When we go to the beach there are only two things I REALLY
want need to do. The first thing is to be sitting on the sand all day and do as little as possible. The second is going out to eat seafood every night.
My goal for 2014 was to NOT eat at a place we had already visited on previous trips to Gulf Shores, Alabama, regardless of how good the experience may have been. That meant Tammy would have to skip The Original Oyster House, which she loves, and I’d have to do without the variety of baked oysters from Papa Rocco’s, which won “The Peoples Choice Award for Best Raw Oysters for eight straight years.”
We had seven nights to play with, so my plan was to find a mixture of casual and upscale dining. Below are reviews of our experiences, ranked from worst to best. That way you’ll have to scroll to the bottom to see our favorite and while you are there maybe you’ll click the “Like” button.
#7 Bubba’s Seafood House
I picked Bubba’s Seafood House because they had crab legs. Tammy doesn’t eat fish, but loves shrimp, scallops and crab legs, so I figured this place would be a good compromise.
I was wrong.
I got the blackened oysters (Fresh Gulf oysters sautéed in garlic butter and blackened seasoning, served in the sauce with fresh loaf for soppin!) as my appetizer and unfortunately it was the best part of my meal.
Sure there were a lot of oysters in that sauce (at least a dozen), but I was expecting them to come out in their shells. Serving them in the dish made me feel as if they were canned oysters (is that even a thing?). Half of the fun about eating oysters is shucking them out of the shell and they took that away from me.
Tammy got a side salad that not only wasn’t picture worthy, but it was about as bare-bones as you can get.
She got Bubba’s “Our Famous Crab Leg Dinner” as her meal. It was decent, but neither of us could figure out what made it “famous.”
I got whatever their special of the night was, which consisted of some type of fish, a shrimp skewer and a crab cake. The shrimp skewer was cool to the touch and I felt like it was something I could get from Sysco or Costco.
The only good thing about Bubba’s was I learned my lesson and checked Urbanspoon BEFORE we went to eat somewhere for the rest of the trip.
We should have gone to Bahama Bob’s instead.
24621 Perdido Beach Blvd
Orange Beach, AL 36561
#6 Sassy Bass Amazin’ Grill
I picked Sassy Bass because we had been driving all day from Ocala and it was the closest seafood place to where we were staying in Gulf Shores.
Sassy Bass has a very causal and laid back atmosphere. The waitress was very attentive and the hostess handled some of the larger parties with relative ease.
Our waitress talked Tammy into getting a margarita and I got my usual Coors Light. We ordered the Gouda cheese balls as our appetizer. I liked them better than Tammy did, but they weren’t nearly as hot as I expected them to be. It was as if they had been sitting out for a few minutes before we got them.
Tammy got shrimp n’ grits which came out on a sizzling skillet – think fajitas minus all noise. It came with 10 shrimp and was covered with a creamy, bacon, mushroom sauce. Tammy ate all of the shrimp and we took about half the grits home with us to eat for breakfast, so I’d say she enjoyed it.
I got the “upgraded” fresh catch of the day which cost an extra $3 to get the red snapper instead of grouper. The fresh catch is served over yellow rice, topped with 4 grilled shrimp and crab sauce, and is served with grilled vegetables.
The fish was good and the shrimp were cooked just right, but the crab sauce was just weird. It wasn’t bad enough to keep me from cleaning my plate, but I felt like the sauce wasn’t necessary.
Since it’s so close to where we stay, we’d go back to Sassy Bass for appetizers and drinks (the bartender seemed to be having a good time) or if we didn’t feel like driving back into Gulf Shores or Orange Beach. But it’s not a place I’d go if I was craving a nice seafood meal.
Sassy Bass Amazin’ Grill
5160 Highway 180
(Mile Marker 5)
Gulf Shores, AL 36542
#5 City Grill
This was our last seafood meal of the trip and after looking at the menu, I had really high hopes for City Grill.
Not only was it close to the condo – in the Rouse’s shopping center just before Fort Morgan Road – the menu looked amazing and it had 88% Likes from Urbanspoon.
We got there around 6:30 on a Saturday night and were seated immediately, which is something that can’t be done at most restaurants (even the bad ones) down there.
We ordered shrimp flatbread (grilled shrimp, marinated portobello, tomatoes & basil with goat cheese) and conch fritters as our appetizers.
Tammy was disappointed about the shrimp on the flatbread. Not only were they cut into smaller pieces, but they were outnumbered 2-to-1 by the mushrooms, which had been marinated in a balsamic-type dressing.
The conch fritters had been left in the fryer a few ticks too long, but they were crispy and tasty. Tammy said they were “too fishy” for her liking, but I didn’t find any problems with them. The “island sauce” was like a ketchup and horseradish mixture, just enough kick without being overpowering.
Tammy got the Filet Mignon and added on 4 shrimp to make her own Surf & Turf combo. When it arrived Tammy kept saying “this isn’t a filet” because of how the steak looked. It did look more like a sirloin, so I had her cut into it for me to taste it.
Me: It’s a filet. It’s tender like a filet. It’s just not the cut we are used to getting.
Besides it being tender, I didn’t really know if it was a filet. I hope it was because of the price difference, but it didn’t really matter since Tammy ate all of it.
I was debating between the grilled Mahi Mahi or shrimp and grits. When the waitress said that Southern Living had written about the shrimp and grits from City Grill, I decided to get those instead of the fish.
City Grill has a framed copy of the Southern Living article behind the hostess stand, but they should also mention it on the menu to make sure people know about it.
While I can’t say these were “the best” shrimp and grits I’ve ever eaten, they were very good.
1545 Gulf Shores Parkway
Gulf Shores, AL 36542
#4 The Tin Top Restaurant & Oyster Bar
After our bad experience at Bubba’s I took to Facebook in hopes of finding some hidden gems. Someone suggested The Tin Top Restaurant & Oyster Bar and it definitely was a diamond in the rough.
Not only was it off the beaten path in that it was tucked away from the hustle and bustle of everything, but the food and atmosphere were amazing.
It was so good that I actually feel bad ranking it as my fourth best meal, but that’s only because we ate a “lighter” meal there (I was still stuffed when we left).
We started with coco loco shrimp (flambeed in coconut rum with mango vinaigrette, served with garlic bread) as our appetizer. I thought it was amazing, but it was too spicy for Tammy’s liking.
Initially I wanted to get 3 dozen consisting of a mixture of all the different varieties, but I decided against that.
Instead I settled for a half-dozen each of the Dirty Dozen and the Oysters Tin Top. Each of those had been voted the “best” by several publications and that helped influence my decision, which is why I think City Grill should mention the Southern Living article on the menu.
The oysters were amazing and full of flavor as were the THREE sides I got with my meal.
I went with fried green tomatoes, seasoned lima beans with andouille sausage and fried okra. This was the most fried food I had at any of my meals on the trip. Surprised, right?
Tammy was still full from our lunch at John’s Gyro’s and Mediterranean Food, so she was looking to eat a little lighter for dinner.
She ordered a spinach salad with grilled shrimp and a cup of lobster bisque. Unfortunately I was so excited about my meal that I didn’t take pictures of hers. But she said it was “outstanding” and the shrimp were cooked perfectly.
Tin Top may be a little further out than some people may want to go, but it was totally worth the drive. We stopped by on our way back from the outlet mall in Foley so it wasn’t really out of our way at all.
Tin Top Restaurant & Oyster Bar
Bon Secour Hwy
Bon Secour, AL 36511
#3 Cosmo’s Restaurant & Bar
Cosmo’s was another Facebook suggestion and it did not disappoint.
This was by far our longest wait (little over an hour) we had to be seated for any of our dinners. But considering it was a Friday night and that they had a covered bar outside, complete with misting fans, as well as shops, we were more than happy to wait.
I barely glanced at the menu because I knew what I was going to order, thanks to the I Love Alabama Food magazine I had picked up earlier in the week.
Cosmo’s Banana Wrapped Sea Bass was one of their “favorite dishes” and I was sold.
Despite Tammy being worried it would be too spicy, we got the firecracker shrimp (lightly dusted bay shrimp fried & tossed in a spicy remoulade sauce) as our appetizer. It was so good (and not spicy, even to Tammy) that we both had to make ourselves not eat all of it.
Tammy went the steak route again and got their tournadoes (twin 4 oz. medallions of beef tenderloin grilled to your liking; served over stacked sweet potato cakes, grilled green tomatoes & portobella mushrooms; topped with roasted tomato relish), which were cooked perfectly and was packed with flavor.
My banana leaf wrapped sea bass came out and looked spectacular.
Unfortunately it doesn’t appear that I’ll be hired by the I Love Alabama Food people anytime soon because I’m not even close to being in the same league as their professional banana leaf opener.
Regardless of how it looked when I opened mine, the taste was amazing. The fish was perfectly cooked and seasoned just right.
We left there stuffed, but not before I ordered some peanut butter bread pudding to go. I started eating on it before bed and even had some for breakfast the next morning.
Cosmo’s is definitely a place we’d visit again, for the atmosphere and the food.
Cosmo’s Restaurant & Bar
25753 Canal Rd
Orange Beach, AL 36561
#2 Compleat Angler Seafood & Grill Bar
The Compleat Angler definitely would not be Tammy’s #2 meal, but my dinner was phenomenal.
Not only was the location great (at The Wharf), but the view we had was amazing.
We got Bob’s Shrimp Ala’ Bama™ (Alabama Gulf shrimp served atop a nest of Miss Mary’s greens and Conecuh bacon, topped with a garlic citrus butter and pecorino romano cheese, roasted to perfection) and fried oysters as appetizers.
Tammy was intrigued by the West Indies salad (marinated sweet onions and fresh, local delicious lump crab meat; seasoned with salt, pepper, oil & vinegar) but when it arrived it wasn’t what she expected. It wasn’t really like a salad at all, except for it being on a leaf of lettuce.
I went with the catch of the day, a Yellowfin Grouper, which I didn’t know existed. It was served with black beans, rice and grilled veggies.
The meal combined with the view of the setting sun over those million dollar yachts made for an amazing evening. We didn’t get dessert here, but we were able to walk off our meal by hitting the shops at the Wharf after dinner.
Compleat Angler Seafood & Grill Bar
4851 Wharf Parkway
Orange Beach, AL 36561
#1 Gilbey’s Seafood & Steak
Tammy and I are both in agreement that Gilbey’s was hands-down the best meal of our trip.
Not only was it an upscale place (we actually made reservations) but everything from our seats to the drinks to our meal was top-notch.
Tammy ordered a drink called a Sunburst (passion fruit vodka, tropical flavored vodka, cranberry juice, grenadine, Sierra Mist and fresh lemon) and we were both amazed when it came to the table.
It was bubbling and smoking.
Tammy loved it so much that she ordered two of them and had me take a picture of the ingredients so we could try to make it at home.
We ordered lobster and tasso Parmesan dip for an appetizer. The dip was incredible and the “chips” were fried wanton wrappers, which were so light and crispy.
I added an order of eight garlic and Parmesan oysters.
Before we even arrived in Gulf Shores, Tammy had been wanting some scallops and Gilbey’s offering did not disappoint, although she was a little leery about how they’d be cooked.
Waitress: How would you like the scallops cooked? The chef recommends medium.
Tammy: (looks at me)
Me: Go with what the chef recommends.
Tammy: OK, medium is fine.
I only had a few little bites, but I believe those were the best scallops I’ve ever put in my mouth. They were perfectly cooked and melted in my mouth with such a smooth, buttery flavor.
I got another fish dish (blackened grouper with crab meat over white cheddar grits; served with green beans) and it was absolutely perfect. The best meal of the trip.
We left Gilbey’s stuffed (Tammy was buzzed) and with big smiles on our faces.
Gilbey’s isn’t for people who are looking for a bunch of fried seafood or an all-you-can-eat buffet. Gilbey’s is upscale, but not so much that you can’t wear shorts and a t-shirt, and will be a little pricey for some (my grouper was $30).
But if you are looking for something better than the “usual spots” and want fresh seafood or amazing drinks then you can’t go wrong at Gilbey’s.
Gilbey’s Seafood & Steak
25775 Perdido Beach Blvd.
Orange Beach, Al. 36561
I know we’ll be back down to Gulf Shores again soon and I won’t have a problem hitting some of the Top 5 places again. But I’ll always be looking for new places to try while we are there or any other beaches.