The family-friendly beach destinations of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, is home to some tasty eateries from fresh seafood and burgers to pastries and grits. There is a lot restaurants to choose from and some are not-to-be-missed, so here’s a round-up of my recommendations to include on your next visit.
Disclosure: This trip was hosted by Visit Alabama Beaches Gulf Shores & Orange Beach. This post may contain affiliate links. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.
UPDATE: This post was first published in March 2021 and updated in March 2022 following the closure of Anchor Bar & Grill.
Breakfast near the beach
Address: 100 E. Second Ave., Gulf Shores, Ala.
You can’t miss Sunliner Diner with its shiny 1950s diner beckoning you from Gulf Coast Parkway. It’s a popular eatery for any meal, but breakfast was special with its waffles, cheesy grits, and Benedicts.
Of course, you can (and probably should) go later in the day to get a shake while you’re there. Or just get it at breakfast. Why not?
And good news: Sunliner Diner is just walking distance to the main public beach in Gulf Shores.
Kid-approved: Yes. There’s a small kid’s menu here.
What to get: You’re in the south, try the waffle and chicken Benedict. You’ll be full ’til dinner. Or get the Dreamboat Waffle if you’re feeling extra.
A Sweet Secret Bakery & Cafe
Address: 1538 Gulf Shores Parkway, Gulf Shores, Ala.
We wanted a quick to-go option on our last morning in Gulf Shores and my husband stumbled upon this cute cafe. It’s run by two sisters who said they decided one day two years ago that they’d just drop everything and move here to start a business. And here they are.
We got a couple of quiches and a gluttonous amount of pastries to try. We also got a chocolate brownie for later, which wasn’t much later (hey, it’s vacation, I’ll eat a brownie if I want to). The most beautiful was a fruit tart.
All were enjoyed while seated on the balcony of the condo, having one last gaze into the Gulf.
Kid-approved: Yes, if they love pastries (and you don’t mind the inevitable sugar crash).
What to get: The giant pecan roll was a hit with the whole family. The toasted pecans added a nice layer to the sweet treat.
Lunch & dinner near the beach
Fresh Off The Boat
Address: 27267 Perdido Beach Blvd. suite 105, Orange Beach, Ala.
If you want the freshest seafood, literally, then this is Fresh Off The Boat is calling to you. You can even have them prepare whatever you caught that day.
You can’t go wrong with whatever is the catch of the day. My husband ordered it, and it was a expertly prepared grouper. I tried the pecan-crusted redfish, and it was so savory.
We didn’t bring the kids to this nice at SanRoc Cay Marina. You can, we saw a group there with one kiddo. We wanted a night out, and this place was perfect.
Kid-approved: Kids are welcomed, but this place had more of a date night vibe to it.
What to get: Catch of the day, whatever it is. I hear the marinated crab claws are also a safe bet.
Lucy Buffett’s Lulu’s
Address: 200 E. 25th Ave., Gulf Shores, Ala.
If you come just for the food at LuLu’s, I think you’re missing out. There’s so much to see and do in addition to eating, that you probably won’t leave in under two hours. And given the typical wait, you’ll be fine with that.
Tip: You can add your name to the wait list online to lessen the wait.
LuLu’s is owned by Lucy Buffett, the sister of famous Alabama native Jimmy Buffett, and has that classic Buffet feel – festive decor, beach attitudes, and it’s 5 o’clock somewhere. There’s always live music at night, a sandy beach area for kids, and seasonally, a ropes course.
The food is burgers, it’s fruity mixed drinks (try the Bama Breeze or LB’s Mo Perfect Margarita), and it’s fried seafood. It’s a huge place.
Kid-approved: Yes, 100%. Your kids won’t want to leave. I had to pry my daughter off the claw machine in the arcade.
What to get: They’re known for the gumbo, but I’d have to overrule that and steer you to the shrimp and grits. And for dessert, get the key lime pie.
Original Oyster House
Address: 701 Highway 59, Gulf Shores, Ala.
We had some of the best seafood here, which of course, included oysters. It’s a place that has won several awards, including Winner of Best Bites Challenge and Reader’s Choice Favorite for their Fire-Grilled Oysters by Mobile Bay Magazine. The Original Oyster House has also been voted one of three Best Seafood Restaurants in the southeast by Southern Living.
The waitstaff is full of characters. Our waiter was Dean, who steered us toward some excellent choices from the menu. But even more entertaining was Stephen, who waited on other tables and you couldn’t help but overhear and laugh along.
There is plenty to look at and marvel on the walls. And don’t miss trying to find the shark hanging from a ceiling.
Kid-approved: Yes, there’s a kid’s menu. And if your kids are leery of seafood, like mine, there is a burger option.
What to get: It’s the Oyster House, so try the oysters. We had Oysters Rockefeller for an appetizer.
Address: 101 W. Sixth Ave., Gulf Shores, Ala.
If you’re traveling with kids, there’s likely going to be a night when all they want is pizza. And there aren’t that many options along the beach because, come on, you’re by the beach, get seafood. But we found a pretty good place that’s been a favorite with locals since 1985, Papa Rocco’s.
They don’t take themselves too seriously. Their motto is “The home of warm beer and lousy pizza.”
Papa Rocco’s was hopping on the Friday night we got takeout. If you’re leery about crowds (without masks), this may be one place to skip for the time being.
Kid-approved: Yes, it’s pizza. I’ve never met a kid who didn’t like pizza.
What to get: The large deluxe was pretty satisfying. I couldn’t bring myself to try the seafood Florentine NAME, which had shrimp and Alfredo sauce on it.
FAQs about Alabama coastal food
Q. What food is the Alabama coast known for?
A. This is the Gulf Shore, so expect a lot of seafood options. As the tourism office puts it: “look no farther than the restaurants in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach that serve seafood fried, grilled, baked, broiled, blackened, steamed, nude or stewed. You can have your seafood in gumbo or on a po’boy, dressed or undressed, according to your liking.”
Alabama has a few other notable foods that you may get to try while you’re in the coastal area. Fried green tomatoes, for one thing, were often on the menu. I had some at the Original Oyster House as well as part of an avocado Benedict for breakfast at Sunliner Diner.
Also, grits are almost always a side option. Get them cheesy if you’re not familiar with them. The best we tasted is a toss up between the grits at Original Oyster House and Fresh Off The Boat.
Q. Are there grocery stores in the area to make our own meals?
A. There’s a good chance that you’re staying in a rental home or condo during your visit. So, maybe you’ll want to make a meal while you’re there. In which case, you may need a grocery store. Here are the grocery stores in the area:
- Blalock Seafood & Specialty Market, 1911 Gulf Shores Pkwy, Gulf Shores; 24822 Canal Road, Orange Beach
- Gulf Shores Seafood & Meat Market, 921 Gulf Shores Pkwy., Gulf Shores
- Lartigue’s Fresh & Steamed Seafood, 23043 Perdido Beach Blvd., Orange Beach
- Pier 33, 900 West Beach Blvd., Gulf Shores
- Pines Grocery & Liquor, 8818 Hwy. 180 West, Gulf Shores
- Publix, 25771 Perdido Beach Blvd., Orange Beach; 160 Cotton Creek Drive, suite 100, Gulf Shores
- Rouse’s Market, 25405 Perdido Beach Blvd., Orange Beach; 1545 Gulf Shores Pkwy., Gulf Shores
- S & S Seafood Market, 1154 W. Beach Blvd., Ste. D, Gulf Shores
- Waves Grocery & Liquor Store, 1154 West Beach Blvd., Gulf Shores
There are also stores like Walmart and Target in the area.
Check on the availability of top-rated vacation homes along the Alabama coast on vrbo.com!
Q. What are some Alabama beers to try?
A. There are a few nearby breweries that you can visit, or if you’re like me, you can just try Alabama beers while at restaurants. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Big Beach Brewing Co., in Gulf Shore, Ala., the closest brewery to the beaches. I enjoyed the Dixie Heart Red Ale.
- Fairhope Brewing Co., in Fairhope, Ala. My favorite was the amber. You can also try their Cheap Sunglasses kolsch. It doesn’t quite taste like a tradition kolsch but it’s pretty darn good.
- Avondale Brewing Co., in Birmingham, Ala. I love a good saison, and Avondale makes a great one called Spring Street.
- Back Forty Beer Co., in Birmingham, Ala. For a nice, smooth lager, try their Grit Kisser lager.