Mobile (pronounced mo-beel) is the little black dress of cities by the sea. The birthplace of Mardi Gras in North America (New Orleans, eat your heart out) and the first capital of the Louisiana Territory, this city delights in its mélange of savory influences: French personality, Spanish architecture, and a well-mannered antebellum elegance all its own.
By Becca Hensley
Located in the newly revitalized downtown and just steps from the water, the Battle House (pictured on previous page) is a veritable celebration of the past. Its redo has managed to upgrade the hotel to modern standards while incorporating a painstaking replication of the details of its former grandeur. From $149. (251) 415-3086, www.rsabattlehouse.com.
The cuisine of Mobile stems from its six flags of influence and from its home by the bay. For quintessentially Mobilian fare, try historic Wintzell’s Oyster House (251-432-4605, www.wintzellsoysterhouse.com); we recommend the West Indies Salad (crab, onions, vinegar, and oil) and oysters (which are served in every way imaginable). Indulge in rich brownies at Pollman’s Bake Shop (251-342-8546), pimento cheese at Three Georges (251-433-1689), and giant hamburgers at Callaghan’s Irish Social Club (251-433-9374, www.callaghansirishsocialclub.com). Modern Mobile’s creative cuisine rocks at NoJa (251-433-0377, www.nojamobile.com), in the historic district — we love the chicken awash in pesto, tomatoes, and olives nicoise.
Lounge on leather sofas at chic Martinis Fine Food & Spirits (251-433-9920), and swizzle their specialty: the Elvis Presley Martini, a key-lime-pie-flavored libation rimmed with graham-cracker crumbs. Dive aficionados will love Hayley’s (251-433-4970), a local hangout with the best jukebox in town and with a popular sweet-apple-flavored shot called Old Friend.
Mobile’s Antiques at the Loop abounds with high-end treasures for bargain prices; Plantation Antique Galleries (604 Bel Air Boulevard, 251-666-7185) is also a sure bet. Across the bay, spend an afternoon combing the shops in Fairhope, a charming village with a nostalgic Main Street. Finally, take home a box of coveted Heavenly Hash made by the nuns of the Visitation Monastery (251-473-2321, www.visitationmonasterymobile.org).
Stroll through the Mobile Carnival Museum (251-431-9334, www.mobilecarnivalmuseum.com) for an education in Mardi Gras, wander the beautiful grounds of Bellingrath Gardens and Home (251-973-2217, www.bellingrath.org), and enjoy the Mobile Museum of Art (251-208-5200, www.mobilemuseumofart.com), which is known for its exquisite contemporary crafts collection.
Explore Mobile’s natural side at 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center (251-625-0814, www.outdoor alabama.com), an outdoor recreation and resource center that offers numerous activities. Kayak and canoe enthusiasts can take off from a floating dock to explore 250,000 acres of waterways, wetlands, and delta landscapes.