Food Destination: Alabama's Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Part 2

| 7/2/2018 9:37:00 AM

The Gulf containers reused for restaurant at night

Orange Beach and the Gulf Shores in Alabama are experiencing a culinary renaissance, embracing a fishing hook-to-table mantra, covered in part 1. For some restaurants, it crosses over to the décor, too, with a coastal version of shabby chic. Imagine the movie, Castaway, but definitely not on a lonely island, since these places are packed with boaters, beach combers, families and ecotourists winding down after a day of birding, biking or kayaking. While one restaurant adds to its kitchen space and storage by re-purposing shipping containers, another seemingly hobbles together driftwood, drapes canvas umbrellas and recycled surfboards.

Since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in 2010, currently the worst marine oil spill in US history, this coastal community has buckled down, cleaned up, and emerged even more vibrant than before. The disaster led to massive legal settlements from BP, leasing the rig from owner and operator Transocean, funds which helped communities and businesses effected to recover.

Today, sea life in the Gulf of Mexico, while still being monitored, seems to have rebounded. The great news for foodies travelling here is that the seafood is safe to eat, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. The Gulf’s marine life, however, continues to be threatened by plastic waste and the growing “dead zone” caused by chemical agriculture runoff flowing into the Gulf from the Mississippi River and other waterways.

“What used to be wax paper and fried everything, has become flip-flop fine dining,” laughs Kay Maghan, Public Relations Manager for Gulf Shores and Organic Beach Tourism, eager to share how the area is quickly becoming a food travel destination. “We create an atmosphere here like you’re dining with family and friends while keeping the quality and creativity of what’s on your plate like something you’d expect at top restaurants in the city.”

What photographer John Ivanko and I found on a recent trip here confirmed this sentiment, deliciously so. Wear what you want, but don’t let that beachy casual style lower your expectations on what’s on your plate.

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