Breaking news: Alabama has a coast with beaches. You would be surprised at how many people don’t know this and have actually said to me, “Wait, Alabama has a coast?” I knew Alabama had beaches, but never thought much about them growing up (I grew up in NC), but once I moved down here I realized we actually have some pretty beautiful beaches.
The 50 miles of Alabama shoreline butt up to Florida’s Emerald Coast, which as you know, has some of the most beautiful beaches (Destin, anyone?). But since we’re right next to it, we get those same beauty benefits. With white sand and blue-green water, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are definitely worth a visit. And with spring break coming up, it’s the perfect excuse to book a trip to the Gulf Coast.
I went to Orange Beach again just recently and decided it was about time I made a list of the best beach eats down there. Orange Beach and Gulf Shores are right next to each other, so I’m including places at both.
Best Fried Seafood
Mikee’s in Gulf Shores has the best fried shrimp in the area. They are served to you steaming hot from the fryer (I know this because of the temperature, duh, but also because our waiter told us it would take a little longer since they fry them fresh). I appreciate this. I would much rather wait a few more minutes (and honestly it doesn’t take long at all) then eat soggy shrimp that has been sitting out for a while. The breading at Mikee’s is also perfect. It full coats the shrimp but isn’t overwhelmingly heavy. I hate when the breading is crumbly and falling off the shrimp or too heavy. Mikee’s is not like that. AND you can do all-you-can-eat fried shrimp, catfish, or whitefish and it’s only like $3 more than the regular platter.
Pro Tip: Ask for a side of the tartar sauce. It’s by request only since it’s homemade.
Best Sushi and Best Happy Hour
Cosmo’s in Orange Beach is a fabulous restaurant for sushi and/or a nice dinner of steak or seafood. We went for sushi and ordered some appetizers as well. For appetizers, the Firecracker Shrimp is a must. The shrimp are fried and tossed in a spicy remoulade sauce. We also had the crab cakes with a roasted yellow pepper aoili and remoulade. Also delicious. For sushi, we got a Philly Roll, Shrimp Roll, and Volcano Roll. The Shrimp and Philly Rolls were extremely fresh tasting and also the perfect bite size (I hate huge sushi pieces). But the Volcano Roll is what steals the show. Topped with a spicy krab salad, the roll comes out looking unlike anything you’ve ever seen. But once you pull a piece off, you have a warm, flavorful roll filled with tuna, red pepper, and asparagus. The krab salad is what makes it though. It was so, so good. I literally crave it every day now.
Pro Tip: Go for happy hour. Certain appetizers and sushi rolls are $5, and it’s $1 off all other sushi rolls.
Best Bushwacker and Royal Red Shrimp
One of the most popular places down on the Gulf coast is the Florabama, the bar that sits on the Florida-Alabama line. It’s a dive bar, but they have the best Bushwackers on the coast and some damn good Royal Red Shrimp. You’re probably wondering what both of these things are if you’re not from the area. A Bushwacker is basically an alcoholic milkshake commonly made with Kahlua, Creme de Cacao, rum, and cream of coconut. They are awesome, and Florabama makes them the way they should be – thick, cold, and strong.
Royal Red Shrimp are a type of shrimp only found 100 miles off the coast of Orange Beach. They were originally considered bycatch, but then someone tasted them and realized they were delicious. Their skin has a bright red color and they have a texture and sweet taste similar to that of lobster. Florabama offers them steamed and tossed in Cajun seasoning with melted butter to dip them in. They are phenomenal, and are cheaper, better, and easier to eat than one of the more famous place to get Royal Reds — King Neptune’s (who serves them with the heads on for $8 more meaning you get less shrimp since it’s done by weight).
Pro Tip: Go during the day, especially if you’re with the family. Things can get a little rowdy at night, and they charge a cash-only cover on certain nights.
If you listen to one thing I tell you, make it to go get the Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Pie from Original Oyster House in Gulf Shores. It. Is. Out. Of. This. World. We ate it more times than we should have in one weekend. It isn’t dense like some peanut butter pies; it has a light and airy texture with the perfect combination of sweet peanut buttery filling and an Oreo crust. Get it topped with whipped cream and thank me later.
Pro Tip: One slice is big enough for two people to share. Trust me, it’s huge.
If you love a good donut in the morning, you have to check out City Donut in Orange Beach. They have a huge selection of donut flavors and you can tell they are all made fresh. We ordered a half a dozen and tried a variety of cream filled, cake, and old-fashioned donuts. The Bavarian Cream and Red Velvet were my favorite. (Disclaimer: there are obviously places to get heartier breakfasts in the area, but I just love donuts.)
Pro Tip: Go early. They often sell out of the most popular donut flavors since they make them fresh each morning.
Now take these recommendations and get a drink in your hand and your toes in the sand!