Gulf Shores: Eating and Entertainment in the Panhandle

In our third travel blog on the Gulf Shores, I wanted to share a few of our experiences with the local food and music. Once again, since we had only a couple days, this is a limited selection but it might be of a little assistance for anyone coming down to the Panhandle. We actually found a couple of terrific spots that you might want to try.

When we arrived at the Gulf Shores a bit early for check in, we ventured over to a fun restaurant called the Sunliner Diner. It is a great choice for families with kids.  It is an authentic old-time diner with some great vintage cars both outside and inside. Unfortunately, the food is also vintage diner fare: Heavily fried and not especially good. The service is also hit and miss. We tried their signature fried pickles (which we did not especially like) and onion rings (which were good). Frankly, Jack and I loved the interior but ranked this last on the food scale for the places that we tried.  I did like Jack’s Banana Split shake however. The waffle on top was particularly good.

We also ate at the Perch at the Lodge.  We had their oysters which were great and we both liked the alcohol Banana daiquiri that Jack ordered. I had the moonshine based tea cocktail (which Jack liked more than I did). The shrimp and grits were good as was Jack’s grouper. It is a pricey place but the view is awesome and the service is outstanding.

The last restaurant worthy of note was the best. It is The Gulf. It is a beach restaurant constructed entirely from old shipping containers. It is located near the bridge and right on the bridge. It is great for family since the kids can play on the beach and the open areas for the tables.  It is packed and is clearly a local favorite. We had to stand in line for about an hour. However, they give you a tracking device so you can sit anywhere and they will find you.  The food came out pretty quick for it all worked out fine in terms of timing. I had the shrimp tacos, which were outstanding. Jack had the grouper again and really liked it. We also got the homemade guacamole which was quite good as was the tuna dip.  This is also a pricey place but more than worth it. It is a unique location and fantastic food.  If you go to one restaurant in the area, I would recommend The Gulf.

Finally, we went to one place of music entertainment: The Flora-Bama. It was the highlight of these establishments.

This is a music hub for the area with five stages. It is a legendary beach bar that has been featured in many songs including a famous song by Kenny Chesney.

You are met at the door by a guy with a magnetic wand to relieve you of knives and guns. This is a real honky tonk bar and they prefer to keep the weapons outside.

You can also order oysters and food as you listen to live music. The signature drink is “The Bushwhacker,” a frozen drink with three shots including coffee liquor and rum.   Jack loved it. I thought it was good but not quite my cup of tea (or high-voltage shake). Careful on this drink however. It is best experienced with Uber if you are going to have more than one.

The bar is a Labyrinth of stages covered in the flotsam and jetsam not just from the coast but the wild beach music scene.  This includes ceilings decorated with hundreds of bras.

We played some pool but the tables are as beaten up as the bar. (We were short four balls and the people next to us were short a cue ball. However, after a Bushwacker, it really doesn’t matter).

I recommend the open mics nights when locals play on one of the stages. It was really a lot of fun as these musicians play for drink tickets. They were really good and fun to watch.

We loved The Flora-Bama. We were told that they charge for entry on busy nights. We went on a Tuesday and it was free to get in.

Here are some pics from the Flora-Bama:

 

5 thoughts on “Gulf Shores: Eating and Entertainment in the Panhandle”

  1. Jonathan: Interesting photos of the watering holes you visited while staying at the Gulf Shores. Southern cooking is not my first choice but I guess “when in Rome” is the operative term. It may have been merely coincidental but I didn’t see any black people in your photos–except maybe two black people behind the counter serving white patrons. Not unusual to see in Alabama. Most black people in the state live in Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville, Montgomery and, of course, Selma. There is an interesting 2014 article in the Atlantic by Nicole Hannah-Jones ( who you criticize severely for her NY Times “1619 Project”) about still pervasive racism in Selma. Joblessness among African-Americans in Selma in 2014 was at epidemic levels–probably about the same today. Hannah-Jones points out that sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education schools in Alabama had returned to “separate and unequal”–again probably no different than today. So systemic racism, in housing, employment and education, are still prevalent in Alabama. Embarrassing for the state and no doubt why GOP politicians don’t want anything resembling critical race theory taught in Alabama public schools and are working hard to make it harder for blacks to vote.

    While there are no openly “sunset towns” in Alabama up the road from Gulf Shores is Orange Beach, a former notorious “sunset town” where blacks would not venture after dark. From your photos it appears few blacks come to Gulf Shores–unless they work in service jobs in local hotels and eateries. Gulf Shores is apparently predominantly a white vacation destination and locals like it that way. Black people in Alabama know this and go elsewhere on their vacations where they are welcome. Personally, I would not visit Gulf Shores or its surrounds. I would not want to spend my money where racial discrimination is still extant. I guess that’s not a problem for you.

  2. Back at the tail end of May 2020, my wife and I ate at a Sunliner Diner in Pigeon Forge, TN and our “comfort food” menu choices were quite tasty, like home cooked, but the service was pretty typical for what we usually see south east of an imaginary East-West & North-South line through Kansas City. Don’t get me wrong, the service is usually not what I would consider “bad” but restaurant service is noticeably slower in the south east portion of the United States compared to other areas. There are always notable exceptions to this very general observation. Humorous side note: five times out of ten, if your waitress in the south east USA is a female she’s probably going to call you “hun”. I will add that in our eight state south east USA road trip in May there were “Help Wanted” signs in almost every restaurant in every state and I’m pretty sure this extrapolated to slower than their normal “slow” service, but we were on a relaxing road trip vacation and we took it all in stride.

    NOTE: In my extensive travels around the USA over my lifetime, I’d personally rate the best overall trained wait staff was in Salt Lake City, UT. It didn’t matter where I went to eat in the multiple days I was there all of the wait staff in every restaurant was exceptionally proficient, kind, it was common place for all the wait staff to chip in and help each other to make sure everything was great for customers and it seemed like they were all happy in their jobs. I went out of my way to personally complemented the management in a couple of the restaurants.

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