The Best Jerk Chicken in Alabama?
The Best Jerk Chicken in Alabama?
Mardi Gras was in full force in downtown Mobile last week and your working boy is not immune to the pull of the party.
But when he looked up from his non-stop revelry he noted that his day job calls for him to find something good to eat and that's why he paused for a minute to grab a bite at a celebrated downtown haunt. The Caribbean Jerk Chicken from Joe Cain Café at the Battle House Hotel turned out to be The Best Thing I Ate Last Week.
Joe Cain Café is perched on some prime Mardi Gras parade route real estate. It sits at the intersection of Royal and St. Francis streets and is off the lobby of the storied old hotel.
Chef Jabari Nix is sous chef for the hotel's grand culinary operations. He explained that the concept behind the cozy Joe Cain Café is simple. "During the day we are a lunch spot for folks downtown and at night we are a sports bar," he explained.
The menu is not that big, but it packs a wallop. It includes a nice array of fresh salads and (Greek, Cobb, Caesar and mixed greens) and a handful of paninis and wraps (club, chicken salad, seared tuna and my favorite shaved prime rib).
Nix said the pizzas are very popular with the Caribbean Jerk Chicken that I ordering being among the favorites. It's made with their own house-made "El Toro" barbecue sauce, sliced banana peppers, chunks of pineapple, roasted chicken, red onions, Monterrey jack and Cheddar cheese. A 16-inch is plenty to serve for normal people or two newspaper types; menu price for all their pizzas is only $14.
Yeah, but how did it taste? The molasses-based barbecue sauce is nicely sweet but not overpowering. The pineapple and the jerk seasoning blend well with the rest of the flavors and provide a nice blend of sweet and hot. The crust was incredibly thin and crispy.
In the run up to the final big weekend of the Carnival season it was just the thing I needed to recharge my batteries and prepare me for the stretch run. I ate my fill, took the rest back to the office to share with my colleagues and I was off for my next culinary adventure.
The Caribbean Jerk Chicken from Joe Cain Café in the Battle House Hotel truly was The Best Thing I Ate Last Week. And that's saying something in a week filled with balls, parties and parades.
Joe Cain Café
Address: 26 N. Royal Street, Mobile.
Chef: Jabari Nix
Menu: Compact offering of tasty bar and pub food with daily lunch specials that aren't normally featured on the regular menu. You can add chicken or shrimp to any of their salads and combine any soup or salad with a half a Panini for your own lunch combo. The paninis are top notch with the grilled chicken cheesecake being my second favorite behind the shaved prime rib. But the real heart of the menu is in the pizzas that are made to order in the café's tiny kitchen. In addition to the jerk chicken, you can also choose from Italian, margarita and spinach and feta.
Atmosphere: Very open and inviting. It is deceptively large with a seating capacity of nearly 100, but it also has a feeling of intimacy that is aided by a very cool, very modern bar that is stocked floor to ceiling with every imaginable spirit and libation known to mankind. It's a great spot to watch a parade and a fine after party party spot.
Chef Nix's parting words: "I think the secret to the Caribbean Jerk Chicken Pizza is the barbecue sauce. It's a molasses-based sauce that is made right here in house by a guy who is named El Toro. I think this is a perfect pizza for a late night meal with a cold beer."
David's parting words: You wouldn't ordinarily think of ordering a pizza in a bar located off the lobby of the city's most storied hotel, but I have to tell you that this is one fine, fine pizza. For lunch it is a fast, casual dining experience that is a several cuts above your standard sandwich and pizza joint. I think Joe Cain Café really blossoms after the sun goes down, the perfect spot for a pre- or post-parade party along the route. And if you get the jerk pizza make sure you get plenty of napkins.