Restaurateurs and friends Reginald “Reggie” Washington and Duane Nutter serve “globally inspired Southern food” at their highly anticipated new restaurant, Southern National, in Mobile. Go ahead and plan your visit now.
That city has embraced them, and, with a James Beard Foundation 2018 nomination for Best New Restaurant (Southern National is a semifinalist, and it was announced just today), I’m guessing they’ll soon have many more fans from all over our state and well beyond.
I traveled there last week to talk to Reggie and Chef Nutter for an Alabama NewsCenter story.
You can read it here:
This is not the first time the two have done destination dining.
They collaborated at One Flew South, an upscale restaurant in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where they made Concourse E its own destination. Fans of One Flew South scheduled layovers at the airport in order to eat there.
Open only since mid-October, Southern National is fine dining in Mobile’s lively arts district. The creative dishes here feature locally sourced ingredients like Gulf-fresh seafood, regional delicacies from around the Southeast and inspiration from myriad cultures. (Consider Kentuckyaki Braised Short Ribs with Brussels sprout kimchi and miso butternut squash puree.) They pour inventive craft cocktails and wines from around the world. And it’s worth a trip. No matter where you are right now.
If you go, I’d recommend the BBQ Shrimp Jalapeno Johnny Cakes with delicious red-eye gravy, crunchy dehydrated corn and shaved country ham from Benton’s in Tennessee. The Grilled Okra + Shishito Peppers featured cilantro-whipped goat cheese and a tangy teriyaki vinaigrette. Chef Nutter’s version of the Mobile delicacy chicken-on-a-stick is quite tasty, too. We also enjoyed crispy fried lobster tail (Chef Nutter’s answer to everyone else’s fried shrimp). It’s served with crab meat, Sea Island Red Peas, bok choy and a cilantro cream sauce. And I loved the Thyme-Smoked Pork Belly with a salad of black-eyed peas and arugula. It sat upon a pool of parsnip puree and was topped with blackberry-onion marmalade. Mussels and Collard Greens is an amazing combination. Those two potlikkers together are heaven in a bowl. We did not leave room for dessert (imagine!), but options included the cleverly named Nutter Butter Chai Panna Cotta (with crushed Nutter Butters and crystalized ginger) and Red Wine-Poached Pears with lemon-honey Greek yogurt and toasted pecans.
After learning about the James Beard nomination, Reggie told me: “We worked really hard to get this thing going. I’m just super excited for Duane and Chef Tammy (Dawson) and Will Jones, our beverage manager. You have to work hard to be the best—that’s just what you do—and that’s the only way to excel at something.”
Southern National joins an impressive number of other Beard Award semifinalists from all over Alabama. The Atomic Lounge was nominated for Best Bar Program. For the 10th year in a row, Highlands Bar & Grill was nominated for Outstanding Restaurant. Highland’s Dolester Miles was nominated, for the fifth straight year, for Outstanding Pastry Chef. David Bancroft of Acre in Auburn (read my story about him and his awesome restaurant here), Bill Briand of Fisher’s Upstairs in Orange Beach and Timothy Hontzas of Johnny’s Restaurant in Homewood are repeat semifinalists this year for Best Chef: South.
You can read the entire story about all these talented chefs here at Alabama NewsCenter.
Washington said, “Our state is getting the recognition it deserves. There’s a lot of great talent in Alabama. And I think it says a lot about the state, economically, and as far as the diversity of the dining scene—from Huntsville to Mobile.
“We’ll see what happens now,” he added. “We’ll get more business. People will read about this and hear about it and want to see what we’re all about. We’re going to stay humble and just keep on cooking. Salt and pepper.”