For me, vacation and great food go hand in hand. Getting out of the kitchen to let someone else do the cooking seems like a great way to relax, too. Over the past several years, I have discovered some real gems in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Every time I go, these places make the list of places I must eat. Even writing about them here made my mouth water!
I’m a bona fide coffee junkie. My kids have long known not to ask questions before I’ve enjoyed every drop of that first cup! My go-to at the beach is The Southern Grind. With two locations, there’s one close to wherever I stay! Relax in this beachy coffee house and savor a custom-brewed cup of coffee or a fancy coffee drink. Bonus tip: Pick up a bag of specially roasted Southern Grind coffee to enjoy when you return home. That’s one tasty souvenir!
The Southern Grind at Indigo, 22843 Perdido Beach Boulevard, Orange Beach
The Southern Grind at The Wharf, 4751 Main Street, Suite 116, Orange Beach
Best Comfort Food
I discovered Luna’s Eat & Drink, a “neighborhood sports pub,” on my last trip to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. The server recommended the buttermilk fried chicken, served with mashed potatoes and braised greens. Now, this isn’t your ordinary fried chicken. It’s more along the lines of Nashville hot fried chicken — brined in buttermilk and hot sauce before it’s battered and fried. It’s amazing! The chicken is tender, juicy, and perfectly spicy but not overdone. The mashed potatoes are the real deal, and the braised greens are Southern goodness on a plate. The atmosphere here is comfortably casual, too!
Luna’s Eat & Drink, 25689 Canal Road, Orange Beach
Best Fish Dish (Casual)
I’ve never been a fan of fish, but here I am recommending a fish dish! It seems that when you go to the beach a lot, you face a lot of fish. I finally gave in and ordered fish tacos at The Gulf, surprising even myself. That first foray into fish was amazing — sweet and tender fish served with cabbage slaw and avocado aioli, all in an outdoor, Gulf-front setting. I now order fish other places, but these fish tacos are still my favorite!
The Gulf, 27500 Perdido Beach Boulevard, Orange Beach
Best Shared Plate
I will never forget the first time we ordered the Mexican Garbage, an enormous platter of loaded nachos, from Tacky Jacks. The platter arrived, heaped high with loaded nachos. It was so filling, we had to take our dinners home. More importantly, they tasted great! The perfect food to share with friends and family at this laid-back, open-air restaurant.
Tacky Jacks Orange Beach, 7206 Safe Harbor Drive, Orange Beach
Tacky Jacks 2 at Fort Morgan, 1577 Highway 180 (Fort Morgan Road), Gulf Shores
Tacky Jacks Gulf Shores, 240 East 24th Avenue, Gulf Shores
This is kind of a cheater category, as there’s only one (AMAZING) brewery in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach: Big Beach Brewing Company. An open-air tap room with fireplace, TVs for watching sports and comfortable seating, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a local brew. It also happens to be the first place I ever drank a full beer and enjoyed it! This family-owned brewery began as a hobby. Owners Jim and Julie Shamburger brewed beer at home, sharing with friends and family at parties and gatherings. Today, they apply the same, careful attention to both the science and art of brewing — resulting in beers that are smooth, flavorful and unique.
Big Beach Brewing Co., 300 East 24th Avenue, Gulf Shores
Best Sweet Treat
I have an insatiable sweet tooth! When I’m in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, there are lots of great places to enjoy a treat. From doughnuts and pastries to key lime pie and ice cream, if you want it, somebody’s got it. For me, though, the best place to indulge is Matt’s Homemade Alabama Ice Cream, the only place you can get homemade ice cream at the beach (unless you make it yourself). Matt’s has two locations in Gulf Shores, each offering at least 40 delectable flavors each day.
Matt’s Homemade Ice Cream, 1308 Gulf Shores Parkway, Gulf Shores
Matt’s Homemade Ice Cream, 701 Gulf Shores Parkway, Gulf Shores
There you have it — the six best bites at the beach! You can’t find these flavors anywhere but Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Just thinking about them makes me want to pack my bags and head down for another visit. Maybe I’ll see you there!