They say that everyone’s favorite beach is the one they went to as a child. I suppose that’s why my favorite beach is Gulf Shores, Alabama. That and the fact it has the most beautiful sugar white sand and clear blue water of any beach on the continental United States that I’ve ever visited. And, especially lately, a proliferation of fun places to eat and drink.
It takes the same amount of time — eight hours — to get to Gulf Shores as it does to get to the South Carolina coast, where I’ve noticed that most folks from East Tennessee tend to go when they head to the beach. So here’s a little sample of what you might want to do if you decide to break out of the rut and go to the Gulf Coast instead of the Atlantic Coast one of these days. I love the slogan of the town of Gulf Shores: Small town, big beach!
Upon arriving in Gulf Shores, we recommend you do as we always do: Head straight to the Acme Oyster House. Do not check into your hotel. Do not go put your feet in the sand. Just get to this fabulous restaurant, part of a small chain founded and headquartered in New Orleans.
Our server, Desiree, who is from New Orleans, let us in on a key to Acme’s deliciousness. The sauces and seasonings for all seven Acme locations are prepared in a central commissary and shipped to the individual restaurants. That’s why the chargrilled oysters you have in Gulf Shores will be the same as the ones you have in the French Quarter, the original location which opened more than 100 years ago. It’s a secret blend of butter and spices that makes the magic.
We love to stay at the Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach, which is seven miles from Gulf Shores. It’s the same beach, and it’s difficult to tell when you leave one town and enter the other as you travel east on the beach road.
The Gulf of Mexico isn’t the only place for waterfront dining in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. We enjoy a harbor-side lunch at a casual family-owned spot called Shipp’s Harbour Grill located on Bayou Saint John, across Perdido Beach Boulevard from our hotel.
During Happy Hour, we head for our required drink at the Pink Pony Pub. Click here to see the live “Beach Cam” of what’s happening there right now.
As much as I love the Pink Pony Pub, you really probably don’t want to have dinner there. There’s a great place that we enjoy for dinner called Louisiana Lagniappe.
Alan had grouper and I had gumbo. (In New Orleans, a lagniappe means “a little something extra.”)
Another required dining stop on every trip is Lulu’s, located on the Intercoastal Waterway at 200 E. 25th Ave., in Gulf Shores. It is owned by Lucy Buffett, Jimmy Buffett’s sister. My favorite things are the excellent fish tacos made with grilled mahi mahi.
It’s important when you go to Gulf Shores to find someone who owns a boat. In our case on a visit earlier this month, it was my brother, Jimmy, and his wife, Tess. They took us on a Saturday to Pirates Cove, a place in Perdido Bay where the locals go. (I know. It’s supposed to have an apostrophe after the “s,” but it doesn’t.) If you are going by car, it’s located at 6664 County Road 95 in Elberta, Alabama.
Click here if you’d like a recipe for a bushwacker.
If you already are on the water, you really should motor on over to Tacky Jack’s a large festive place where President Obama made a surprise visit in 2010 to survey the aftermath of the BP oil spill. If you are traveling by land, the address is 27206 Safe Harbor Drive in Orange Beach. It’s just good ole beach food.
If you are looking for fine dining, you will find it at Voyagers, located inside Perdido Beach Resort, 27200 Perdido Beach Blvd.
Speaking of desserts, here’s a place to stop on your way to get on the interstate to head back to Knoxville. It’s called Street’s Seafood Restaurant located an hour from the beach at 2515 S. US Highway 31 in Bay Minette. It’s a meat and three kind of place. In Knoxville, think The Lunch House or Wright’s Cafeteria. But make no mistake. You are not here for the meat and three. You are here for dessert!
Well, you get the idea!
So, from beach food to fine dining to country cooking, you can’t beat a trip to Gulf Shores. Where’s your favorite beach?