Gulf Shores Restaurants: Dining on the Alabama Coast
The main drawback to dining out in the Gulf Shores area is trying to decide -- steakhouse, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, and of course seafood. What are we in the mood for? How much do we want to spend? How fast do you want it served? Those are usually the questions when deciding among Gulf Shores restaurants?
The restaurants on the island that stay in business year after year do so because they consistently deliver a good product.
Operating a restaurant in a tourist community is difficult; a restaurant has to be very good in its chosen niche, and it is only as good as the last meal it served. There's a fine line between losing money and breaking even, so the ones that last a few years are doing almost everything right. They couldn't weather the winter months and the intense competition if they weren't.
Most Gulf Shores restaurants are mid-range priced, family-style. Should the mood and occasion strike there are upscale restaurants in the area. Fortunately, from my experience the quality of food doesn't necessarily equate to how much money is spent. In fact, some of the best, in my opinion, are casual and and service is quick.
Speaking of quick service, even at the restaurants that are very good at putting a meal on the table in a hurry, waiting to actually get a table can be long-- sometimes as much as a two hour wait during the summer, spring breaks, and some warm weather weekends throughout the year. That might be a problem if you have active children in your party, or if you are very hungry.
At some restaurants you can check in, get an approximate time and come back just before your name is called. Some establishments are located in shopping centers with things to keep you occupied until your table is ready.
Long waits are also more pleasant when the restaurant is located on the water. There are many waterfront restaurants on the back bays and the Intracoastal Canal, but there are very few actually on the Gulf. Follow the links on this page to find the Gulf Shores restaurants that are located on the water.
If two hour waits are out of the question for you, one option is to plan your day around a larger lunch when most restaurants are less busy and have a smaller meal later on in the day back in your condo or beach home. Another benefit of this strategy is the cost savings of lunch compared to dinner prices. For a family, the cost savings can be dramatic, and over the course of a vacation of a week or two, it could potentially save a good sum of money that you can take home with you or spend elsewhere while on vacation. 4 PM is the most common cut-off time between lunch and dinner, but make sure you check the menu times of each restaurant that interests you.
Another savings tip: Pick up those free area newspapers and "tourist tips" magazines outside the restaurant doors, in the entry ways and in the lobbies. Browse through them while you are waiting on your table or your server, and search for coupons. Sometimes you can save a few dollars in the restaurant you are dining in at that moment, and you might find coupons for another restaurant that you want to visit at another time. During the off season, you can sometimes find "two for one" dinners. This is something that many locals do, including me.
When most tourists hit the beaches they are thinking seafood for their first meal out. There are plenty of very good, even great, Gulf Shores restaurants that specialize in seafood. We've tried most of them:
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