As a Gulf Coast transplant, it’s amazing to me how close so many great cities are to each other in this part of the country. My new neighbor is Mobile, Alabama, just 45 miles away, making it very handy for pop-up day trips and weekenders. In my first year on the coast, I learned that Mobile’s Mardi Gras parades were every bit as grand as those in New Orleans. Yes, I said that. Mobile is a big little city that swells with Southern pride and seems to have a huge festival every weekend. And for New Year’s Eve: Moon Pies take center stage.
It goes back more than a half-century, when Mobile made the Moon Pie the official throw during Mardi Gras parades—much softer than the boxes of Cracker Jacks they replaced.
Ease into it
It was cold on NYE 2018. Below freezing is considered downright uninhabitable in these parts, and wind tunnels created by downtown skyscrapers made certain blocks a teeth-chattering adventure. Rather than mingle outdoors at all the activities on Bienville Square, my husband and I opted for a two-hour dinner indoors, above it all.
Dauphin’s is on the entire 34th floor of the Trustmark building. We started at the bar then lingered in the piano lounge before dinner. Views of the city are awesome from every vantage point and especially romantic after dark. Dauphin’s attracts a well-dressed, well-coifed crowd to be sure, but you really can’t be stuffy when slurping French Creole cuisine.
To find the Trustmark building, look up. It has a giant Moon Pie affixed to the top of the building year-round. One night a year, 50,000 people come to Bienville Square to watch it drop.
Then let loose
I don’t feel like we paid our dues. With just one Mardi Gras season under our belts, how did we rate to march in a second line? We didn’t know the secret handshake. We were not tight with a local krewe. But at Moon Pie Over Mobile, the second line that marches up Royal Street welcomes spectators to join in. We were with the group of umbrella-wagging revelers in front of the band and learned that a row of trumpets blasting directly behind you is loud enough to lift you off your feet.
The parade ended at Bienville Square, where the opening band was starting to play. But like I said, it was cold that night. Bienville Square is bordered on one side by Dauphin Street, which has fantastic local eateries. So, we decided to sip strong beverages instead of braving the cold.
At the bar at The Noble South, we ate blue cheese mousse and pepper jelly from little Mason jars. And drank. At Dumbwaiter, we shared an order of bourbon bread pudding. And drank more. By the time we made it back to the square, our toes were warm and spirits just right.
And George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic was on stage! We got right up in the middle of the mass of humanity to watch the show, then turned our attention to the top of the Trustmark building for the countdown.
When the Moon Pie drop marked midnight, downtown Mobile erupted with cheers and fireworks. Then it seemed like within another 10-second countdown the entire crowd scurried back to their cars to warm up and get home. We scurried, too, but stopped at B-Bob’s on the way back to the hotel for the first drag show of 2018.
Hoping for better weather for the 2019 drop. But even if the temperature plunges again in Mobile, stiff drinks and good company will make it a night to remember.