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What will we eat tonight? It’s a question every vacationing family asks. For families spending time in the lovely resort area of Gulf Shores, Alabama, the answer can be the freshest seafood, your standard burgers, Mexican Garbage (it’s a thing!), and gluten-free and allergy-friendly menu options at places with intriguing names like Sea N Suds and Tacky Jack’s. Here, an Alabama grandmother shares her favorite Gulf Shores family restaurants. These are the places she takes her kids and grandkids for yummy meals with a Southern flair.
The sugary white sand beaches of Alabama’s Gulf Coast lure thousands of visitors every year for family vacations or weekend getaways, but the wide variety of accommodations, shopping, attractions, a new zoo and the delectable dining options keep them coming back.
If you are planning a trip with children or grandchildren, here are my top recommendations of kid-friendly restaurants and eateries for great food in the Gulf Shores area. I have personally tried 10 of these 15 restaurants, and my friends with children highly recommend the other five.
For breakfast, lunch, dinner or an extravagant treat, these 15 suggestions will cover all the bases. Sun, sand and sinfully delicious food. Sounds like the makings of a memorable vacation.
Gulf Shores Family Restaurants
200 E. 25th Avenue, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
LuLu’s deserves to be at the beginning of this list of Gulf Shores family restaurants, because it is both a wildly popular restaurant and a fun-packed destination. During the high season of spring to late September, the Mountain of Youth ropes course, play area, henna and glitter tattoos and a caricature artist are operating. All during the year, the Beach Arcade and gift shop are open, and performances by live musicians fill the calendar. It’s also fun to just stroll the grounds and enjoy the many boats in the bay.
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LuLu’s is a large restaurant with a huge parking lot, but it doesn’t take reservations. It’s a very good idea to “join the waiting list” by going to the website, or you might want to plan your visit for unconventional lunch or dinner hours. During a normal year, LuLu’s serves 700,000 people and 4,000 a day during peak season. The staff is a well-oiled machine.
Because of the varying needs of so many guests, LuLu’s has created six allergy-aware menus, in addition to the overall menu: gluten-free, shellfish-free, seafood-free, egg-free, soy-free and dairy-free. Seven items on the kids’ menu are only $8 and include a side.
With its location on the Intracoastal Waterway, seafood is prominent among the selections, but you’ll also find burgers, tacos, pulled pork and chicken fingers. LuLu’s fried green tomatoes were voted the Best in Alabama in a poll conducted by USA Today’s 10Best, so I recommend starting your meal with those tasty delights.
405 E. Beach Boulevard, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
Sea N Suds has a coveted Gulf-front location with a great view of the waves and the sunset for its diners. The menu is heavy on the seafood, but burgers, hot dogs, a salad bar, chicken fingers and wings are also available.
A kids’ menu offers six choices, including popcorn chicken, shrimp and corn dog nuggets, and the meals come with fries and a drink. The fried shrimp at Sea N Suds made the list of “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die,” and the gumbo is a house specialty.
TravelingMom Tip: The restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays, so make a note when you’re planning your vacation meals.
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240 E. 24th Avenue, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
Tacky Jack’s Gulf Shores location is on the calm waters of the Intracoastal Waterway. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the profusion of color. Mexican Garbage, consisting of dressed up beef and cheese nachos, is a menu standout, but the TJ Burger also looks amazing.
Wangs, their way of spelling Wings, is a popular appetizer, and the fish tacos get rave reviews. The kids’ menu includes mac and cheese, which is always a hit.
Tacky Jack’s opens at 7:30 a.m. every morning and has a breakfast list starring waffles, pancakes, egg platters and shrimp and grits.
101 E. Beach Boulevard, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
The Hangout expects you to bring your kids. Family-friendly games await in the form of foosball, ping pong and foursquare, and the sand pit is an automatic magnet. Live music on the Mermaid Stage and hanging out around the fire pit at night add to the merriment. The Poster Wall and Giant Chairs are go-to Instagram spots, and the One-Stop-Fun-Shop sells games, t-shirts, and souvenirs.
The milkshakes served in a souvenir glass and the hot dog sliders are perennial child-approved dishes. Adult-friendly dishes include the Fried Pickles, the Lifeguard Burger (two ½ pound patties, cheese, fried egg, onion straws, bacon and pickles—oh my!) and the Chicken and Sausage Gumbo.
21196 E. Beach Boulevard, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
20249 State Park Road, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
At Foodcraft, you can eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner, choosing to eat indoors or outside at a gorgeous spot overlooking the Gulf. Chef James Balster brings his considerable experience and skill to make this a culinary experience that is a cut above the others. I would recommend this for families traveling with teenage or college age children who have sophisticated and adventurous palates.
For food that is good, served in a more casual atmosphere, less fancy and more economical, try Woodside Restaurant. It also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and kids will appreciate the pancakes plate with bacon or the scrambled eggs plate with hash browns. For adults, burgers, BBQ and a low country boil headline the lunch and dinner menu with omelets starring for breakfast. Take advantage of the backyard games, the live music and the gift shop, and enjoy your meal in the dining room, on the screened porch or under a shade tree.
5160 State Highway 180, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
Sassy Bass Island Grill opens every morning at 8 a.m. It serves breakfast and lunch Sunday through Thursday and breakfast, lunch and dinner on Friday and Saturday.
The Breakfast Donut Meals are very popular as are the Crazy Donuts that you can buy individually or by the box. Other eye-catching options are the Banana Toast, the Cornflake-Crusted French Toast and Hawaiian Omelet.
Lunch and dinner standouts include a Bacon ‘n’ Bleu Cheese Quesadilla, a Strawberry ‘n’ Almond Salad, a Pineapple Boat and an array of sandwiches, pizza and burgers. Kids will love the Grilled Chocolate and Banana Sandwich, the Fried Fish Wings or other options served with Twisted Taters. Sides to accompany entrees are exceptional. I’m intrigued by the Gouda Cheese Grits, the Cranberry Compote, the Sautéed Yellow Squash and the Grilled Garlic Bread, to name a few.
Sassy Bass has Amazin’ Grill locations (slightly different from Island Grill) at Fort Morgan and at OWA in Foley. A Sassy Bass Market is adjacent to Sassy Bass Island Grill.
1154 W. Beach Boulevard Suite E, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
Beach House Kitchen offers indoor and outdoor dining and is a block away from the “main drag” through Gulf Shores. You can spot it easily and will be glad to see the large parking lot.
Beach House prides itself on the freshest possible ingredients and locally sourced seafood. But in my mind, they push things up a notch with three of the outstanding sides: the best black beans I’ve ever tasted, a wonderful pineapple slaw and the decadent crawfish mac and cheese.
The kids’ menu has a triggerfish taco and a chicken taco, along with grilled cheese, mac and cheese and chicken strips. Each kids’ item is $6 and comes with a drink and a side. Adult drinks feature fresh-squeezed juices and house-made syrups.
138 W. 1st Avenue, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
Desoto’s Seafood Kitchen has consistently won awards since it opened in 2000, including one for “The Most Reasonably Priced Family Menu in Town.” The kids’ menu includes fettuccine alfredo, a dish that is rarely offered in child-size portions.
Some come for the mouthwatering breadbasket that appears at the beginning of your meal. The wheat and honey wheat rolls beg to be slathered with the honey butter served with them. Desoto’s Coconut Shrimp is included in “100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama,” but there are offerings to suit most everyone’s cravings.
Damage caused by Hurricane Sally in late 2020 led to repairs and updates. Desoto’s has a fresh look and a new feature: You now can call ahead to add your name to the waitlist – something that comes in very handy during high season.
601 W. Beach Boulevard, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
Bahama Bob’s Beachside Café is probably 300 feet from the beach area and is sometimes difficult to spot because it looks like a beach house. You’ll be glad you found it, though, when you see and taste the dishes on its extensive menu. Seafood at Bahama Bob’s can be steamed as well as grilled or fried. The stuffed po’ boys are popular, and the pecan-crusted flounder is a standout. Burger lovers will enjoy the giant Bahama Bob’s Burger which consists of a 10-ounce patty, grilled pineapple, bacon and Swiss cheese.
Bahama Bob’s opened on Memorial Day weekend of 1999 and has been a hit ever since. Hurricane Ivan and the BP Oil Spill presented severe challenges, but the restaurant and its good food remain strong. Kids will find their favorites, and desserts of cheesecakes, shakes and floats will leave everyone satisfied.
701 Gulf Shores Parkway, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
The Original Oyster House, which has been in business in Gulf Shores since 1983, deserves to be on this list for its resilience as well as its great food. While other restaurants have come and gone when Hurricanes Opal, Ivan and Katrina pummeled the coast, Original Oyster House has managed to bounce back every time. And the lines of loyal customers waiting for their turn make it worth the hard work of restoration and consistent quality.
Oysters, of course, are the stars of the menu and can be ordered deep-fried, baked or on the half shell. Although there are a couple of steak and chicken options, most people visit for the impressive number of seafood dishes. Diners try their best to save room for chocolate chip peanut butter pie to finish their meal.
The children’s menu has the expected fish, burgers and chicken fingers but goes further by offering pizza or a salad bar. The restaurant is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
3800 Gulf Shores Parkway, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
For a calorie-laden splurge that is also a work of art, I suggest you head to The Yard Milkshake Bar. You’ll find it in the Pelican Place Shopping Center within sight of The Cobb Theater. Every vacation needs at least one treat that you wouldn’t have in your normal, day-to-day life!
In an attempt to recognize differing dietary needs, The Yard offers gluten-free and vegan options, and a few others are lactose-friendly using oat milk.
The most photo-worthy of the ice cream concoctions is served in a pint jar that you can take home as a souvenir. My favorites are generally the Cookie Dough or the S’Mores varieties, but since the impressive size makes these specialties shareable, I’ll gladly let my co-conspirator choose the flavor. The pint-size milkshakes and sundaes are $15 each, or you can choose a smaller version, a dipped cone, a float or a bowl.
Two pieces of advice”
- Don’t visit when you’re in a hurry. The line can be long, and each creation takes time to prepare.
- Allow your children several minutes to make their flavor selections for ice creams and toppings. It can be an overwhelming decision.
Orange Beach Family Restaurants
Most visitors to the Alabama Gulf Coast think of the dining options as including those in both Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. After all, the two towns are only separated by 7 miles and 10 minutes. When it comes to breakfast, Gulf Shores has several coffee and donut shops, but for my favorite recommendations, you’ll need to venture to Orange Beach. They are well worth the effort.
24705 Canal Road, Orange Beach, AL 36561
The breakfast and brunch choices at the first Brick & Spoon location were so well-received that now there are 14 locations scattered throughout the Southeast. That first one was in Lafayette, Louisiana, so the subtle Cajun touches are evident among the description of dishes. Bayou Green Tomatoes, Killer Creole Omelet, Bananas Foster French Toast, Café Beignets, and Bayou Benedict are a few of the options, but there are traditional and elevated breakfast offerings also.
The $5 choices for kids make this extra appealing to families.
25689 Canal Road, Orange Beach, AL 36561
I met the chefs who make the sweet treats at BuzzCatz when I was covering the World Food Championships where they were competing. This place smells amazing! Each morning of the week, they offer a different special, such as Cinnamon Roll Sunday, Waffle Wednesday, or Eggstraordinary Thursday, but the Pecan Praline Cinnamon Rolls and the Breakfast Hollahs deserve a special mention. A Hollah consists of Challah dough filled with scrambled eggs, cheese and your choice of meats or vegetables.
You’ll love the quirky, cat-themed décor and the affordable prices. Kids will love Buzzcatz version of a Happy Hour, called Happy Meower. During the hours of 3 and 5 p.m., specialty coffees are $1, cookies are half price and scoops of ice cream are buy-one-get-one-free. What a deal!
24151 Perdido Beach Boulevard, Orange Beach, AL 36561
The first Ruby Slipper Café made its bright appearance on a New Orleans street corner when the whole city was recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Thanks, Wizard of Oz, for the logo inspiration. The winning menu and attractive appearance won over hearts and word spread. Now there are 18 Ruby Slippers in 5 states – all serving breakfast and brunch seven days a week.
The Brioche French Toast, Eggs Cochon and White Chocolate Bread Pudding are my favorites, while my husband usually chooses the Build-Your-Own Omelet loaded with veggies and salmon. Kids will be drawn to the cinnamon swirl pancakes, or they might be happy to have a biscuit burger and fries for their first meal of the day.
Breakfast is an economical choice if families plan to dine out for only one meal each day, and at Brick & Spoon, BuzzCatz, and Ruby Slipper all ages will enjoy a satisfying meal.
2981 S. McKenzie Street, Foley, AL 36535
Lambert’s Café is 8 miles north of Gulf Shores, so it is considered by many to be a must-stop on your way to the beach or the last stop on the way home from the beach. For others, it is such a fun atmosphere with such great food (especially when you’re a little tired of seafood), that it is worth the short ride for a meal right in the middle of a week of vacation.
With its tagline of “Home of Throwed Rolls,” you might guess that large, hot-out-of-the-oven, yeast-filled delights will fly through the air, and you’d be exactly right. On a constant basis, servers emerge from the kitchen with fresh batches, and diners prepare to catch them. Luckily, the servers are very accurate with their tosses.
Many guests choose to enjoy a plate full of “pass-arounds,” which are the rolls paired with apple butter, black-eyed peas, fried okra, fried potatoes and onions, macaroni and tomatoes and boiled cabbage for only $10. But there are a wide number of hearty entrees from chicken and dumplings to frog legs, if you crave something more substantial. The kids’ menu has the usual options, plus catfish, shrimp, meatloaf and roast beef for $8 or $9, including 2 sides and a drink.
At peak times, the line can be quite long, so consider arriving early.