The Gulf Coast is a true gem of the South, and its epicenter is the beautiful port city of Mobile, Alabama. Our motto is “born to celebrate,” but we don’t limit that to just Mardi Gras (although we certainly do let the good times roll then, obviously). When your city is this charming, vibrant, and gracious, every single day is a celebration.
Once called “the Paris of the South”, for 300 years, Mobile has graciously hosted many a return visitor, just like the City of Lights. Sometimes a languid stroll under the majestic oaks of Oakleigh (our aptly-named, historic neighborhood adjacent to downtown) is just what I need. On Saturday mornings in the fall and spring, I hop out of bed at dawn to beat the crowds at Market on the Square, scooping up the freshest produce and tastiest baked goods before most have even had their coffee.
And let’s not forget the American home of Carnival. If you could put your finger on the pulse of Mobile, you’d feel the beat of a Mardi Gras boom band. Mardi Gras is serious business in Mobile, Alabama and for good reason: we started it. When everyone else around the country is packing up the ornaments and resolving to cut carbs, the celebration is just getting started down here in Mobile. Eugene Walter, one of our most famous Mobilans, once said, “when all else fails, throw a party,” and party we can do.
But oh, the food! Of all of the wonderful things our city has to offer, the food is my absolute favorite. Mobile is the city of six flags, and each one enriches the culinary history of this unique city. A literal melting pot of flavor and culture, Mobile has been rumored to even have been the birthplace of gumbo, the celebrated Gulf Coast seafood staple and a nod to our African roots. Another famed dish born in Mobile is West Indies Salad, a melange of tender, succulent crabmeat and piquant vinegar. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our spring crawfish boils downtown, where you can enjoy pounds of the spicy crustaceans and ice cold beer al fresco on one of our mild, spring evenings. Still craving seafood? Me too. Often you can find me bellying up to the bar at one of our fabulous restaurants and slurping briny, fresh oysters until I cry out, “Shuck no more!”
But a one-trick-pony Mobile is not. Having served as a judge at the Grilled Cheese Meltdown, Bloody Mary Contest at Brunch Fest, King Cake Off, Mac and Cheese Fest, Bourbon by the Bay, and Great Mobile Bake Off, I can assure you that Mobilians know their way around the kitchen, no matter what’s on the table.
Mobile has never been a stranger to me. Aunts, uncles and cousins on both my mother and my father’s sides call this area home, and our family has vacationed at our beach house on the Gulf of Mexico since the mid 60’s. But I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with Mobile when I moved here to attend graduate school thirteen years ago, almost to the exact day. Perhaps it was the welcoming, generous souls who so graciously shared their city with a veritable stranger. Or maybe it was the oysters. Whatever it was, to this Brooklyn-born and Boston-raised writer, Mobile has always and will always feel like home.