From Malcolm Steiner’s book Old Mobile Restaurants:
William “Bill” Bayley is credited with starting a dining craze that swept the Gulf Coast with such dishes as West Indies Salad and fried crab claws.
Bayley’s Restaurant at Fowl River Road and Dauphin Island Parkway, where he introduced his acclaimed West Indies Salad and fried crab claws, was a Gulf Coast fixture from its founding in 1947 until its closing in 1986. His son reopened it in 1993 at the intersection dubbed Bayley’s Corner.
Bayley’s famous dishes spread throughout the South and the nation and he won recognition from Mobile to California. He made quite an impact on restaurants along the Gulf Coast and on tourism. If you came to Mobile, you went to Bayley’s to eat. Bayley’s catering took him all over the country, and the dishes he created – West Indies Salad and fried crab claws – spread in popularity,
Bayley’s simple but unique concoctions were tasty enough that whenever Alabama’s representatives or senators in Washington were planning parties, they didn’t want anyone to cater them but Bill Bayley.
A native of Alvin, Texas, Bayley grew up in Massena, New York. He had lived in Mobile County since 1942 and operated restaurants at Bayley’s Corner and Mobile’s airport.
Bayley served in the U.S. Merchant Marine as a steward. He was also port steward and later chief chef with Alcoa Steamship Co. Inc. for fifteen years. It was on his many voyages to the West Indies that he invented his famous salad.
After World War II, Bayley and his wife, Ethel Peterson Bayley, opened the one-room grocery in 1946 with $500 worth of groceries bought on credit. A year later, they opened the restaurant, leaving the grocery business behind.i
West Indies Salad
1 lb. Lump Crab meat
1 Finely Chopped onion
1 x Salt and pepper to taste
4 oz. Olive oil
3 oz. Vinegar
4 oz. Ice water
West Indies Salad Instructions:
Put onions in bowl; add meat, salt, and pepper. Then oil, vinegar, and ice water in that order, Do not stir.
Cover, let set in ice box (refrigerator) at least 4 hours and toss before serving.
Find more Old Mobile stories and recipes in Old Mobile Restaurants