Jubilee Seafood is a conundrum. From the outside, it looks like a dive. Inside, it’s a windowless, nautical-themed, full-bar tavern. Tables are bare but prices are posh, with entrees in the $25-30 range. Customers include romantic couples, splurging families, and savvy eaters who make a point of seeking out a city’s hidden culinary gems. Any cognitive dissonance evaporates when the food arrives, for it is unequivocally splendid.
Alabama’s own West Indies salad is nowhere better. Chilled lumps of crab, sopped in bracing marinade along with bits of onion, is as uncomplicated as a dish can be. When the crab is sweet and fresh, as it is here, it is a well-nigh perfect and unimprovable concoction. One does want a few saltines (Jubilee provides Lances) if for no other reason than to force taste buds to occasionally encounter something other than the compelling crab. I was tempted to ask for a straw to suck up the last of the marinade when the crab in my dish had been dispatched. Jubilee’s appetizer-size version is quite large — maybe a cupful, kept cool in a vessel of ice — but I could eat four portions. That is, if a single portion didn’t cost $15.95!
An everyday menu lists such Alabama favorites as fried crab claws, snapper, gumbo, fried shrimp and oysters; and a much larger menu of specials is created each evening. These can be regional delicacies (Texas redfish, grouper, tripletail) or items from western waters (Alaskan halibut, mahi mahi, Australian barramundi). What I’ve had has been impeccable and unfussy. I do not plan ever to visit Montgomery without returning to this fine restaurant for more.
Note that Jubilee is open only for dinner, starting at 5pm. Reservations are not accepted, and there can be a wait for a table at peak mealtimes, weekends in particular.