The Alabama Gulf Coast is the charter fishing mecca of the southeast, so it stands to reason Gulf Shores and Orange Beach restaurants boast some of the best fresh, Gulf seafood available. It doesn’t get any fresher than right off the boat, and you’ll find most chefs serve nothing less than Gulf-to-table fare.
In recent years, the culinary scene has exploded in these two beachside sister cities. Annual culinary festivals and competitions bring out the best of the best for events like the World Food Championships in November and The Hangout Oyster Cook Off and Craft Beer Weekend in October. With so much culinary innovation and creativity being produced in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach restaurants, it’s difficult to narrow down favorite dishes. However, we’ve compiled a list of five write-home-worthy dishes that you need to pull a chair up to the next time you’re cruising the coast to Alabama’s beaches.
Chef Brody Olive pulls out all the stops at Voyager’s at Perdido Beach Resort. My favorite item on the menu may just be the simplest, but to say it’s big on flavor would even be an understatement. If I was ever going to describe a starter as refreshing, the Perdido Cold Platter would be it. Filled with Gulf oysters, pickled jumbo shrimp, chilled spiny lobster tail and jonah crab claw, the cold platter is the perfect start to a dinner in this white-tablecloth, beachside restaurant.
Southern-style cooking meets coastal cuisine with the tried and true shrimp and grits dish. I must admit, it’s my go-to option and I’ve probably sampled this delish comfort food at most of the restaurants throughout Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Ginny Lane Bar & Grill at The Wharf serves up some of the best. Gulf shrimp are sautéed with bacon, thyme, rosemary, shallots and garlic and served over creamy cheddar grits with a chardonnay cream sauce. The penny martinis make it even better! That’s right, penny martinis. Even better is the family who owns and runs the restaurant – Ginny and Lane. The couple’s commitment to community shines and makes this spot a popular one among locals.
When you need an oyster fix, then you need Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina. Fisher’s serves Murder Point oysters, also known as butter babies for their full, rich, creamy taste with a hint of butter in each one. Murder Points are boutique oysters grown exclusively along the Gulf of Mexico by the Zirlott family. Chef Bill Briand, a James Beard Award nominee, serves them up the only conceivable way possible – raw and on the half shell. Skip the cocktail sauce and put away the cracker. These butter babies are best served with a few drops of fresh lemon juice.
The Anchor Bar & Grill is on my must-visit list for more reasons than just their fish taco, although that’s where I usually start. With waterfront views of Terry Cove in Orange Beach, Chef Jon serves upscale “bar food” and unique dishes. Pull up a chair to a table on the deck, and feast on mouthwatering fare as the boats go by. (You may even see a pirate ship cruise through!) Seared Gulf fish fills a tortilla – or a lettuce “shell” if you’re watching your carbs. That’s just the beginning. Bar food ain’t got nothing on this taco’s toppings. Get the napkin ready for tomatillo mole’, shredded cabbage, AL paddlefish caviar crema and pickled radish.
Located just outside Gulf Shores in the fishing community of Bon Secour, is Tin Top Restaurant & Oyster Bar. Word is getting out about this local’s spot and people come from all over to feast with family and friends off the beaten path. If you find yourself wandering down county road 10, then you’ll run right into this roadside restaurant. While you’re there, do yourself a favor and order the sauteed crab claws. Served dripping with a creamy Alfredo sauce and topped with Parmesan cheese, they are a delish twist on the fried crab claws that you can get in every restaurant along the beach.
If you’ve vacationed in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, we’d love to hear about your favorite seafood dishes. Please share them with us in the comment section.