Historic Rawls

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Rawls recieves five out of five stars

Rawls offers fine dining

By: Kendall Clinton | Dothan Eagle
Published: March 28, 2012

Living in Dothan, I don’t have to drive far to find a wide variety of restaurants, with a mix of well-known chains and some good locally-owned eateries.

One thing missing, however, is a restaurant with an upscale feel, where shorts and flip flops aren’t really appropriate, where the wine offerings are more than a small space on the back of the menu, and where your dinner isn’t going to be interrupted with the annoying tradition many restaurants have of gathering up the wait staff to clap and sing a ridiculous song to somebody on their birthday.

There are many restaurants I do really like in Dothan, and would eat at on a regular basis if money and my waistline were no object, but sometimes something a little more upscale is a welcome change.

So on a recent Tuesday night my wife Shannon and I made the 30-minute drive to downtown Enterprise, where we pulled up outside The Rawls, a building dating back to 1903 when it was first constructed as a hotel. The building now houses a private business upstairs, but still has a restaurant and bar on the ground level bearing the last name of the couple, Japheth and Elizabeth Rawls, whose hotel still reflects the opulent grandeur of architecture not seen in many modern buildings.

Though it was 7 on a Tuesday night, The Rawls was surprisingly busy. The hostess seated us at a candlelit table within a couple minutes of our arrival. Our waiter, who seemed to be serving the entire dining area by himself, was quick to attend to us and was professional and accommodating yet approachable and friendly and not at all snooty or overly formal as found at some upscale restaurants.

After selecting an appetizer and ordering our entrees, we admired the elegance of the dining area, with its tall ceilings and ornate moldings. I’m not sure, but I think the dining area could have been the lobby or a ball room when the building was still operating as a hotel.

It didn’t take long for our waiter to return with the ceviche we ordered as an appetizer. It was presented in a cylindrical shape on the plate and contained mango, jalapeno, cilantro, shaved fennel and julienned radishes, as well as the tender pieces of shrimp, coated in citrus juices. Shannon said the fennel, with its characteristic licorice flavor, provided a nice crunch in contrast to the buttery avocado and tender, juicy shrimp.

There are several other interesting appetizers to choose from, all seeming to have a regional flavor, which is also the case with the entrees. Some offerings include braised local rabbit, roasted rack of lamb, and fried peanut-crusted catfish.

I decided to go with the grilled rib-eye steak, which was served with roasted fingerling potatoes, onion gratin, dinosaur kale, and red wine jus. My rib-eye steak was very tender and juicy, cooked exactly as I had requested. I probably could have cut it with a butter knife. And don’t even think of doctoring it up with additional seasoning. You wouldn’t buy a Picasso and then get your water colors out because you think you can make it better, so don’t think you can make this rib-eye taste better than the chef.

Shannon ordered the shrimp with organic grits. It came with a flavorful sauce made of sausage, shallots, tomato and thyme. She found the grits to be creamy and delightful, with an ample portion of shrimp.

For dessert, I chose the Carver Cup, which had peanut butter mousse and peanuts inside a frozen semisweet dark chocolate shell. I did have a challenge trying to get through the chocolate shell (a knife to cut it with would have helped), but a sympathetic couple nearby pointed out that they had the same problem and discovered if you turn it upside down you have more luck.

Shannon’s dessert took less effort to eat. She had the vanilla bean creme brulee with gingersnaps and seasonal fruit. Creme brulee is her absolute favorite dessert, so she was happy to see it on the menu. She said the sugar was perfectly caramelized on top, and the custard beneath was comforting, with a smooth texture and delicate vanilla flavor provided by the flecks of vanilla bean she could see within it. Two tiny gingersnaps alongside the brulee packed the pungent flavor of ginger and were a crinkly, crunchy delight. Seasonal fruit turned out to be a few very small and thinly sliced pieces of apple, which was a bit disappointing for the price and what one might envision, but their juicy sweetness went well with the brulee and gingersnaps. Maybe there aren’t many seasonal fruits available this time of year.

The dessert menu had other unique offerings such as a caramel nut tart, fried apple pie, and warm apple nut pudding.

Along with the food, The Rawls also has an extensive wine list, along with other spirits and beer, including several high gravity beers, and what are listed as “specialty libations.” There is also a separate bar area, which we didn’t visit, but which looked quite lavish.

For all this, you do pay a price when the bill arrives, so don’t be surprised if a dinner for two, with drinks, appetizer, entrees, and dessert (plus tip) comes in around $100.

The Rawls

Hours: lunch, Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2p.m.; dinner, Tuesday-Saturday, 5-10 p.m.

Phone: 334-347-7612

Address: 116 S. Main St., Enterprise

Website: rawlsbandb.com

Rating: Five out of five stars

Rating scale: Five...