Whether you are heading to the Alabama Beaches for summer fun or off-season relaxation, there are some Orange Beach and Gulf Shores restaurants that just shouldn’t be skipped. Breakfast? Date Night? Sweet Tooth? Whatever you desire, we have you covered next time you head to the Alabama Gulf Coast of things we learned from our vacation.
There wasn’t time for Sue and I to visit ALL the Gulf Shores restaurants, as well as all the Orange Beach restaurants during our visits. But we did amass a great checklist of top picks from the greater community that we’ll be working down on subsequent trips. We’ll start with the local’s favorites, then we’ll tell you our top picks.
PLACES TO EAT IN GULF SHORES WHERE THE LOCAL HANG OUT
We mentioned on Facebook this was our first visit to the the Alabama beaches and holy cow did the community come through with suggestions for the best Gulf Shores restaurants, as well as the best places to eat in Orange Beach. We boiled it down to these favorites.
LuLu’s Gulf Shores Restaurant (Gulf Shores) According to our sources, Lulu’s has some of the best food in Gulf Shores and is great for kids! (Hello! They have an entire kids play area!) And if you have a food allergy, there is a special menu just for you. See Lesli’s review below.
Hangout (Gulf Shores) A definite favorite with our Facebook friends. Live bands, renowned festivals (see Lesli’s review below of the Oyster Cook-off), a daiquiri bar, and so much for the kids. The locals tipped us off to a Pirates and Princess breakfast, as well as the fact there are, “bubbles for days so put them in their swimsuits.”
The Original Oyster House. (Gulf Shores) This may be a waterfront seafood restaurant, but our local friends said they can’t leave without a whole Key lime pie. Word has it you should check out the little shops around there too.
Shrimp Basket. (Gulf Shores, Orange Beach) This is a local chain that is located in both Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
King Neptunes (Gulf Shores) This is a small local joint run by Gulf Coast native Al Sawyer. In fact, you’ll likely find him hanging out around lunchtime with some great stories. Oh, and our readers said he has the best crab claws in town. And you can’t leave without trying the fried cheesecake!
It’s not just us! Here are some more ideas from another Gulf Shores foodie!
Sea-n-Suds. (Gulf Shores) You don’t even have to leave the beach to grab a cold brew and some local seafood at Sea-n-Suds. It’s been a Gulf Shores beach tradition for more than 45 years.
Tacky Jacks. (Several Locations) You are getting the Bushwacker with apps and a beautiful view according to our Facebook friends. This place looks like a kid’s colorful erector set. We hit Tacky Jack’s for breakfast at the Fort Morgan location. The newest spot is in Gulf Shores where it sits among old oak trees directly on the Intracoastal Waterway. Ask the server for a piece of tape to leave your mark at this iconic Orange Beach and Gulf Shores restaurant. Try the Firecracker Shrimp Po Boy…YUM.
Bahama Bob’s Beachside Cafe. (Gulf Shores) A little seafood shack on the water. Get your Caribbean on here.
Pink Pony World Famous Beach Bar. (Gulf Shores) The Pink Pony in Atlanta means something totally different and I almost left this off because of that, but apparently, the highlight of this late-night party spot is karaoke.
Hopes Cheesecake. (Gulf Shores) Cheesecake by the slice or whole. Eat in for amazing views.
Fish River Grill. (Gulf Shores) Want to eat where the locals hang out? According to our sources, it’s here. Make sure to grab some Gator Bites or a large bowl of Swamp Soup!
De Soto’s Seafood Kitchen. (Gulf Shores) This Gulf Shores restaurant is locally owned and operated and been a tradition for families vacationing, as well as locals. They’ve been voted best lunch and dinner 14 years in a row!
Mikees. (Gulf Shores) This locally owned Gulf Shores restaurant doesn’t look like anything fancy from the outside, but our Facebook friends said the food is worth a visit. They serve a wide variety of seafood and a bit of beef, chicken and pasta too.
Flying Harpoon. (Gulf Shores, Orange Beach) This Gulf Shores restaurant (a second location was added in Orange Beach) is a local favorite and a recommendation from our boat captain. The roast beef po’boy is HUGE, so plan to split it with a friend. Good fried shrimp and handmade potato chips.
The Royal Oyster Bar. (Gulf Shores) The Royal Oyster Bar has every type of oyster you’re looking for. Raw oysters, roasted oysters, a flight of oysters, small plates, and large plates — this place has it all.
Sunliner Diner. (Gulf Shores) Need a break from seafood? The Sunliner Diner is a good choice with solid food and a pretty impressive dessert menu that includes those over-the-top milkshakes the Alabama Coast is known for. Ask if you can sit in the convertible car booth.
LOCAL FAVORITE RESTAURANTS IN ORANGE BEACH AL
Doc’s Seafood Shack and Oyster Bar (Orange Beach) Voted a Top 10 seafood shack in America by Fox News. But more telling, it was voted five emoji hearts in our Facebook thread. And I love the billboard “best shrimp in the civilized world.” I mean, who wouldn’t want the best shrimp in the civilized world?!
Gulf Shore Steamer. (Orange Beach) On your way toward FL on the left before the bridge (you can’t miss the big silver fish statue) is Gulf Shore Steamers where they serve broiled and grilled catches. The Royal Reds are yummy. Hand cut steak and fresh fish are on the menu as well. Another locally owned restaurant operated by Ashley Ouellette — say hi when you visit.
Louisiana Lagniappe. (Orange Beach) This Orange Beach restaurant is a little bit of New Orleans on the coast.
Playa. (Orange Beach) Conch fritters, grilled swordfish, steak tacos. You can’t go wrong here according to our associates.
Luna’s Eat & Drink. (Orange Beach) One of the largest offerings of craft beer on the island, plus fresh seafood and simple ingredients.
GT’s on the Bay. (Orange Beach) The tip we received – the food is fabulous, and so are drinks. GT’s has Bayside dining and a menu that includes seafood, as well as stone hearth pizza. There is even a large fish pond to keep the kids entertained while they wait.
Big Fish Restaurant. (Orange Beach) I bet you’ll never guess what kind of food they serve here! With a name like Big Fish, you know they’ve got great seafood. Big Fish gives you everything you would want for a perfect dining experience. Enjoy the best atmosphere on the Gulf Coast with delicious seafood and an awesome bar. Closed Sundays.
Cobalt Restaurant. (Orange Beach) Go by land or go by sea, just make sure you go. In addition to the recommendations for the food, our sources like this Orange Beach restaurant for its expansive deck.
Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina. (Orange Beach) Here you’ll find two distinct dining experiences in one spot — a relaxed vibe in the open-air Dockside part, and fine dining upstairs. Each section has its own menu — and both are amazing.
Lamberts. (Foley) So technically this is just a restaurant near Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, but it sounds fun. Always a wait, but worth it according to our sources. Stay alert when eating at this comfort food establishment. They throw the rolls. Yes, the waiters chuck the rolls across the dining room to your waiting hand.
Looking for a unique Orange Beach foodie experience on the water? Try the Bushwacker/Restaurant Tour! This tour focuses on everything bushwacker, a cocktail invented in the Virgin Islands in 1975 that is similar to a creamy, chocolate piña colada. On this tour, explore the peaceful and meandering waterways of Orange Beach, Alabama as you visit multiple locations to try out this signature drink and various food specials. So, sit back, relax and enjoy the beauty of Alabama’s Gulf Coast with this Private Bushwacker and Restaurant Cruise. Book yours today!
365 ATLANTA TRAVELER PICKS
We at 365 Atlanta Traveler have only skimmed the surface of the best restaurants in Gulf Shores AL and the best restaurants in Orange Beach, AL — which is why we looked to our FB audience to help us with this post.
However, based on our experience, here are our picks (subject to change with future visits) of 11 must-visit eateries on the gorgeous white sands of the Gulf, plus a foodie festival you MUST add to your bucket list!
FOR THE FIRST TIME VISITOR
LuLu’s Gulf Shores. (Gulf Shores) Let me be honest – I was nervous about going here. I was sure it was just a tourist trap. I mean, everyone always mentions it, right? But OMG! It was so fun and amazing – and filled with locals – and they had delicious food. So don’t skip this dining destination. It lives up to the hype.
We visited off-season, so there was not a crowd. We did notice that there were plenty of things to do if you find yourself waiting in line — games outside (like rings and cornhole,) a gift shop, photo ops, spike ball and plenty of space to roam with a drink while you wait for a table.
We also enjoyed live music on our visit. Though we were near the band, the noise level was perfect (and the band was super)!
Start with the smoked tuna dip, served with crackers. It’s delicious.
Kid’s meals are only $8 – both boys went for the burger and give it a thumbs up when paired with the fries. Fish, chicken, and other options are also available.
I picked the shrimp and grits – two servers told me it was their favorite selection, and now I know why! Besides the shrimp, this dish includes bites of andouille sausage with a tasso ham gravy served over gouda grits. YUM!
For those who aren’t aware, Lucy (aka LuLu) is Jimmy Buffet’s sister…so we couldn’t visit without having a margarita!!
I highly recommend a stop here when you visit Orange Beach. I’m so glad we did it!
Flora Bama. (Pensacola) This is technically a restaurant NEAR Orange Beach, BUT it’s an institution, so I included it. Everyone has to go at least once (or if you are with my husband, numerous times).
Listen to bands. Watch people play volleyball on the beach. Enjoy the famous Bushwacker. (You’ll see those a lot at ALL the Orange Beach and Gulf Shores restaurants.) And just so you know what you’re getting into, the place looks like it’s held together with plywood and duct tape. Before 9 p.m. you’ll see lots of kids in here too.
The Gulf. (Orange Beach) This is another great place to hang out, but it couldn’t be more different than the Flora Bama. There are two kitchens on either side of this quick serve Orange Beach restaurant made from shipping containers.
One is a taco bar, the other offers chef selections. There is a cute shop and two bars in-between. But the real star of the show is the dining room, which is completely outside on the beach. Kids and adults never tire of seeing the boats coming through the channel. This is classic Orange Beach dining.
FOR THE CHAMPION BREAKFAST LOVER
The Ruby Slipper. (Orange Beach) The Ruby Slipper is known for its amazing breakfasts and brunches. This restaurant hails from NOLA and you can tell that in the menu…there’s a bit of creole in almost every selection.
There are plenty of things to grab from this breakfast menu — The Costa Rican (black beans & rice over a tomato salsa, two eggs and spicy chorizo sausage) or the Bananas Foster, maybe the Louisiana omelet or a Creole Reuben…but for me, the piece la resistance were the Benedicts.
There are nine Benedicts to choose from, featuring shrimp, pork, corned beef, chicken, salmon…but if you’re indecisive like us, then get the Peacemaker. It allows you to mix and match two of any of the selections.
Pictured above are the Eggs Cochon (slow-cooked, apple-braised pork) and the Chicken St Charles (fried chicken breast finished with a pork tasso cream sauce). Both were mouth-watering, but the crispy crust and juicy cut of the chicken was my favorite. And tasso cream over a poached egg may be my newest vice. WOW!
The Bloody Mary here was the best one I found on our visit. Maybe it was their award-winning mix, or maybe it was the bacon-infused vodka. Either way, I will return to The Ruby Slipper again and again.
Oh! And bring the kids. Our little ones adored the Cinnamon Sugar French Toast Batons, which were stacked like Jenga pieces high on their plate!
Southern Grind. (Orange Beach) This funky coffee shop has two locations in Orange Beach, one located in The Wharf and the other in the Hotel Indigo.
We visited the Wharf location. Leave time to shop before or after your meal. I came away with the need for a necklace and a painting. If only I could have gotten the painting in the car for the way home.
But I digress, we’re here to talk about the food. I ordered a standard breakfast biscuit with fluffy eggs, crispy bacon, smothered in cheese on a true southern biscuit – because why would you choose the ‘other’ bread?
It was delicious, but I had a bit of entree envy after I saw what my companions ordered! One ordered an vegetarian Garden Omelet with fresh baby spinach, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and cheddar cheese with a side of salsa. It was a delicious-looking dish!
The other ordered a breakfast that’s perfect for vacation — a Belgian waffle with strawberries & cream. The strawberries and the raspberry drizzle made it pretty and then there was some totally healthy fruit, too! Ha!
City Donut. (Orange Beach) Looking for something quick? Try City Donut for both over-the-top and standard yeast and cake donuts. Go early though, there are no pre-made donuts here. They’re all are baked fresh each morning, and when they’re gone, they’re gone!
FOR THE MOST ROMANTIC DATE NIGHT
Voyagers. (Orange Beach) We ditched the kids one night to enjoy some time alone, with a date night dinner at this romantic escape within the Perdido Beach Resort. No, we weren’t staying here…that isn’t necessary for a visit to this restaurant.
Be sure to make a reservation and plan for an unhurried, two-hour culinary vacation. This quiet retreat tucked in a popular beach resort can ‘sit at the table’ with James Beard award-winning restaurants in any large city. The food was top-notch; the service was high class; the wine list selection was impeccable, and the view was gorgeous.
Start with the oysters…I enjoyed the Rockefellers with Swiss chard, but my favorite were the Bienville, which included shrimp and crab, covered in a savory mornay sauce.
Seafood not your thing? The charcuterie board is also a smart selection, with local cheese and meats. We especially enjoyed the accompanying chutneys and sauces.
Main selections include meats, chicken and seafood. From the red meat category, Hubby went with the Veal Short Rib, which had been braised in red wine for several days. Divine.
I couldn’t be at the beach without taking advantage of the seafood, so I selected the Swordfish, which was caramelized with root veggies and sitting on a beautiful wedge of ham and polenta gratin. It was so rich and juicy…so delicious.
And don’t skip dessert. You’ll be full — it’s a ton of amazing food — but take a moment, enjoy a cup of coffee, and then order that dessert. Imagine the “9 Layers of Chocolate,” which features chocolate cookie crust, coffee mousse, white, milk, and dark chocolate mousses, coffee toffee crunch, dark chocolate glaze, milk chocolate gelato, and dulcey mocha sauce! Or bread pudding with caramelized apples and a white chocolate bourbon custard. Mmmmm.
When your coffee is gone and you’ve eaten the last bite of chocolate, don’t miss the opportunity to pop out onto the beach and enjoy the full moon over the Gulf.
FOR THE BLOODY MARY CONNOISSEUR
Brick & Spoon. (Orange Beach) I knew I was going to like this place when I pulled up and the sign read, “Bloody Mary. Because adulting is hard.”
Then inside, when the waitress handed me a Build Your Own Bloody Mary Menu…well, that’s when I fell in love. Pick your vodka, pick the heat level, add veggies, meats, and all the garnishments your heart desires.
And she’s not just a pretty face…that drink was pure joy. Delicious! Best part? This isn’t Georgia, so we enjoyed this beauty on a Sunday morning well before 12:30! There are no Sunday liquor laws here.
As for the food…also great. I enjoyed my American Breakfast with eggs, bacon, etc…but I coveted hubby’s selection. He picked the Breakfast Taco, and wow, I still have dreams about those!
The shell isn’t a typical crispy corn wrapper – it’s a light, flaky wonton shell, filled with chorizo eggs and cheddar jack cheese – with a perfect mango salsa. Oh my!
You’ll notice a nod to New Orleans here, much like The Red Slipper, so it was no surprise to see beignets on the menu…something my boys noticed immediately. And devoured!
Be sure to practice beach safety after enjoying these tasty treats!
FOR THOSE WITH A SWEET TOOTH
The Yard Milkshake Bar. (Gulf Shores) Let’s start with the need-to-know. You’re going to have to stand in line for a while…and then wait for your dessert for a while…even in the off-season.
It will be worth every minute.
Bring a game for the kids. Maybe a card game or some coloring books. But don’t use that as an excuse not to go.
When you do finally make it near the front of the line, you’ll mark your order on a menu using a wax pencil…picking your ice cream flavors, toppings, cookie dough selections, and more.
Or you can do what we did and pick a pre-compiled selection.
We opted for the Caramel Cheesecake Cookie Monster. It’s Salted Caramel ice cream topped with whipped cream, a slice of New York Cheesecake and caramel drizzle. Oh – plus there is a chocolate icing dipped along the top of the souvenir jar that you get to bring home with you.
One hour in line…15 minutes for four of us to guzzle this masterpiece.
And yes, I’d do it again.
FOR THE FOOD FESTIVAL FANATIC
Note: Festivals were postponed in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID. Check back for 2022 dates!
Oyster Cook-Off at The Hangout. (Gulf Shores) The Hangout Oyster Cook-Off & Craft Beer Weekend is an annual festival that allows chefs from around the Southeast to show off their talents with oysters and Bloody Marys.
Chefs compete for the best recipes in the categories of Rockefeller, Gulf Coast Cajun, and Raw Oysters…and the best part? We were able to sample everything! Tasting tickets were $1 each, and a single ticket allowed you to sample the oysters, organized in booths outside of The Hangout. There are cheap and free things to do!
We didn’t make it to Friday night’s festivities, which also included dozens of micro-brews, with unlimited tastings and live music. But we DID enjoy sampling wares from the Bloody Mary Invitational. WOW!!
There was also a raw bar, a shucking contest, and plenty of other food and fun happening inside The Hangout. We also really enjoyed the Cooking Demos from famous local and TV chefs.
Truth time. This was SUPPOSED to be a date night weekend for me and hubby, but we had some logistical issues at the last minute. It wasn’t really an issue. Kids are free…and while there are no “kid” activities, it’s pretty family friendly. They don’t eat oysters, but they just played a little Pokemon Go and ate gelato while we sampled the good stuff.
My friend Tamara has a few more ideas: check them out here.
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MAP IT OUT: WHERE TO STAY FOR THESE AMAZING EATS
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