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Star Service in Mobile, Alabama
Mobile Is Secretly Awesome!
Mobile, Alabama has a long history of being one of the famous antebellum Southern sisters, or cities, of the South. It's been under the radar, almost a secret, and that's the way most of us like it. Similarly, we enjoy knowing the secret hotspots of Mobile. Perhaps it has to do with our affinity for mystic societies. Many people are in a mystic society and never reveal it to their friends. We just love secrets, and we love to be treated well. Not surprisingly, many of these hotspots known to the locals are in Midtown or Downtown. Some are in the Point Clear- Fairhope areas, once a resort area for Mobilians when travel took longer.
Society Shell Gas Station
The Society Shell Gas Station
Many of us assume that full-service gas stations have become extinct. However, at the corner of South Ann Street and Government Street, under the embrace of ancient live oaks, is the Society Shell Station. Sadly, they are no longer with Shell as a gas company, but that doesn't matter a bit. The handsome Griffith Brothers or one of their stalwart gentleman, will still actually pump your gas and put air in your tires, if you park on the full service side. It's called The Society Shell because the high society of Mobile will drive out of their way to buy gas from them; it's de rigeuer to have a running charge account with them. When banks are closed during hurricanes, they'll even cash your checks. They have had not one, but two comedies featuring the Griffith brothers and society mavens of the Oakleigh Garden District across the street, written by the talented playwright Tom Perez. They also have a great wine and cigar selection, plus cheese wafers by Mamie!
Great Customer service!
Blankenship's Universal Hardware Supply
On the corner of Springhill Avenue and Ann Street, Blankenship's is amazing for their friendly service. When you need some bizarre bolt or nut, I don't waste time going to Lowe's or Home Depot when I can walk up to one of the handsome Blankenship men, they find it, and get out of there in 2 minutes or less. It would take me 5 minutes just to walk into Lowes, much less find it. They have a great glass company, too.
Take a Closer Look at Mobile
The Battle House Hotel's Spa
Downtown on Royal Street is the famous, second version of the Battle House, which has hosted dignitaries and movie stars, since the 1850s. Many of us make time to stay there, as locals, such as when the air conditioning is out or during Mardi Gras. It has a fabulous spa. Admittedly, the girls' side is better than the men's, but that's no matter. It features a steam room (being remodeled now), massaging chairs in the salon, and a lovely quiet room with chairs facing a column of fire. Libations of Poinsettias (cranberry juice and champagne) or Mimosas (orange juice and champagne) flow freely.
If you book a spa visit, you can stay all day at the pool and fitness center, which offers sweeping views of the Mobile River and the Bay. They even offer a membership to the uppercrust locals, since they have a happening pool on the weekends. The crowd can be international and/or young preppy men, but it's very crowded so arrive early.
In addition, check into the Spa Trail Card, which gives a discount of 20% plus a $20 gift card and can be used in the area at both the Battle House and the Point Clear, AL Grand Hotel nearby.
Some of My Favorite Watering Holes
Best All-Around Bars
Since we are talking about star service, sometimes you just want to be left alone. These bars feature this aspect or have fun, attractive people-watching.
I Want To Be Alone!
- Callaghan's Irish Social Club-famous hamburgers and they have cool tshirts
- The Bar- Great Moonpie shots and deck
- The Blind Mule-great food
- Royal Scam-great food, upper scale
- Veet's-music-centric, diverse crowd makes it fun.
- Haberdasher-hipster crowd but older are there too.
Fun People Watching in a Safe Environment
- Boo Radley's- crowd is young, but attractive Preppy types. Great music.
- Dahlia's Piano Bar- a good choice if you are older.
- OK Bicycle Shop- killer Margaritas, fun courtyard. Best Mexican downtown.
- The Garage- popular happy hour
- Dauphin St. Blues Co. -Stop in for a Daiquiri to go!*
- Saddle Up Saloon- country option
- B-Bob's- great transvestite shows, while gay- heteros go, too.
- Gabriel's-great gay bar
- Soul Kitchen or Alabama Music Box has great, intimate music shows.
*In LODA, or the Lower Dauphin Street district, you can take drinks with you!
John Sledge's Latest
If you enjoy bookstores that are locally owned, check out Bienville Books downtown on Dauphin Street. Another bonus is it has great, local books that are out of print. I recommend the funny Dave Barnette's "How To Be An Old Mobilian". Or "From Fort to Port", a great read about the historic architecture of the city. John Sledge is a local writer and the son of Eugene Sledge, who was featured in the HBO series about WWII. He's written several books as an architectural historian; my recommendation is the one on Greek Revival in Mobile. His books are great coffee table books.
Mardi Gras Shopping Year Round
Toomey's is a local Mardi Gras shop with a location downtown and the larger, blow your mind locale just on the East side of I-65 on Government Street. They have locally well-designed items perfect for any tourist. You MUST visit this place if you are in Mobile. Give yourself an hour to look around- it's fun! The downtown location is tied into the fabulous Carnival Museum, which is a state of the art look at the birthplace of Mardi Gras. Mobile was founded by the French well before New Orleans was a twinkling in Bienville's eye. We also introduced parading with floats to New Orleans via the Krewe of Comus, which had a few Mobile boys in it.
Best Wine Shop
Mike Gibson, owner of Red + White, a Midtown wine shop at the corner of Old Shell Road and Kenneth (Houston Street off Dauphin), makes thoughtful selections and they have a great tapas time from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Only Restaurants with Great Customer Service
I don't know what it is, but Mobile has terrible customer service. Maybe it's the heat or maybe owners aren't hiring enough people to work a shift, but it's noticeable.
Fortunately, a local mover and shaker noticed this and decided to buy the local Ruth's Chris Steak House and Felix's Fish Camp. The service is amazing and you must try the Chrissy, a delicious ice cream drink. The Bull has been popular for a while- but the food quality is spotty. The Union downtown is a relative newcomer but it has been competing with these two for a while now. These three are the only places you will receive star service, more or less. Another favorite is the Kitchen on George in the Oakleigh Garden District; it's the training ground for Virginia College culinary program and is so reasonable that it's worth a try.
Winn-Dixie Grocery Store
Everyone, I mean, EVERYONE goes to the Winn Dixie in Midtown. Once derided as the Crack Dixie, today it's the Mack Dixie and upscale Midtowners and Downtown denizens only go to this store. "It's not cool to go to Walmart" is a regular porch neighbor argument here in Mobile Among Republicans and Democratics alike. It has the best sushi in town and is meant to compete with the local Fresh Market. Try the Temptation sushi roll.
Starbucks coffee is in the same block.
The Athelstan Club- Men Only
The Athelstan Club, downtown Mobile, is a stalwart of Old Mobile and is a men's club that dates until 1873. Its balconies overlook Bienville Square on St. Francis Street and is the Mardi Gras outpost for many well-heeled Mobile families. Women are only allowed to lunch on the third floor if their husbands are members. Men from out of town have found the club a respite, including a man from Michigan who loved his short time here so much that he formed his own Athelstan Club in 1912. The club features a bar, a card room, a library for reading, as well as a gym. Check to see if there is a recipricol agreement between your home club and the Athelstan Club. They are renowned for their annual Double Rush Mardi Gras ball that showcases Mobile's debutantes in the costume of their suppressed desire. Their weekly brutal basketball face offs that leave Mobile's most successful looking as if they've been in a fight are also famous. Friday features the famous seafood buffet with the best fried oysters in the city. Check to see if your country club has a reciprocal agreement with the Athelstan Club. Many clubs do.
The Spa at the Grand
The Grand Hotel- Point Clear, Alabama
Traditionally, in the heat of the Mobile semi-tropical summer, Mobilians travel to the Grand Hotel, which was a resort that predates the War. What war? Why, the War of Northern Aggression, of course. I have a hub about it if you follow the link. While it is certainly no Green Brier, it's plenty star -studded. Elizabeth Taylor as well as Brad Pitt have visited. Most recently, Nicolas Cage visited with his young son and wife in tow.
Most Midtowners, Downtowners, or even Spring Hillians could care less or even KNOW if you are a movie star; hence, the above list gives you generally a good idea of where to go to be safe in the other L.A., or Lower Alabama that Mobile is becoming. Most are pretty well-read, and I'm not talking about reading People magazine or National Enquirer. You may be recognized at Serda's coffee shop, but the average upper middle class Mobilian is not going to bother you. So enjoy exploring Mobile!