Eugene Walter once declared, “If I was dictator of Mobile, I would have an open-air café facing Bienville Square.” Mobile’s Renaissance man got his wish this past January when Eugene’s Monkey Bar opened on Conception Street downtown inside the new Hilton Garden Inn.
Walter reveled in all things old South, such as front porches and sweet tea, and he even carried a box of Alabama red clay with him during his travels. But the Mobile native, artist, author and bon vivant (among many other titles) spent the better part of his adulthood in Paris and Rome. So it is that Eugene’s Monkey Bar offers deeply rooted Southern flavors in a chic and sleek atmosphere, worthy of a more urban locale. The juxtaposition is fitting for a café named in Walter’s honor.
Eugene’s Monkey Bar’s Sunday brunch is becoming famous with locals who enjoy the extensive menu and bottomless Bloody Mary and mimosa bar. Happy hour on the front porch proves the perfect way to unwind after a long workday, and the creative cocktails are as fresh as the food.
Chef Rebecca James, who worked her way up from line cook to pastry chef to executive chef, takes pride in crafting sauces from scratch and sourcing locally whenever possible. She uses Fairhope’s Bill E’s Bacon to make her candied sriracha bacon for the Nola Chicken sandwich, and all the seasoned fries and chips are hand-cut. She laughs that guests may not remember her name, but they are going to leave remembering that food.
There’s no need to book a room at the hotel to enjoy the fare, but having these dishes brought straight to your bed via room service sounds like a really good idea, too.
Nola Chicken, Shrimp and Grits
On the Menu
Eggs St. Francis
Delicate poached eggs are perched on top of a Gulf blue crab cake and Conecuh sausage, then topped with a homemade horseradish remoulaude. A fried green tomato, from-scratch biscuit and creamy grits round out this breakfast plate.
Chicken is marinated 24 hours in sriracha buttermilk and then double-breaded for an extra crispy fillet. Topped with candied sriracha Bill E’s Bacon, ranch slaw and housemade pickles, this dish is served with hand-cut sweet potato chips.
Brisket and ground chuck are combined to make the perfect patty, which is grilled and topped with creamy housemade pimento cheese and bacon. It’s served on a butter-toasted bun with “everything bagel” topping alongside hand-cut fries.
Shrimp and Grits
Sautéed Gulf shrimp, Conecuh sausage, and the “Cajun trinity” of red and green peppers and onions are served over stone-ground cheese grits in a creamy (but not too heavy) sauce with a sprinkling of goat cheese on top — for the win.