My family loves going to coastal Alabama and enjoying the beautiful Orange Beach and Gulf Shores regions. Besides picture-perfect beaches, loads of family-friendly activities, and high rises filled with beach-themed condos, the food scene is exceptional. After quite a few visits over the years, here are my 10 favorite restaurants to experience in Orange Beach, Alabama. Word to the wise: reservations and stretchy pants are suggested. Here is what pleases my palate, in no particular order.
I was hosted for meals at #2, 5, 8, and 9 on previous familiarization trips by the tourism board.
1. Luna’s Eat and Drink
On my last visit to Orange Beach, I took the family to Luna’s Eat and Drink. This property has a laid-back vibe and makes a darned tasty Bushwhacker, the local drink.
What To Order At Luna’s
The list of appetizers at Luna’s sounds good, so we had several. The Beer Cheese Dip is sensational; don’t skip this one. Pretzel bites are another tasty little number. I hadn’t planned to visit Alabama to order a Nashville, TN dish, but the Nashville Hot Chicken sounded way too good. Add green beans as your side.
2. Fresh Off The Boat OBA
One of my favorite seafood eateries in Orange Beach is Fresh Off the Boat OBA, with a festive vibe and almost nightly music.
What To Order At Fresh Off The Boat OBA
One of the most beloved dishes in Orange Beach is crab claws. Being from Florida, where crab is famous and dominates menus, I had never seen crab claws before — let alone know how to eat them. My friend showed me how to eat them, and though they were pretty tasty, they were a lot of work. The crab claws are sautéed in a zesty Creole cream sauce — yum. They even give you grilled bread to enjoy every last drop. For your main course, consider the shrimp and grits, my favorite version in town. The stone-ground cheddar grits elevate this dish. Save room for bread pudding, a decent-sized portion with great flavor.
3. Cosmo’s Restaurant And Bar
Cosmo’s Restaurant and Bar is an artsy space with eclectic artwork on the walls that is available for purchase. Guests come to Cosmo’s for happy hour (drink specials and discounted apps), classic pasta, seafood, and steak dishes, and to enjoy the cool factor.
What To Order At Cosmo’s
You can try one of my favorite appetizers at Cosmo’s Restaurant and Bar. If you’ve never tried a savory cheesecake, chock full of blue crab, smoky bacon, spinach, and parmesan, you are in for a mouthful of delicious flavor. A rich and tasty meunière sauce is drizzled over the savory cheesecake slice and is wonderfully delicious. Another good appetizer choice is the cheese dip, with a dollop of feta and roasted tomato relish. You’ll be licking the bowl on this one.
Fun Fact: Cosmo’s banana leaf-wrapped sea bass is one of the most popular items and has been listed as one of the “100 Things to Eat in Alabama Before You Die” by The Year of Alabama Food.
4. Sunliner Diner
Everybody loves going on a beach vacation and stepping back in time at a nostalgic 1950s-style eatery, namely for breakfast. I can get my family to get up and move anytime when I dangle the diner carrot. Expect car-hop-esque features, retro booths, and waitresses in du-wop-looking clothing at Sunliner Diner, an Orange Beach staple.
What To Order At Sunliner Diner
There probably isn’t anything on a classic breakfast menu that you won’t find at Sunliner Diner, and nothing I wouldn’t recommend. The waffles and pancakes are very satisfying, but then again, so are the biscuits and sausage gravy. I tend to like a breakfast plate with various eggs, breakfast meat, and griddled hash browns, and Sunliner Diner does that well, too. There are a few dishes for those watching their weight, so don’t be deterred by all the fattening things I’m listing. Sunliner Diner also has burgers, fries, and shakes.
Pro Tip: Breakfast is served all day long.
Experience fine dining and the best romantic date night venue in the area when you reserve a table at Voyagers. This white-tablecloth restaurant showcases Chef Brody’s killer creations in a stunning setting with the best wine menu in town. Expect impeccable service and a menu that will leave you drooling.
What To Order At Voyagers
I have two favorite appetizers from Voyagers. The chargrilled oysters are so silky smooth that they can make an oyster lover out of anyone. Another really good item to try is the ostrich carpaccio. I’d never eaten ostrich before, but when it came to the meat of my favorite dish, beef carpaccio, I knew I had to try it. My goodness, this is a sinfully delicious spread. And you can’t go wrong with a meat and cheese board either.
The main courses are all perfect, but save room for dessert. Voyagers’ caramel corn on the cob, a sweet corn mousse with a salted peanut butter cake, is divine.
LuLu’s is a trendy restaurant serving coastal cuisine in nearby Gulf Shores created by Lucy Buffet. The setting is along the Intracoastal Waterway and features a spectacular property with a gift shop, playground, and plenty of live music and seasonal events.
What To Order at Lulu’s
Dining on heavy appetizers is a suggestion for eating at LuLu’s because they are so enticing. I am a big fan of the crab nachos, with a fondue-like cheese sauce, and the LA caviar, a black-eyed pea dip, will always be a staple for my table. If you need food of substance, the shrimp and grits are highly popular, and the open-faced crab melt served on French bread is amazing.
7. The Crab Trap
Along the Gulf of Mexico is the Crab Trap, serving the best crab dip in Orange Beach and the surrounding area. The whole family will enjoy dining here, with a boardwalk leading to the beach and sensational views of the Gulf. This rustic Old Florida restaurant is in Perdido Key, just minutes away.
What To Order At The Crab Trap
As mentioned above, the hot crab dip is the premier appetizer for feasting at Crab Trap. The creamy goodness is mixed with red peppers, green onions, fresh basil and served is with toasted pita chips for dipping. I order crab-related main courses and have never been disappointed.
8. Playa At Sportsman’s Marina
Playa at Sportsman’s Marina is a chic and gorgeous Southern-inspired restaurant with beautiful furniture, eye-catching accessories and artwork, and super cool tables and chairs. I love the color scheme, and being at Playa just makes me feel happy. It doesn’t hurt that the menu and drinks are stellar, either.
What To Order At Playa
Start your dining experience at Playa with a signature drink, the Pink Pineapple, made with vodka and Fresh Victor cactus pear-pomegranate. For starters, the pimento cheese is off-the-hook amazing, served with warm pork rinds. This dish screams Southern to me.
The shrimp and grits are always enjoyable as an entree, but I loved the chicken bowl with jasmine rice, cotija, black beans, and a chimi-slaw.
9. Cobalt, The Restaurant
Beside the Caribe Resort is Cobalt, an American-style modern eatery with an upscale menu, vibe, and ambiance. You could celebrate a birthday or anniversary here as easily as having a date night, meeting up with friends, or discussing work-related topics. There is a picturesque waterfront view, and the restaurant often has live music.
What To Order At Cobalt
As mentioned above, the local drink is the Bushwhacker, and Cobalt’s is creamy and dreamy. I also like Cobalt for heavy appetizers as they are plentiful and sound so good. The tuna and avocado stack is my top pick, layered with, you guessed it, tuna and avocado with a balsamic drizzle. Firecracker Shrimp is always fun to munch on and has a great kick. Shrimp fra Diavolo is a main course sautéed with roasted mushrooms, lemon, spinach, and arugula.
Fun Fact: You can arrive at Cobalt by boat, too.
10. The Hangout
The Hangout is one of the top attractions in the vicinity of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. Sitting on the sandy beaches is a trendy venue with outdoor games, indoor and outdoor seating, live music, and a vast restaurant adorned with collections of everything from Pez dispensers to sports collectibles. I’ve been a few times and spent some time browsing the displays and still haven’t seen them all.
What To Order At The Hangout
Sometimes a cool place like The Hangout packs most of its punch in the cool aesthetics, but here, the chef-inspired food is as good and tasty as the restaurant is hip and cool. Fried pickles (Monarch dills) are a must, while the chicken or barbecue pork nachos are also excellent appetizers for sharing.
I like everything about the Hangout’s Ultimate Seafood Boil, namely the fresh Gulf shrimp and snow crab, but if you aren’t that hungry, consider the Alabama cobb salad with bacon, grilled chicken, egg, and avocado.