Discover Coastal Alabama Winter/Spring 2019 - Page 36

Worth the Drive Catalina. Bayley’s. Crab Claws! Lighthouse. SOUTH MOBILE GEMS T housands of cars hurtle past the I-10 exit each day and hundreds of folks on the way to Dauphin Island likewise miss the opportunity to catch a bit of Coastal Alabama lore. For seafood lovers looking for authentic dining experiences, there are a number of destinations in South Mobile County that fit the bill. We’re going to highlight three of them that are worth the drive - Bayley’s, on the way to Dauphin Island; Lighthouse, just outside Bayou La Batre; and Catalina in “downtown” Bayou La Batre. Our original plan for conducting research for this piece was a kind of “crab claw crawl”: Visit three places known for serving crowd favorite versions of this coastal delicacy, do a little sampling, have a little conversation, take some notes and be done. That’s not exactly what happened. First of all, each serving of claws ticked all the right boxes – lightly breaded, lightly fried, nice size, sweet and delicious. Clearly these folks know what they’re doing and you can’t go wrong at any of these spots. But it was what was served with our sampling that was most satisfying. 36 DISCOVER COASTAL ALABAMA - WINTER/SPRING 2019 We visited with Bill Bayley Jr (Bayley’s), Kendall Stork (Lighthouse) and Zephia Johnson (Catalina). Each offered a variation of a similar theme... it’s all about family, neighbors, integrity, and local. They may have used different words and told different stories, but it all came full circle. For Bill, it’s honoring his father’s legacy as the creator of both Fried Crab Claws and West Indies Salad. Both are still faithfully prepared and served just the way Bill Sr. did. All three impressed upon us that they buy their seafood from folks they know and who know what each is looking for. As Kendall explained: “We’ve been buying from the same people, our neighbors, for years. They know what we want and if they have it, we get it.” It’s local and its fresh. Bill shared his secret for the flounder he serves: “If its not gigged, I don’t buy it.” This commitment they all share means that there are times when your favorite dish may not be available. Your reward is knowing that what you do order is as fresh as it gets. Beyond the focus on local and quality, is the incredible sense of family that each projected. All three are family businesses with multiple generations – parents and children, aunts, uncles and cousins, and in-laws all supporting each other. In all cases, this family feel extended to include those who work with them. In each restaurant, there are core staff who have been with them for years. Zephia explains: “We have some who have worked with us for over 40 years. They care as much about the restaurant and our customers as I do. They are family” These three locally owned restaurants – and there are dozens more like them in Coastal Alabama – are why you “buy local.” You can taste the love and pride and family in the food they serve. It is real and it’s the best thing on the menu. BAYLEY’S SEAFOOD RESTAURANT 10805 Dauphin Island Pkwy. • Theodore, Al Tuesday-Saturday • 11am-9pm 251-973-1572 www.facebook.com/bayleysseafood THE LIGHTHOUSE RESTAURANT 12495 County Rd. 23 • Irvington, Al Monday-Saturday • 11am-8:30pm 251-824-2500 www.facebook.com/Lighthouse-Restaurant CATALINA BAYOU 14060 S. Wintzell Ave. • Bayou La Batre, Al Tuesday-Sunday • 10:30am-9pm (3pm Sun). 251-824-1120 www.facebook.com/catalinabayou/