable meals over the years, and this one ranks at or near the top along with Clancy’s, Ralph’s On The Park, and Bistro Escoffier. Keep Chef Chris McElheney on your radar; I’d not heard of him before, but if the Dumbwaiter’s menu is any indication, then he’s a rare talent with a bright future.
It’s true, my sleep deprivation may have been responsible for the near-tears, but I’m betting this outstanding meal had something to do with it, too. I cannot wait to try it again, perhaps for lunch.