The Hungry Owl
Sallye Irvine samples local restaurants.
photos by Elise Poché
Chef Tony Nicholas started out making a really big burger, and then it got even bigger – the same goes for his restaurant, The Hungry Owl. The West Mobile hotspot recently underwent tremendous growth. The original eatery opened in November 2008 on Schillinger Road, and held 35 to 40 customers. This summer, The Hungry Owl moved just around the corner on Cottage Hill Road to larger digs and now seats 200. “It’s an undertaking,” Nicholas says. “We went from six employees to 63!” In September, the restaurant even opened “The Hungry Howl,” where customers can have a bite or a drink with their dogs on the porch and listen to live music. Nicholas, a native Mobilian who cooked under Emeril Lagasse, calls his food “casual, Southern and Creole. It’s not fast food, but it’s as fast as we can get it to you.”
As a happy coincidence, the move occurred almost simultaneously with the restaurant’s exposure on the Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food Nation” in July. The signature specialty, the gargantuan Ultimate Stuffed Tony Burger, below left, became even more famous. “We can hardly keep up. We do hundreds a day.”
Burgers are far from all The Hungry Owl has to offer. Their menu has plenty to choose from, but here’s the big surprise – nothing is fried. Instead, crab claws come steamed and nicely spicy. Ditto for the jumbo royal reds served with butter sauce. (It’s akin to eating succulent little lobsters.) Entrees range from a trio of redfish dishes, red beans and rice, and flatbread pizzas to seared tuna, shrimp and smoked Gouda grits, and even alligator potpie. There are tons of sides as well. The baked macaroni and cheese and the soufflé-textured smashed sweet potatoes are two favorites. For dessert, there is always a cobbler du jour along with the lip-smacking Banana MoonPie Pudding, below right.
cheesy crawfish dip
The ultra-cheesy, tomatoey, spicy-good dip is dotted with mushrooms and served withtriangles of herbed flatbread.
alligator and crab cake
A lightly crisped, pan-seared crab cake with alligator and local crabmeat comes drizzledwith dense, delicious remoulade-stylecrawfish cream sauce.
ultimate stuffed tony burger
You need a big mouth and a big appetite to eat this behemoth of a burger. A thick patty, stuffed with sautéed onions, peppers, Conecuh sausage, cheese and more, is slicked with a Creole barbeque glaze, topped with bacon, candied jalapeños, melted smoked Gouda, and a fried egg.
banana moonpie pudding
A twist on the traditional Southern classic made with MoonPies, as opposed to bananas and Nilla Wafers.