Every year for Thanksgiving, I take a road trip with my mother Dawn. It started the year of Katrina, a tough one for my Mom, with my Dad passing away a few months before Katrina and then losing her house in the storm. That Thanksgiving, she was so down, and that was never my Mom, so I decided to help her begin the holiday season right, and our road trip journey began. It’s now become a tradition with us.
Each year we go to a different city; from Branson to Pensacola and San Antonio to Memphis, we get around. This year we decided to do a two-part trip beginning in Mobile, Alabama, and ending in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Our journey began on Thursday morning when we left the house and drove to the Silver Slipper Casino in Bay St. Louis for a Thanksgiving lunch. I am not a huge casino buffet person, but I have to admit their display is one of the best. Their Jubilee Buffet has been voted the “Best on the Coast” and I can see why. They have an extensive salad bar. The center of the Buffet had a wide selection of championship slow-smoked barbecue. There was also Southern, Cajun and Creole favorites, plus Asian and Italian foods. But the highlight was their display of Dungeness crabs, snow crabs and Jonah crabs. I mean it was a crab lovers heaven. I skipped the dessert bar, which was pretty amazing, mostly because I ate my fill of crabs.
After lunch, we gambled a little then made our way down the scenic coast to Mobile where we checked into the Battle House Renaissance. This stately property is located downtown and was beautifully decorated for the holidays with an amazing Christmas tree standing tall in the center of the lobby.
Later that night, after getting settled in and resting, I decided to meet up with Matt Hester, a friend of mine who lives in the city, and check out the gay bar scene. For a small city, their LGBT bar scene is pretty nice with three places being centrally located downtown.
I started off at the Flip Side which is a neighborhood bar with great energy and a nice courtyard in the back. That evening, they were having a Thanksgiving potluck and the atmosphere was festive. It’s a more laid-back spot than their sister property a few steps away B-Bob’s which we went to next. B’Bob’s is a two-story complex that has drag shows and numerous bars with lots of indoor and outdoor spaces. This place is amazing and has so much to offer. It also has earned many accolades since its opening in 1992. B-Bob’s has been voted Best Gay Bar, 2010-present as well as Mobile’s Best Dance Club since 2014. The bartenders are cute, the drag performers are top notch (and they also get lots of RuPaul’s alumni) and the music is hot. The last bar is Gabriel’s and is right around the corner from B’Bob’s. It’s a welcoming, casual space that boasts being the oldest LGBT bar in Mobile. All three places are great for visitors and the crowds are friendly. Each bar offers something different so you can set your pace for the night at any of the three.
The following day was Back Friday. My mom and I have a tradition of shopping the entire day. We don’t do anything uncivilized like storm a Walmart knocking people over for a $200 television. We did, however, get up early, like 4am, and drove to Foley, Alabama, which is about 45 minutes out of Mobile to go to the Tanger Outlet Center. My mom whips up a pitcher of Bloody Mary’s and away we go. We love getting great deals and even though I know you can get them online there is something about shopping that I just love! People may think we’re crazy, but what they do not understand, is this a chance for my mom and me to bond doing something we both love to do–shop.
After spending the day shopping at various places, we returned to Mobile and had a late lunch at the Moon Pie General Store which is also a cafe and directly across the street from our hotel. It’s a fun and campy place to buy memorabilia of this popular dessert.
After a long and well-earned rest, we went to dinner at this fabulous downtown restaurant called Dumbwaiters. The restaurant scene in Mobile is outstanding and this place was excellent. Owner Wes Lambert and his wife, Dana decided to create a business that showcased the southern style of cooking with an emphasis on fresh seafood. I cannot give this place enough recognition; the food was superior and the service was top notch. We began with deep-fried pimento cheese balls before moving onto the main course which was Causeway Benedict — a delicious buttermilk biscuit, fried green tomatoes, fried creole mozzarella, a crab cake, 4 oz filet, conecuh crab cream sauce. Simply divine.
After dinner, we decided to enjoy a little holiday festivity. We drove to Hank Aaron Stadium, a ballpark named after the Mobile native and Major League Baseball home run king. During the holidays it presents Christmas Nights of Lights of Mobile. You can see over 1 million lights synchronized to traditional and newer, rocking Christmas music. It was a pretty incredible show and a fabulous holiday treat. When the Frozen song Let It Go came on, and the lights started dancing around as you drove through the exhibit, it truly was magical.
Because we did not get the shopping bug out of our system on Friday, on Saturday we drove to Fairhope and did small Saturday shopping at all the little stores and boutiques in its downtown area. Fairhope is a quaint bedroom community located across the bay from Mobile and has a great vibe with unique stores and boutiques, as well as one of the best used bookstores I have ever been in. There was also an amazing toy store that allowed me to get all my holiday kid gifts (and they gift wrap).
After another marathon day of shopping, we went to lunch at this great gastropub downtown called Squid Ink Eclectic Eats and Drinks. Another fabulous foodie choice. Their food is rooted in Lower Alabama classics, but also a melting pot of influences from Mobile’s French, Spanish, and British heritage. My favorite dish for lunch was their power tuna poke bowl, but their sandwiches, burgers, craft cocktails and wine and beer selection is also noteworthy. Of their appetizers, the fried deviled eggs, BBQ pork rinds and street cauliflower were all great choices.
After lunch, I walked around downtown and visited the History Museum of Mobile which was fascinating. Not only does it tell the full story of the city’s founding, but it also had several special exhibits such as “Married in Mobile”, a display of four centuries of wedding dresses. In their permanent exhibition, their miniature doll houses are impressive.
After some down time, we went to dinner later the night to NOJA which is a fine dining restaurant with a Mediterranean flair. I had been to this place before and remembered how good the food had been so we returned; it was just as fantastic as I’d recalled. We began with the Sous Vide Pork Belly which was delectable. For dinner, I had a scrumptious duck dish, Maple Leaf Duck Breast with cabbage sauce and rum-infused jasmine rice. So good! As a side, the sautéed mushrooms were superb. Just a perfect dinner to end our visit to Mobile.
We left Mobile on Sunday afternoon and took a leisurely drive down the coast to Gulfport. We met up with my friends Beaux, Barrett and Matt at The Chimneys Restaurant, my favorite brunch spot on the coast, and had a tasty meal with bottomless champagne. Libations are always an important part of any family’n’friends gathering.
Next we moved our rolling parade to Island View Casino where we checked in and got down to a little gambling. After donating some money to the local economy (I lost), we went to the nearby 5th annual Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival which has rides, lights, live entertainment, and cocktails. It was also featured in the Lifetime Movie holiday hit Christmas in Mississippi. The weather cooled down to create a perfect atmosphere to walk around viewing the lights. There are so many great light displays for the entire family all along the Coast that I highly suggest a day trip there.
Next we went to dinner at El Agave Mexican Restaurant which has great food at really good prices. It’s also a block away from the fabulous Gulfport gay bar, Sipps. If you haven’t been there yet, you need to check it out. The bartenders are fabulous and they have some of the best drag shows on the Coast. Sipps is a refreshing LGBT beacon in the area and I highly recommend going there. After a few dirty martinis, I returned to the casino and bid my friends farewell while they went back to NOLA. I was still in vacation mode. I then proceeded to give more money to the local economy. Luck was not a nice lady to me this trip.
On Monday, Mom and I had breakfast at the hotel buffet; it offered an adequate spread. Then we decided to check out the Gulfport Premium Outlet malljust in case we missed any shopping. The Gulfport Outlet has expanded and looks like they are about to grow even more. I almost finished my holiday shopping list while I was there.
I also decided to treat myself to something I very rarely do, go to the movies. I found the major theatre complex in Gulfport, got a buttered popcorn, kicked my feet up in the reclining chairs and enjoyed the entertaining murder mystery Knives Out starring Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis and Chris Evans. This was a perfect escapist, afternoon movie. I love mysteries and this one delivered quite satisfyingly. If you are a fan of the genre, check it out.
That night we went to dinner at Carter Green Steakhouse located in the Island View Casino. Every Monday night they do an inexpensive prime rib special which packs the place. But not only is the prime rib worthwhile, but all the steaks and seafood are good choices. This restaurant is another one of my favorite spots in Gulfport.
We left on Tuesday for New Orleans and I spent the day getting caught up after another memorable Thanksgiving trip with Mom.