In 2005, when the Alabama Tourism Department published 100 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die, I saw immediately that I'd eaten at the wrong places on my previous trips through the state: Not one of them was on the list.
With 100 dishes to brag about, from strawberry tea to cheese biscuits, fried catfish to bread pudding, this was not just a list of Alabama's best, it was a key to the classics of Southern food -- and the best places in Alabama to eat them.
My next trip to Alabama took me to Mobile, which was well represented on the list, with 15 dishes. I had lunch at Wintzell's Oyster House, whose oysters -- ''fried, stewed or nude'' merited a place. I went to the original restaurant on Dauphin Street, where the walls were papered with pithy sayings by the founder, Oliver Wintzell.
I ordered a dozen grilled oysters, and fried green tomatoes with crawfish sauce. The tomatoes had a crisp crust and a peppery brown sauce with bits of crawfish and green onions. The oysters arrived sizzling on their shells. They were plump and juicy and covered with a crust of melted Parmesan cheese.
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I was polishing off the last of the oysters when the waitress asked if I had room for Wintzell's dessert specialty, bread pudding. I said no, and truly I was full from this Southern feast. But I remembered that the list recommended the bread pudding with whiskey sauce at the Captain's Table right here in Mobile, and if I could drag my full belly over there, that's what I would be eating next.
This is one in a series of postcards by Marjie Lambert, assistant Travel editor, who has been to all 50 states.