Culinary delights along the Alabama coast

If you go

Gulf Shores is a 5-hour, 15-minute drive south of Atlanta via I-85 and I-65 and Alabama State Highway 59.


Turquoise Place. Large, luxurious condos in a high-rise right on the beach in Orange Beach. Every unit has a Gulf-facing balcony with a hot tub and outdoor grill. Rates start at $482 a night with a three-night minimum. 26350 Perdido Beach Boulevard, Orange Beach, Ala. 855-203-0522,

Young's Suncoast Vacation Rentals. This realty company has vacation rentals of all shapes and sizes in the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area, including beachfront cottages and condo units. Rates vary. 3639 Gulf Shores Parkway, Suite 1, Gulf Shores, Ala. 1-800-826-1213,

Visitor info

Gulf Shores Welcome Center. 3150 Gulf Shores Parkway, Gulf Shores, Ala. 1-800-745-SAND (7263),


Oct. 4: L.A. Gumbo Festival. Along with the world’s largest pot of gumbo, this event at the Wharf, an entertainment district on the Intracoastal Waterway, features plenty of live music, as well as arts and crafts vendors.

Oct. 9-12: National Shrimp Festival. The largest, longest-running annual food festival in the area. Founded in 1971, this full-weekend fest is on the beach and admission is free.

Oct. 18: Alabama Festival of Flavor. The third installment of this festival takes place in downtown Foley, a small, historic town a few miles north of Gulf Shores. Since it occurs on a Saturday in the fall, organizers are smart to include tailgating activities and plenty of big screens to catch the big college football games.

Nov. 7-9: 7th annual Oyster Cook Off at the Hangout. Held at a legendary beachside hangout, this event features celebrity chefs and regular chefs competing for prizes as they dish out their best oyster-based recipes.


Lucy B. Goode. Those who’ve been to Gulf Shores before likely know about Lulu’s at Homeport Marina, a large and loud open-air bar and restaurant owned by Jimmy Buffett’s sister Lucy. Now Lucy has a place offering more than just a cheeseburger in paradise in fancier, quieter digs right next door. 202 E. 25th Ave., Gulf Shores, Ala.

The Gulf. Built out of repurposed shipping containers, this place takes sustainable seriously. It’s a casual spot serving fancy burgers and seafood accompanied by a great view and a large collection of vinyl records. 27500 Perdido Beach Blvd., Orange Beach, Ala.


Tin Top Restaurant and Oyster Bar. A local favorite worth seeking out at a Spanish moss-draped crossroads in the sleepy fishing village of Bon Secour near Gulf Shores. 6232 Bon Secour Highway, Bon Secour, Ala.

Jesse’s Restaurant. Famous for its whiskey steak, this eatery is housed in a historic building in the tiny riverside community of Magnolia Springs, where mail is delivered by boat. 14770 Oak St., Magnolia Springs, Ala.

If you were going to update the lyrics to the song “Sweet Home Alabama,” wherein a 1970s-era narrator waxes poetic about blue skies and complex politics in the Heart of Dixie, a verse about food might be appropriate.

Alabama’s barbecue and soul food offerings are the stuff of legend. And in the 21st century certain cities have become culinary hotspots, including the twin coastal cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach along Alabama’s short stretch of the Gulf Coast.

Heated debate may occur over the best places to nosh on ’cue in L.A. (that’s Lower Alabama), but on the coast the arguments are more about who serves the best shrimp, oysters, gumbo and bread pudding.

The wide array of restaurants on or near the sands ranges from flip-flop casual to deck-shoe formal. Most fall in the former category — it’s a beach resort area, after all.

Fresh and locally-sourced ingredients there mean sea-to-table as well as farm-to-table. But what sets the Alabama Gulf Coast apart as a foodie destination is the influence from places like New Orleans and Mobile. Restaurant menus along this section of coast are infused with a Creole flair. And fall is a good time to visit because of a spate of food festivals and other culinary events.

Local specialties

For shrimp lovers, the Gulf Shores area is known as the place to go for royal reds. This rare species of large shrimp is found in the deepest, coolest waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It tastes more like lobster than it does regular shrimp. King Neptune’s, a longstanding, unassuming seafood restaurant on Gulf Shores Parkway (Highway 59), knows how to cook and serve this delicacy — steamed, but not for too long, and with a side of melted butter instead of cocktail sauce. Cocktail sauce is for ordinary shrimp, not royal reds.

Another seafood delicacy that you’ll find on the menu at many restaurants along the coast is West Indies salad. Despite the name, this ceviche-like salad doesn’t come from the tropics. It was invented across Mobile Bay in Theodore, Ala., in the late 1940s. The simple dish consists of a marinated mixture of lump crab meat mixed with chopped white onion, oil, vinegar and spices and served on a bed of lettuce with a lemon wedge. Of course, it goes best with a few dashes of Tabasco sauce.

The food along the Alabama Gulf Coast is steeped with Louisiana influences. Louisiana doesn’t have any beaches of note, and the beaches of Mississippi and Texas leave a lot to be desired for those seeking sugar-white sand, crashing waves and aquamarine water. So, the coast of Alabama has long been a spot where many from the Bayou State take their annual beach vacations, and their Cajun and Creole recipes have permanently migrated, too.

You’ll find authentic gumbo and po-boys everywhere. And when it’s time for dessert, bread pudding with whiskey sauce gets the nod. Any establishment between Dauphin Island and Perdido Key that doesn’t know how to properly prepare and serve those dishes probably won’t stay in business very long.