Dauphin's Sends Mobile Bay Dining Sky-High
Bob Baumhower's Newest Restaurant Concept Arrives in Downtown Mobile
(Mobile, AL) It's a view that stopped the French in their tracks more than 300 years ago. Spanning more than 75 nautical miles of Mobile Bay, Dauphin's dining panorama high atop downtown Mobile's Trustmark Bank Building almost upstages the remarkable menu. "We like to think we're re-introducing this city to its own waterfront," offers Executive Chef/Partner Steve Zucker. "The view is nearly 360 degrees from far up the Mobile River south all the way to Dauphin Island on a clear day. There's nothing like it anywhere in the region, and our goal is an overall dining experience that's just as overwhelming."
Dauphin's offers a menu of "classic coastal cuisine with hints of Caribbean and Creole soul" as Zucker describes. "Our absolute focus is locally-sourced products and foods. We're finding fish and produce from the Alabama Coastal Farm and Fish Market, and cheeses from Sweet Home Farm in Elberta and Belle Chevre in Elkmont. Our chops come from the Alabama Fatback Pig Project, and we use a completely natural meat from SRA Butcher in Birmingham," says Zucker. "Baumhower Restaurants were some of the first to serve only Alabama Gulf Seafood. We're excited to add a locally-sourced gourmet oyster grown right here in Mobile Bay and now getting attention all over the country."
That commitment to seafood seems natural when….you're a dolphin. As in legendary NFL footballer and former Miami Dolphin Bob Baumhower. The name Dauphin's is a playful twist on his own history and Mobile's too: the "dauphin" was the title of the French crown prince when that country founded Mobile in 1702.
Dauphin's is the latest ingredient to Baumhower's restaurant gumbo known as Aloha Hospitality, a diverse 13-restaurant celebration of southern comfort food, island-style seafood and now classic coastal with a French Creole soul.
"French Creole is misunderstood," says Baumhower. "People think it's French New Orleans. But French Creole is really a much older mix of many influences that made their way to Mobile and New Orleans. That heritage is Spanish, French, Native American, African and more. It's a culture that's essential to our menu." Baumhower's boat-hopping through the Caribbean and up to Mobile during his Miami football days inspired the love of creole flavors he maintains today.
Dauphin's represents 7000 square feet of arguably the most coveted bit of restaurant real estate in the region. The Retirement Systems of Alabama - which owns the Trustmark Building - renovated the 34th floor space known since the late 1960's as the Bienville Club to its new "comfortably sophisticated" hip look. Custom work from local artists joins brilliant Italian glassware by a magnificent baby grand in the piano bar surrounded by shades of blues that mirror the waterfront view.
Perhaps the best view in the house is found in the kitchen, home to the area's first and only chef's table. Diners of 4-6 enjoy unique kitchen and chef interaction over a southwest sun setting over the city skyline.
Chef Zucker and team share the "Farm to Table" philosophy pioneered by chefs like Mary Cleaver of "The Green Table" in New York. She's credited with launching the movement in the 1970's, hunting a local tomato for a customer at her Chelsea Market café and realizing our produce system was broken to the detriment of healthy dining. Today Cleaver is a friend and mentor to Dauphin's.
Offerings include a mix of classic and current dishes - all with regional significance. West Indies salad is a crabmeat delicacy with 60-year-old roots to the beloved Bayley's Seafood on Dauphin Island. Dauphin's also serves fried crab claws, another iconic dish born at the still-thriving restaurant. Flip the menu to an entrée rack of lamb or "Burger with a View" featuring a ½ pound blend of Wagu Beef Brisket, dry aged short rib and chuck roast on a bun. Chef Zucker's version of Gumbo Z'herb was just named one of Alabama's "100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die."
The commitment to "local" doesn't stop at the dining table. Bar Chef Rachel Ferrand is zealous in the hunt for locally sourced additions to her classic and craft cocktails. Perhaps locally-infused honey or a touch of mint from the roof-top greenhouse. Dauphin's pours Alabama-proud craft beers and "Alabama Moonshine."
Baumhower likes to think there's a common "roux" in the new culinary mix simmering downtown. Dauphin's joins other hot Mobile restaurants serving upscale Southern innovations like Noble South, Dumbwaiters, NoJa's and more. "In that sense I'd love to see Mobile join Birmingham and other cities in this region seeing a real culinary renaissance," he says. "It's the rising tide theory. We're all about supporting each other in what I hope can be a destination dining district."
Dauphin's is open for Lunch and Dinner Monday-Thursday 11am-10pm, Friday 11am-11pm, and Saturday for Dinner from 4-11pm. Happy Hour featuring specials and craft cocktails from the area's only Bar Chef 2-6pm Monday - Friday. Jazz Brunch from 11am-3pm each Sunday.