Years ago, in the 50’s, we lived on Patrick Air Force Base. Our next door neighbor and good friend, Cliff Lewis, used a term that I latched on to. He called the local newspaper “the Mullet Wrapper”. A mullet is a fish and the term referred to the fact that the primary use of the newspaper was to wrap fish. Fast forward to last weekend. We were invited to another friend’s 50th wedding anniversary in Fairhope Alabama. Nancy found a quilt shop in Foley about 15 miles from Fairhope. With the help of our new GPS navigator we found it flawlessly. As I waited outside I noticed a newspaper dispenser. I had to take the picture above. By the way, Cliff Lewis was from the Mobile area, a few miles away from Foley. I wonder if they picked up the name from Cliff too or was Cliff referring all the time to the Foley paper.

The trip was fun. My sister Eileen joined us as far as Pensacola where her son, our nephew Glenny, lives. We took a side track though Destin and Fort Walton to find Nancy a quilt shop and to let me see an area I hadn’t visited in 35 years. Of course it was totally unrecognizable. Once again the developers have turned quaint, Gulf towns into Fort lauderdale. So I guess from that standpoint, it was totally recognizable. Along with dropping off Eileen at Glenny’s, Nancy brought the long awaited quilt she had made. He was the last close family member to get his quilt – a long time in the making but really worth the wait.

From Pensacola we went directly to the hotel – or almost directly. Madge (the navigator) gives a voice notice when you reach the final destination. Sometimes she’s off by a few feet. We were staying at a Holiday Inn Express and Madge alerted “you have arrived”. I looked and Nancy looked – no hotel. Wind back to the recent trip to the Outer Banks. We had reservations in Kitty Hawk at a Holiday Inn Express. No navigator to aid us and it was just turning dark. On the main road down the banks there are prominent mile markers starting with 1 and working down to 12 (if I remember correctly). All the places are referenced to the mile markers. So, for example, the AAA tour book showed the Holiday Inn Express at MM 4. We started looking at MM 3 and went to MM 7. I finally pulled over and called the hotel. Julie told me that it was at MM 4 next across the street from K-Mart. Ok, we remembered the K-Mart. We slowed down as we passed the K-mart but saw no Holiday Inn Express. Did a U-Turn and tried again. No luck, so I called Julie again and she gave me an even closer landmark, a restaurant which was directly in front of the Inn. Did this 3 times before Julie said, “oh , wait, maybe the lighted sign is out. That time change thing”. Sure enough she pops on the light and we were a few hundred yards away. The Inn sat back a few hundred feet from the road and the restaurant she referenced was closed and totally dark. Julie and I became good friends. Back to Fairhope. Having experienced Kitty Hawk, I pulled over the first place I could and called. The clerk said they were right beside the Burger King. We remember the Burger King and drove back the 1/2 mile and sure enough there it was – set back from the highway with a nice lighted sign on the road. I asked the clerk if he had just turned on the light after I called and he said “yes, haven’t got used to that time change thing”. So if any body from Holiday Inn Express is reading – hello, daylight savings time is over. The clerk put us on to a great restaurant, Wintzel’s Oyster Bar, that had Yeungling on draft and 25 cent oysters. I had some fantastic spicy seafood gumbo and a half pound of boiled shrimp. Nancy had a dozen raw oysters and a fried oyster salad. Not a fancy place but maybe the best seafood on the planet – at least the shrimp and oysters.

The next morning at the hotel breakfast, hooked up with Emory Ketchersid, his companion Ida and a few other people going to the anniversary party that night. Joe Richburg showed up about 9 AM and gave the four of us a grand tour of Fairhope. Fairhope is a very wealthy community on the Gulf with incredible homes and a quaint, old fashioned downtown. Maybe 2x Cocoa village in size but with more upscale shops.

After the tour, back to Wintzel’s for lunch with Emory and Ida. I had a soft shell crab po-boy; Emory had a crab meat omelet Po boy; Nancy had a classic oyster Po Boy; Ida had a roast beef Po-boy – she doesn’t like seafood – but there’s just something wrong about a roast beef Po-boy. Six Yeungling’s and 2 ice teas. Nancy and I broke off to go to Foley and the mullet wrapper.

That evening we went to the Anniversary party at a community center – the likes of which you have never seen. It would be the type of reception center you would expect to find at the top of a Trump Tower or something like that. I could go on about the place but won’t. Well maybe a little. In addition to the large ball room, there was a room with half a dozen pool tables and a bar – these would be those huge, antique pool tables worth $10 each; a card room with about 30 tables and a long bar. The tables and chairs were the heavy, almost red wood and leather – at least $3K per setup. An exercise room with a few hundred grand worth of equipment. Exquisite art and exhibits scattered throughout. It was the kind of place where you automatically whisper as you roam the halls.

The party was nice. There were about 80 guests of which we knew 5. Interestingly, the only people there who knew everybody were Joe and Joan, the celebrities. But it worked. Joe and Joan, have had a rich life which included 4 kids and several moves around the country. They are very social folks so have made friends all over the country, and as we expected, all the people would be highly social and easy to meet. I think the farthest travelers were from Las Vegas with a New Hampshire couple coming in second. At 44 years Nancy and I came in second among couples long married. Lots of good food, drink, music, and people.

A couple of asides. Turns out that Joan’s sister married a guy I graduated high school with and hadn’t seen since 1958. Sammy Staples ( he’s now Sam) lives in Indian Harbor Beach but just never attends reunions. It was fun hooking up with him again and comparing notes. The other funny one was that we ended up seated with 3 nieces. Over the course of the evening we found out that they were from Slapout Alabama. The gal had to repeat it about 7 times because I couldn’t quite understand what she was saying – spoke Alabamese. She went on to explain that a long time ago the only thing there was a small general store. Patrons looking for specific items would often hear “we’re slap out of that”. After a while, the area became known informally as Slapout and eventually became a town. I couldn’t find it on a map so it must really be tiny.

The trip back was uneventful; all Interstate amd three unsynchronized bladders.

Great lunch

Nancy and I go out to lunch normally two or three times a week. More often than not we end up over at the beach. That can be anywhere from New Symrna to near St. Augustine – whatever strikes us. We have a few “must return to’s” and many more, “we need to try that some time’s”. We’re a fairly balanced team since Nancy tends to want to return to favorites and I tend to want more explorations. This week was a mix.

On Tuesday we headed to an old favorite – DJ’s under the bridge at Port Orange. We tend to go there when there is a sale at Hancock Fabric. It usually starts out as a trip to the beach and about halfway there, Nancy remembers the sale. Anyway, DJ’s is a hole in the wall right on the Halifax. Outside eating only, so it’s weather dependent. We like DJ’s a bit better than the “Deck Down Under” a few hundred feet away on the south side of the bridge. Deck Down Under is more commercial, quite a bit larger, a bit more crowded and louder. At DJ’s we always have a cup of the fish gumbo, which is the best we’ve found around. Nice and spicy. Along with that we had Buffalo Shrimp sandwiches. Nancy has had the bucket of clams but that’s a special occasion lunch – like the time Simon visited us.

Thursday we headed north towards Flagler Beach. About a month ago we had taken the same route. On that excursion, we did an appetizer of Calamari with a pitcher of brew at a place called AJ’s under the bridge – seems like we do these under the bridge things. This was the SR100 bridge over the Halifax. From there we headed north on A1A about 30 miles to Crescent Beach. I had heard about a place called the South Beach Grill from a guy at Lowes – the conversation had started about electrical fixtures but ended up with a beach restaurant swap. Anyway, we found the Grill just fine but also saw first hand that it was very popular and there was zero chance of finding a table. Along the way there we had spotted a place that looked interesting called JT’s Fishshack. It had quite a few cars but we decided it would be an easier lunch there than South Beach. What a great find. It doesn’t look like much but as soon as you go inside you notice that there’s a nice wine bar, a blackboard with a “wine special of the day”, and good looking food on every table. I ordered a crab cake sandwich; Nancy got a soft shell crab sandwich. Mine was good; hers was totally awesome. TJ’s became an instant “must return to”. So on this Thursday we decided to hit TJ’s. We passed it around 12:30 and it was jammed up tight so we decided to head further north and try South Beach Grill again. Being a Thursday in Sept and after 1PM, probably doable.

It was and we sat outside facing the ocean. Whatever the food, the ambience was perfect. Super menu so it all sounded good. We had a starter bowl of Minorcan conch chowder. There were two kinds of soup, the conch and blue crab. Nancy didn’t have her glasses so she didn’t see the blue crab and I preferred the conch. The soup was great but in hindsight, we should have ordered differently. I ordered a blackened fish wrap – it was blackened in a wine sauce with cajun spices, grilled pepper and garlic. Had a choice of wrap material – spinach, chipolte, tomato, and plain. Pasta salad came with it. Nancy got a steak wrap. This too was made in some kind of a wine sauce with peppers and onions. Both were incredible – maybe the steak was even more incredible than the fish. The wraps were really large as was the portions of pasta salad so we each ended up leaving about half the salad. Next time we’ll order a cup of each type soup and then split a wrap. On the way out we noticed that board had the early bird special – 8 jumbo fried shrimp platter with a bowl of Jambalaya gumbo. This place also had a fine wine bar with the wine served in giant glasses. I’m pretty sure both places – South Beach Grill and JT’s fishshack – are owned by the same people. Totally different menu’s but lots of similarities and in both places there are signs telling you how far it is to the other.

South Beach Grill is right on the beach entrance, about 100yds south of the highway 206 causeway. It’s a drive-on beach so a great day would be to get there in time for lunch, do the beach all afternoon, and then head back north on A1A and do dinner at JT’s.