Cities across America use walking tours as a way to introduce both tourists and locals alike to the significant stops in the area. Whether visiting historic landmarks, art venues, neighborhoods or restaurants, seeing the streets from an insider’s perspective offers the most in-depth insights to the city’s overarching story.
When a friend returned to Mobile with rave reviews about a food tour in Savannah, Georgia, AM/NS Calvert crane operator and self-proclaimed history buff Chris Andrews knew that was just the type of attraction Mobile was missing.
“I just had that light bulb moment, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” says Andrews. “I just thought Mobile had to have it.”
So he and his wife, Laney, made it their mission to start a downtown walking tour that uncovers the rich history of Mobile as well as the landmark foods that put the city on the map. Without a background in food or history, though, he wanted to solidify his foundation. He traveled to Chicago to take courses at Food Tour Pros in the summer of 2017, and that October, Bienville Bites was born.
Tours now include a daytime LoDa Stroll and a nighttime Old Mobile Evening. The threefold mission of the enterprise is “Coastal. Celebrate. Cuisine.” — praising local culture in a fun and friendly atmosphere while enjoying signature Gulf Coast staples. Each restaurant and accompanying walking stop or history lesson has been handpicked for its story, local lore, atmosphere or just generally delicious dishes. Come hungry, leave enriched and satisfied.
The LoDa Stroll
Stop 1 – The Royal Scam: Begin your tour on the patio with a hearty bowl of “Mobile’s Best” gumbo and the origin story of the city’s influence on the iconic dish. Follow Royal Street down to Mardi Gras Park, the History Museum of Mobile and the Fort of Colonial Mobile for little-known facts about the area’s founding history.
Stop 2 – Panini Pete’s: One of the recipes dearest to “Panini Pete” Blohme’s heart is his beignet recipe with a signature lemon twist. Learn the heartwarming story behind his unique spin while taste-testing the pastry. You can also munch on famous muffaletta, mozzarella and tomato, rosemary chicken or roasted turkey panini.
Stop 3 – Von’s Bistro: After brief stops at the Van Antwerp building and the Battle House Hotel, two immaculate buildings notorious for their cultural significance and historic charm, trek down and around to Von’s. One taste of their Gulf crab wontons and pork spring rolls signifies why their fusion menu is one of the most popular in the area.
Stop 4 – Three George’s Candy Shop: After a photo op in Bienville Square and an amble past The Steeple on St. Francis, stop in at Three George’s Candy Shop for a VIP praline-making experience like no other. Twelve-year candy-making veteran LaTasha Thompson spins sugar and gut-busting humor into the staple Southern confection right before your eyes, before serving them warm straight from the copper pot.
Stop 5 – Wintzell’s Oyster House: Stroll to the westernmost point of the tour for a taste of an unmistakable Mobile landmark — Wintzell’s Oyster House. Load up on all the greats, from an appetizer of fried dill pickles to a solitary raw oyster and a sampler of the more decorated chargrilled oysters and Oysters Monterey, Bienville and Rockefeller.
Stop 6 – Heroes: As the venture winds back down to central Dauphin, pass through Cathedral Square and learn the story behind the impeccable Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Take a seat at Heroes for a lesson on Mobile’s iconic baseball history while dipping into their award-winning spinach and crawfish dip.
Stop 7 – A&M Peanut Shop: As if you weren’t full to the brim by this point, the tour ends with sampling an assortment of salted peanuts, pecans, cashews and nuts, as well as an in-shell roasted peanut fresh from the shop’s century-old Planters roaster. Inhale the intoxicating aroma as you depart alongside friends old and new.
LoDa Stroll – $55 per person, food included; 1 p.m. F, 11 a.m. Sa. bienvillebitesfoodtour.com
Old Mobile Evening Tour
A trek down the Downtown Mobile Oyster Trail highlights the history of food in Mobile through the centuries and how food evolved to shape the Gulf Coast cuisine we still love today. Stops include Dauphin’s, The Cheese Cottage, The Harbor Room, O’Daly’s Hole in the Wall and FIVE.
Cost: $65; additional alcohol package $10; Alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5 p.m.