Conecuh Sausage Cheesecake
Sausage in a cheesecake seems about as compatible as Trump and Hillary in a sleeping bag. But Conecuh Sausage Cheesecake has high approval ratings. So does Ashland Midtown Pub.
“You need to know this is not a dessert, ” pub chef K.K. Ollis explains. One bite affirms it; the chef is correct. Yes, it is cheesecake, not sweet but savory. The signature dish is a main course and beyond wonderful.
“It begins just like a regular cheesecake dessert, ” Ollis says. “We start by building it with cream cheese and eggs, whipped really well.” But additional similarities are gone with the blend. Ground Conecuh sausage, Parmesan cheese, green onions, butter and other ingredients are added and molded onto a Ritz cracker piecrust. The creation is finally ladled with a strawberry-jalapeño topping. Ollis adds, “The flavor is like a sweet and sour pepper jelly. We want the finished product tasting like a sausage biscuit with jelly.” It sure does.
“Our cheesecake is on the menu periodically, especially during the holidays, ” says Ashland Midtown Pub owner Chris Lee. “We serve it by the slice (about the size of a brick) or pan. On days it’s not on the menu, we can make it by request to eat in, if supplies are available. Or we can make it to go.” They will prepare the delectable dish in a serving bowl you provide to take back home. Don’t worry about leftovers; there won’t be any.
Ashland Midtown Pub • 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. M – Th. 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. F – Sa. Brunch: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Su. Open till 9 p.m. • 2453 Old Shell Rd. 479-3278
Baby barbecue octopus
Who among us ventures to Cottage Hill Road without craving barbecued octopus? The search is over at Kai Restaurant. The eatery serves good ole cephalopod mollusk, real octopus, the kind mom cooked and told you was an eight-legged chicken. But here’s a tip: If you want baby barbecue octopus (idako), call ahead and come early. Kai receives octopi shipments from Japan early in the month and can be sold out within a week.
“Octopus has a sweet and chewy texture, ” manager Mark Perez says. “It is a delicacy in Asian countries.”
Kai also offers marinated jellyfish, imported from Japan, and sea urchin, shipped from California. “A lot of people try our octopus, jellyfish and sea urchin for the first time with some hesitation, ” Perez notes. “But most leave here loving them.”
Kai Restaurant • 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. M – W, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Th, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. F – Sa. • 5045 Cottage Hill Rd. 607-6454
Mac Attack Burger
Oh, LoDa Bier Garten, you had me at macaroni. That lovely elbow pasta oozing with cheddar, Parmesan, Romano, provolone and mozzarella cheeses. But, then you topped it with crispy bacon, deep fried it into a patty and lodged it between brioche buns. Now you own me.
LoDa Bier Garten sells thousands of handcrafted burgers a week. And according to the restaurant’s owner Matthew Golden, one of the most popular is No. 11, the “Mac Attack.” It is comfort food on the cutting edge, and in the words of Golden, “It’s awesome.”
But wait, there’s more. The Sugar Rush Burger is one half-pound of beef, a slab of bacon and cheddar cheese with homemade root beer barbecue sauce and caramelized onions, all wedged between two glazed donuts. Sprinkle sugar on top for a sweet one.
LODA Bier Garten • 11 a.m. – 2 a.m. M – Su • 251 Dauphin St. 287-6871
Hot chicken hearts
In an eclectic blend of country, contemporary and cool, The Noble South restaurant invites us to turn the other cheek. Beef cheek that is, the incredible edible mandible. “The cheek is the most succulent meat on almost any animal, ” the eatery’s general manager Myles Meade says. “We serve it a lot as a main course.” The awe of the jaw comes with Southern-style mashed potatoes, carrots and peas, a red wine sauce and mushrooms.
But beef isn’t the only option straight from the farm. Did we mention the Dauphin Street eatery offers plates piled high with tasty goat dumplings? But start with an appetizer — hot chicken hearts. Served “Nashville-style” as fast as Noble South can cook to keep up with demand, hot chicken hearts are spicy with a dry rub including a cayenne and red pepper dusting. Additionally, Noble South serves up some amazing chicken livers, grilled and blended with secret ingredients to create a rich smooth paté. They are plated with pickled beets and house toast. So much bang for the cluck.
The Noble South • Lunch: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. M – F. Dinner: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. M – Sa. Happy hour: 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. M – F. • 203 Dauphin St. 690-6824
Down under burger
There’s so much boar on the Eastern Shore. In addition to excellent fare typical of the area, Fairhope’s Locals restaurant serves wild game. How wild? Anyone up for kangaroo? “It is our most requested non-menu item, ” Locals owner Wade Peryer says about his Down Under burgers. He and wife Ashley have served the Australian delicacy since the restaurant’s first day of business four years ago.
Other entrees that allow patrons to take a walk on the wild side include elk, yak, deer, llama, alligator, bison and today’s offering, wild boar. “It includes Hawaiian slaw, Gouda cheese, bacon, pineapple and sauces. It is similar to domestic pork, but more flavorful, ” says Peryer. And, almost everything on the menu is organically grown from grass-fed animal meat.
“We have a big following that loves our wild game selection, ” notes Wade. “We try rotating the selections on a weekly basis, except for kangaroo. It’s so popular we offer it two weeks at a time.” Call ahead to see what is on the rotating menu. If your favorite isn’t currently available, it will be.
Locals • 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. M – Th. 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. F. 8:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sa. • 410 Fairhope Ave. 517-9043
Everyone’s always talking about the mouthwatering cuisine at the OK Bicycle Shop restaurant. But tongues are not just waggin’; they’re actually on the menu. The OK gives the OK to lengua tacos, i.e. cow tongue on tortilla shells. “They’re a big seller. We make about 37 to 49 every week, ” co-owner Shannon Walker says.
As for tongue demographics, the dish appeals to ages 7 to 70. “It is amusing watching children walk in here, requesting cow tongue, ” Walker smiles. “But children and adults alike are fascinated by it.”
“It actually tastes and looks like pot roast, ” Walker notes. The meat is braised in chipotle sauce, diced, then piled high on a 6-inch tortilla and topped with cilantro, raw onions and other spices. The flavor stays with you, always on the tip of your tongue.
OK Bicycle Shop • 11 a.m. – 3 a.m. M – Su. • 661 Dauphin St. 432-2453
text by Emmett Burnett • photos by Elizabeth gelineau