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Exploring Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, Alabama
By Linda Kissam, 'Food, Wine & Shopping Diva' Travel Expert
It’s not often I get the opportunity to right a wrong or set the record straight while thoroughly immersing myself in sugar white beaches, clear blue ocean waves, and warm tropical breezes. Pair that with total engagement in culinary nirvana, a high-
A few weeks back the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism Bureau invited me to visit
Day one found me joining a group of travel writers inbound from all over the Unites
States. Arriving at the Pensacola Florida Airport, we met up in baggage claim and
the party was on. First stop, about 40 minutes away, was check-
Dinner was at the hip and casual Lulu’s at Homeport Marina. Wouldn’t you just know
that this being a water-
The next morning found us at Orange Beach Art Center. The gallery offers jewelry, paintings, crafts, sculpture and glass from local artists. I have to say our group did some major spending, purchasing some very unique gifts. The highlight of this place is the Hot Shop Studio where we watched Sam Cornman, a contemporary glass artist, create a beautiful hand blown vase. Most of us had no idea what an enthralling experience it is to watch a master at work. Definitely a stop for singles, couples and families. Don’t miss it.
Just down the street is Jesse’s Restaurant. Voted best steakhouse for 4 years, this
is one of those spots locals love and all visitors should know about. The menu is
impressive, ambitious and is complemented by an extensive wine list. Our group was
there to sample desserts…and we did in a big way: Elaine Cake, Chocolate Bourbon
Pecan Pie, Key Lime Pie, Chocolate Truffle Cake and more. Bakery Manager Jennifer
Haffner deserves an award of some kind for these over-
Back at the condo we enjoyed some “mandatory” time off to enjoy the beach. Just a
few steps down from the Turquoise patios, we all got our sand and water groove on
and enjoyed the sugar fine beaches and clear blue Atlantic waters. If it wasn’t for
Ready for some more night life, our group headed out for the fun and quirky Cosmo’s
Restaurant. If you’re an animal lover, then this is the place for you to support.
Located in Orange Beach this bistro and locals gathering spot has earned a loyal
following. Cosmo, a shelter dog, rescued by proprietors Brian and Jodi Harsany, was
the inspiration in the naming of this local hot spot. The colorful, eclectic decor
celebrates our four-
I happen to be a person who appreciates breakfast – especially when it’s done right.
I am really glad that Tacky Jack’s, Orange Beach was included in our tour the next
morning. Sitting outside next to the waterway, the sun kissed experience was a true
delight. There really isn’t anything much better than an omelet and a Mimosa in the
8 a.m. hour, chased by a couple of songs by Nashville’s own Marc-
If you like shopping like I do, make time to visit the SanRoc Cay shopping center
on Peridio Beach Blvd. In Orange Beach. You can purchase clothes, beauty supplies,
purses, jewelry and home décor (and our group did big time), but there is also Beach
CITE Studios an art education facility provides high-
I love tourist places that think outside of the box, so it was a great treat to buckle
up in a golf cart with five other journalists that afternoon for a guided eco tour
on the Hugh S. Branyon Back Country Trail. Winding through the gorgeous Georgia flora
and fauna side by side with joggers, cyclists and power walkers, we got to experience
firsthand the pristine trail with four distinct ecosystems covering 10 miles. It’s
an insider’s deal at $60.00 per cart or $15 per person for a two-
That evening we were treated to Villaggio Grille. For me, this was the culinary highlight
of our time in Orange Beach. Award winning Chef Brody Olive is one talented guy.
He has a fresh take on Mediterranean classics. Cooking wholesome fresh ingredients
on a wood burning stove and grill, he’s found the right touch of spices and herbs
for his dishes, treating them with respect and letting them speak for themselves
in a fabulous fresh flavorful voice. Afterwards we had a nightcap at the over-
Our last day started out at the Southbeach Bar and Grill which is located at The Beach Club, Alabama Gulf Coast’s premier destination resort. Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, Southbeach Bar & Grill serves some of the Gulf Coast region's finest cuisine in a relaxed, casual setting. I liked the light airy dining and the variety of breakfast selections. I got the feeling this is much more than a beach destination, more like a lifestyle choice, and Eva, Director of Public Relations, shared that they have a special 100% guarantee going on at the moment. Book your room without any deposit, stay and play and if it wasn’t everything you expected it to be, you pay nothing. This is a limited time offer, so check before you book.
Fueled up and ready to go, off we went to visit the Fort Morgan State Historic Site. Civil war buffs will be in 7th heaven. A testament to the evolution of American coast defense fortifications from 1834 to World War II, it’s truly a living history lesson calling all history buffs. Our second stop was the lovely Kiva Dunes Golf Course. If it’s golf you like this is the place for you. A lot of thought and care have been put into the stunning grounds, pricing and package offers. Even though I am not a golfer, even I could tell that this is the place to check it out before going elsewhere.
On a quest to find the most unique lunch place, The Hangout may have just made my list. This is a large open air beachy place. Look outside and it’s all white sand, volleyball and swimmers. The owner is the grand marshal of fun, having included games and kitschy decorations (like a wall of 50’s & 60’s lunch pails) to encourage family fun. But make no mistake this is also a great place for adults. Big food, big drinks and live music add to the charm of this place. This was also my introduction to fried pickles (called frickles). Yup, believe it or not, they were outstanding. Take time to go here.
After lunch, what could be better than dessert and conversation? Seriously, not much.
Our hosts made the right decision to introduce us to Hope’s Cheesecake in Gulf Shores.
Offering over 30 luscious, rich flavors of homemade cheesecakes since 1996, this
is a wondrous place. Hope’s is staffed by bakers with more than 30 years baking experience
who are dedicated to making the best cheesecake money, time or spirit can buy. The
cheesecake has a unique crust and is made in small batches with the finest ingredients
like Kraft Philadelphia® cream cheese, fresh whole eggs, pure-
Our farewell dinner was at the memorable Shipp’s Harbour Grill. Located in Orange
Beach this is another local’s favorite. We enjoyed the stunning Sportsman Marina
views while dinning on an eclectic menu of seafood, sushi, beef dishes and notable
wines. Chef/Owner Matt Shipp has owned and operated four restaurants in his memorable
career. He’s is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and has worked in
restaurants from New Orleans to New York. With live music Friday’s and Saturday’s
this waterfront place is perfect for singles or couples. I liked the upscale, but
still casual and hip décor, and it was a special treat to have Matt come out to talk
to us about his cuisine. He’s another passionate chef focused on the total dining
experience, from walk-
Alabama Gulf Shores is a one-
Linda Kissam 'Wine, Food & Shopping Diva' a professional travel, food, and wine writer based out of Southern California. Through her persona as (one half of) www.WineChixs.com and her Web site www.TheWineBuzzzz.com , she specializes in easy, breezy destination stories sharing her favorite things about the places she visits.