In the past 15 years, it was a rare thing for us to make the 30-ish minute drive to Mobile, because there really wasn’t anything there we couldn’t live without. (The Mobile Symphony and Exploreum are exceptions), but recently, several things have changed, and we find ourselves over the bay more and more.
Because . . .
1. I’ll come clean . . . I’m in love with COSTCO! I actually wrote them a letter years ago, begging them to open a location in Baldwin County, but alas, Mobile landed them, and I love shopping there. GIANT BOXES of ALMONDS! When their neighbor HOME GOODS opens later this year, I may have to find a Mobile family to adopt me.
2. Mayor Sandy Stimpson. He’s cleaning up the crime and bringing in more businesses, so we feel safer and find it more fun to go over.
Located on North Jackson Street, around the corner from another favorite, The Crescent Theatre, NoJa reminds me of some of the big-time places I love visiting in New Orleans. Here’s their gorgeous courtyard which would have been full, but it had just finished storming.
NoJa combines Mediterranean with a touch of Asian for what they’ve named, “Mediterrasian” in what amounts to an extremely fresh and unique menu. Above, is the fresh baked bread with butter mixed with Ras el hanout, a spice from North Africa. It reminded me of a mild, but savory pumpkin and was absolutely delicious.
My husband and I had originally planned to only make a run to Costco, but decided to first swing by NoJa for a quick bite of dinner. We’d never been there before and were surprised to find that reservations are preferred. The staff was so kind and accommodating and suggested we sit at the bar. Of course, I had tossed on pearls for Costco, so I felt better about showing up and having it be “business casual,” while we were “GIANT BOTTLE OF TIDE casual.” Lesson? Listen to your Mother and always wear the pearls. Even to Costco.
The building was originally constructed in the 1840’s. That’s 18 – not 19!
The owner of NoJa is Chakli Diggs, who is best known to Mobilians for his previous restaurant, Bienville Bistro. Born in Ethiopia and educated in the United States, Chakli is fluent in several languages and has traveled around the world to sample the best of all cuisines.
I had the Hanger Steak, and it was fabulous. Mouthwatering, grilled perfectly with goat cheese and spiced Â potatoes. My husband had an equally delectable Smoked and Sous-VideÂ White Duck. I cannot tell you how much I love to find a restaurant with truly unique dishes!
As we left NoJa, the rain had finally stopped and we heard the distant sounds of a saxophone. A festive crowd was walking around the area, going into a show at The Crescent and into small pubs. Downtown Mobile, I still love Fairhope, but I’ll be over to see you a lot more often now.
If you are ever in Mobile, Alabama, be sure you make plans to visit NoJa, and to assure you have a seat, call ahead and of course, wear your pearls!
NoJa is open Tuesday – Saturday evenings from 5:30-9:30pm. To see NoJa’s web site, read their menu and find their phone number along with directions, click HERE.