Like the master-planned community in which it is located, the Great Southern Café is a handsomely rendered upscale version of a downhome past. “New-fashioned southern cuisine” is how the menu describes it, meaning that you eat familiar favorites with a worldly twist. Fried green tomatoes, for example, come topped with “sweet potato hay” (crisp-fried little squiggles of yam); mac ‘n’ cheese is made with fontina, gruyere, and gorgonzola and laced with bacon and spiced shrimp; cheese grits are enhanced with plush smoked Gouda.
A West Indies “crab martini,” served in a wide-mouthed martini glass, adds avocado to the traditional Mobile Bay salad of marinated crab. As is true of everything from this kitchen, ingredients are top-drawer, the big nuggets of crab smooth and opulent. Local oysters on the half shell sparkle; balsamic-glazed grilled salmon is ocean sweet and protein-rich. Seafood is the main attraction, but even hamburgers are a cut above: freshly-ground, grass-fed beef with a choice of cheeses and/or Applewood smoked bacon.
Outstanding desserts: Key lime pie that is tart and creamy and endlessly delicious; and stately cheesecake wallowing in praline and pecan sauce.
Three meals a day are served. The breakfast menu includes beignets, biscuits with house-made sausage gravy, fried green tomato Benedict, and grits a ya ya (shrimp, bacon, spinach, and mushrooms on the smoked Gouda cheese grits).
The Great Southern Cafe is a happily informal place – bare tables, chrome-banded chairs, silverware arrayed in buckets at the center of every table; but the pricey menu and swank neighborhood mean that fellow diners will likely be white collar rather than redneck.
(Please pardon my grainy photos. It is pretty dark at the Great Southern Café at night, indoors and out.)