Nestled between Orange Beach and Fort Morgan on a long narrow strip of land is the beachside town of Gulf Shores, Alabama. Along the white sand beaches, you’ll see a wide variety of coastal birds, from squawking seagulls to dive-bombing brown pelicans. And in the water are some of the best shrimp, crab, oysters, flounder, and grouper you’ll ever eat.
Seasoned with the Southern flavors that waft in from New Orleans, they are most commonly served grilled, fried, blackened, or stuffed into a po’boy. If you enjoy fresh fish and seafood, you’ll be delighted to see it dominate the local food scene in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Whether you’re seeking breakfast or brunch, dinner, drinks, or dessert, here is where to eat (and drink) in Gulf Shores.
1. Kitty’s Kafe
Serving breakfast all day from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Kitty’s Kafe has a large selection of breakfast fare to help you start your day right. Choose from a wide variety of omelets and benedicts. Or, order a breakfast platter that includes eggs cooked to order plus extras like bacon, sausage, grits, hash browns, and biscuits.
As the sun makes its way across the sky, Kitty’s Kafe has salads, sandwiches, wraps, and more available for lunch or an early dinner. Whatever dish you pick, there is no shortage of sides to go along with it. Kitty’s Kafe doesn’t just serve grits as a side; customers can choose from creamy grits, cheddar grits, and Gouda grits. And Kitty’s Kafe doesn’t just offer one Southern vegetable side dish; you’ll find fried okra, baby lima beans, steamed broccoli, sauteed spinach, and more on the menu.
2. Hazel’s Nook
If you want to fuel up fast and get on with your day, eat breakfast at Hazel’s Nook. This mom-and-pop joint has been a local favorite since 1957 and offers all the breakfast basics you could want, from bacon and eggs to biscuits and pancakes. For travelers with big appetites, Hazel’s Nook also offers a breakfast buffet, which includes unlimited visits to the omelet and fruit stations for $11.99.
At 11 o’clock, Hazel’s converts its breakfast menu and buffet to a lunch menu and buffet. If you have a hankering for Southern home-style cooking, then stop by for dishes like fried chicken, meatloaf, and fried shrimp.
3. Southern Shores Coffee
If quality coffee is the most important part of your morning, then stop by Southern Shores Coffee for a cup (or three). This family-owned-and-operated local business sources, roasts, and flavors all of its coffee beans in small batches with a focus on fair trade and organic ingredients.
With the emphasis squarely (and understandably) on their coffee, the food menu is limited. Enjoy a breakfast burrito, panini, or biscuit with your morning espresso. Or have a salad or sandwich with your afternoon iced chai.
4. LuLu’s Gulf Shores
Nothing makes me think of laid back island vibes (or makes me want to sip a margarita) like a Jimmy Buffett song. But the first restaurant that comes to mind in Gulf Shores is associated with his little sister. Lucy Buffett (affectionately known as LuLu).
After growing tired of the West Coast, a midlife LuLu returned to her native Alabama and established LuLu’s Sunset Grill as a casual place for fishermen to buy bait and anyone to grab a cold brew and bite to eat. Over time (and in a new waterfront location), her restaurant blossomed into this well-known waterfront spot for food, fun, and live music.
LuLu’s menu is chock full of options that are sure to please anyone, from picky eaters to those with food allergies. If fresh fish and seafood is what you crave, there are fried crab claws, peel-and-eat shrimp, and seafood gumbo. You’ll find big and small salads, scrumptious sides, sandwiches, melts, and even cheeseburgers that you can enjoy in this beachy paradise.
5. Original Oyster House
Established in 1983, Original Oyster House has stood the test of time and is the oldest seafood restaurant on Pleasure Island in Gulf Shores, Alabama. And, as the name suggests, you’ll definitely want to try the oysters. Enjoy them chilled on the half shell, deep-fried, or baked with either creamy spinach or bacon and cheese. And if you’re craving the amazing oysters from the Original Oyster House after you’ve returned home from your Gulf Shores vacation, you can even find recipes for their fire-grilled and firecracker oysters on their website.
In addition to the oysters, I recommend the Original Oyster House fried shrimp. Adding to this delicious experience is the opportunity to make your own cocktail sauce! Instead of setting bottles of factory-made cocktail sauce out for guests, each table at Original Oyster House includes a small basket of sealed condiment cups with a serving of horseradish sauce inside. Guests whip up the spicy red sauce to their individual tastes by popping off the top, shaking in Worcestershire sauce, squirting in ketchup, and shaking the sealed container until all of the ingredients are combined.
6. Tacky Jacks
From sunrise until well after sunset, Tacky Jacks offers delicious food surrounded by duct tape mosaic walls. You read that right, helping put the tacky in Tacky Jacks, guests are invited to leave their marks by scribbling their names on colorful strips of tape and affixing them to any blank space they can find.
For folks who want to try unique eats on vacation, the gator bites are touted as outstanding. Order a half-pound of alligator tail nuggets that have been either fried or blackened. If noshing on swamp creatures is outside of your culinary comfort zone, then try the smoked tuna dip, tacky shrimp, fish tacos, or a po’boy instead.
7. The Yard Milkshake Bar
No meal is complete without a little something sweet at the end, especially when you’re on vacation! And nothing pairs with beach time quite like ice cream. Head down Gulf Shores Parkway to The Yard, a milkshake bar serving up creative milkshake concoctions in pint or quart mason jars.
Choose a shake from the specialty milkshake menu. The Mermaid, the Cereal Killer, or Monkey Meets the Moose are just a few. Or, make your own milkshake by selecting up to two ice cream flavors, the sauces you want to swirl in, and some treats to sprinkle on top.
If a massive mason jar milkshake seems like overload, don’t worry. You can order just an ice cream cone. The Yard also offers ice cream sandwiches made with waffles, brownies, or donuts in lieu of traditional cookies.
Finally, Drink A Bushwacker
No matter which restaurants you dine at in Gulf Shores, be sure to enjoy a Bushwacker. Transplanted to Gulf Shores via the Virgin Islands, the Bushwacker is a local favorite that tastes like the love child of a chocolate shake and a pina colada. This chocolatey, tropical-fruit filled blended cocktail is definitely one of the local flavors you won’t want to miss!
While most bars in Gulf Shores offer Bushwackers, several on this list offer them with a special twist.
- As a coffee roasterie and coffee house (rather than a bar), Southern Shores Coffee roasts a Bushwacker-flavored coffee made with 100 percent Arabica beans.
- At LuLu’s, the Bushwacker is made with Margaritaville coconut rum, which is sure to make big brother Jimmy proud (and probably earn him several bucks).
- At Original Oyster House, the Bushwacker includes a coffee kick thanks to the incorporation of Kahlua.
When you order a Bushwacker, if the bartender asks you if you’d like a “floater,” consider saying yes to this extra shot of dark rum floating on the top of your frozen boozy milkshake.
From before sunrise to after sunset, these are the best restaurants in Gulf Shores for those who want to experience local flavors.
Planning a getaway? Here are 10 things to do in Gulf Shores, Alabama on a rainy day -- just in case!