If you don’t have kids in school, now might be a great time to hit the beaches of Alabama. The weather is still warm, but not too hot. The water is still warm, not too cold. And the crowd size at the beach side amenities is perfect.
This means it’s also easier to get a table with a water view at restaurants in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.
If you’re like me, before going on vacation, you researched dining options at your destination and selected a few places. Maybe one is an indulgence. Maybe someone else’s bites will go well with happy hour drinks. Maybe we’re serving something you’ve never tried.
I also firmly believe that if I can see water, my best meal will come out of that water. This is a good rule of thumb in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.
Some seafood specialists along the coast make just about every must-try list. Places like Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina, Lulu’s and the Flora-Bama (at least the western part of this establishment straddling the border) should be enshrined in a Bama Beach Eats Hall of Fame.
Here are some other coastal choices. Some are chic, others no-frills. Several offer happy hour discounts on select appetizers — sometimes even half-shell oysters.
But one thing they all have in common: spectacular waterfront views and the best seafood swimming nearby.
Cobalt (Orange Beach)
There is something for fish lovers and meat eaters from all walks of life at this upscale restaurant. Vegetarians and vegans? Not that much. Signature appetizers include the Firecracker Shrimp and the Tuna and Avocado Stack. Oysters – including Alabama farmed bivalves – are raw or broiled, while fish is served fried, blackened or broiled. The pizzas include one with roast duck. Yelp selected Cobalt’s burger as one of the 50 best in Alabama.
Ginny Lane Bar & Grill (Orange Beach)
Part of the family of restaurants including Villaggio Grille, YoHo Rum & Tacos and Mile Marker 158 Dockside, Ginny Lane offers live music daily, complete with a dockside terrace. Oysters – fried or baked – are the signature of this decade-old restaurant. Other seafood, steaks, and lighter fare are available for lunch and dinner. Enjoy the waterfront Sunday brunch with egg dishes like the Cajun omelet with andouille sausage and crawfish tails.
Louisiana Lagniappe (Orange Beach)
Offering bites from the Big Easy, this dockside restaurant offers classic Creole dishes. Grouper is in the spotlight, with preparations such as Meunière (pan-fried), Almondine (grilled almonds and lemon butter), Pontchartrain (soft-shell crab) or the ultra-gourmet Lagniappe with seafood (garnished lobster slices and Hollandaise sauce). The Lagniappe seafood platter includes the greats of the Gulf – shrimp, oysters, groupers and soft-shell crabs. The steaks are bathed in the restaurant’s signature herb butter. Children’s and gluten-free menus are available.
Sea-N-Suds (Gulf Shores)
The fried shrimp at this family restaurant, opened in 1975 in a former bait shop and rebuilt after Hurricane Frederic in 1979, is on the state’s “100 Foods to Eat” list. It is perfect for ordering a few apps, enjoying cold drinks and contemplating the Gulf. Oysters, red king prawns and okra are crowd favorites, but the menu includes many beach restaurant classics, as well as family-friendly options like Nathan’s famous hot dogs, burgers, chicken tenderloins and meatless finger foods, such as fried zucchini and mushrooms. Also, did we mention it’s right on the beach?
The King Oyster (Gulf Shores)
Oysters reign supreme at the Royal Oyster, which overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway. Raw options include five sides like homemade ponzu sauce, pickled watermelon, or Bloody Mary sauces. Roasted choices include the stallion with crab medley and the Popeye with creamed spinach. Order singles, half dozens, full dozens and mixed “flights” by the dozen and a half. Bayou Cora Farms heirloom oatmeal in Bon Secour appears in a few dishes, most notably as a binder for oyster cakes. There are also a few dishes without oysters.
Voyagers Restaurant (Orange Beach)
This is the ideal place, where everything is top of the range. You’ll find rarities like ostrich carpaccio and lionfish spring rolls. Gulf fish plays a starring role on the menu, but the crown jewel of the restaurant is steakhouse-quality beef, available with decadent additions like smoked bone marrow butter and foie gras. Really splurge? Order a $1,500 bottle of Clos de la Roche grand-cru red from Domaine Ponsot in Burgundy.
This story originally appeared on the SoulGrown website.