It was a post-election evening and everyone was still reeling from the results. Social media was driving me bonkers and I knew I needed some football. I had the kids, which is a little unusual for midweek, so Catherine and I invited our friend Priscilla Belle Jenkins over for the Thursday night game to amp up the fun.
I really didn’t feel like cooking so PB and I met at Zander’z Sports Bar and Restaurant to place an order on wheels. Don’t know it? Zander’z took the place of the Gulf Coast Wing House at the corner of Airport and Old Government. Formerly Ollie’s, I first heard about it from one of the cooks while having a drink after a gig.
There’s a buzz about the changes that have happened in this neighborhood bar and grill so I figured it was time to chance it on some game food. Priscilla and I arrived about the same time, though we’d previously perused an online menu.
Everyone was super friendly and eager to help, even asking if we were going home to watch the game. After a few questions and no beers, we over-ordered for three adults and two growing boys. Two specials, a couple pizzas, wings and apps make for a carload of a feast.
Ready to settle in and dine with the NFL blaring on the big screen, I turn on the television to find none other than the Browns versus the Ravens. Deflated, I knew that if I didn’t care one bit about either of these teams or their standings then I certainly couldn’t force my guests to watch simply because it’s football. With tears in my eyes I quietly watched Priscilla, Lucas and Graham navigate through the On Demand menu until “Kung Fu Panda 3” replaced the game as Catherine and I prepared the plates.
Let’s start with pizza. The boys had their own cheese pizza ($9) and remarked how great it was. For the adults. I was so overjoyed they had green olives that I ordered the green olive and sausage pizza ($11.49). This was a very good pizza with a medium crust, so off the bat we were impressed.
Priscilla was in the mood for wings, so we tried two flavors. Zanderz’s boneless pineapple teriyaki wings ($4.99) were a four-piece snack that I must say was tasty. Bleu cheese or ranch would ruin the flavor. We also tried the regular lemon garlic wings ($4.99), which were just as impressive.
Next we found ourselves opening a rather large sampler platter ($11.99), ordered only because Buffalo chicken rangoons sounded amazing. Fried dill pickles were as good as you’d expect. Corn nuggets weren’t plentiful but good. Crab bites are about the size of a corn nugget, but much better. But the surprise of the evening was the pile of deep-fried banana pepper rings. These could seriously be the “next big thing” in Mobile’s bar trash scene. It made me not miss the rangoons that for some reason didn’t find their way into the box.
Zander’z is in a constant state of change, with so many specials you could have a separate menu. I’ve heard people speak of boneless ribs stuffed with asparagus that are on the radar.
Tonight my first special was called The Causeway ($20.99). This is a bed of risotto with a grilled filet of snapper topped with a fried softshell crab. Accompanied by a mixed grill of vegetables, including zucchini, yellow squash, onions and carrots, it is very hard to see how they could keep the price so low. If there is one regret for this dish it’s that I wasn’t dining in.
Something this good in a Styrofoam box just doesn’t give you the presentation it needs.
The other special was named The Delta ($15.99). This was the Zander’z take on shrimp and grits with the same mixed grill mentioned before. I say their “take” because it wasn’t just shrimp and grits. These were incredibly large stuffed shrimp over creamy grits, and the dish was my favorite of the two.
For the most part Zander’z is doing a bang-up job in that familiar building, and management says there are more changes coming. I like the place, but it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns over there. My complaints are small, but significant.
First of all, the Gulf Coast Wing sign and awning are still up. That is a strike against them for anyone driving by. Secondly, their online menu is incomplete and confusing in many ways. I’m finding out more and more what I missed by paying attention to the website. Finally, a major complaint is that a 15 percent gratuity is added to your check to “ensure quality.” I didn’t even notice it until I read a Yelp review.
I was told by an employee (I can only assume was a manager?) that they are in the process of moving the taps from the small bar room (the old 1850 Room) to the 40-foot bar in the dining room and will outfit the smaller room as a sushi bar. They already have a fairly expansive menu, so let’s hope that goes well.
I wouldn’t necessarily say I reviewed Zander’z prematurely. Maybe I just caught them in the middle of a menu change. There were some minor flaws that could easily be remedied with a little TLC and a photocopy of whatever menu they happened to be running that day. There was no menu to take home and the website, as I said, has some issues. But the boys in the back nailed the food. I’m not complaining about one thing I ate.
Let’s hope these guys don’t try to do too much. A friend to all is a friend to none. But if you want good pizza and wings with the option of finer dining and some great bar trash, then look no farther. I think everything would have been even better had I been dining in, even if I would have had to watch the Browns.
Zander’z Sports Bar & Restaurant
1850 Airport Blvd., Mobile 36606