When you think of a Gulf Shores area vacation, dining out on some great Gulf seafood is likely one of your top five things to do.

The good news is that there are so many restaurant options in Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan, Orange Beach and Perdido Key that even if you stayed a month, you and your family would never have to dine in the same spot twice!

There are lots of wonderful restaurants right near the beach and several very popular ones with large dining areas to accommodate lots of vacationers. Take a quick drive around, and you’re sure to see them. Or, perhaps you’ve read about them or received recommendations from friends and family. There are plenty to choose from.

In this blog, we wanted to offer a few suggestions for restaurants that might be off the beaten path, those locals love to visit, small ones that offer dishes that are big on taste, and others you might not otherwise have heard of.

When you are looking for an “authentic” locals’ experience, consider one of our 10 favorite restaurants.

Anchor Bar & Grill – Orange Beach

4575 S. Wilson Blvd., Orange Beach

A waterfront hideaway perched on the bay and shaped like a ship, Anchor Bar & Grill in Orange Beach is situated at Hudson Marina.

Accessible by traveling east on Canal Road and turning right on South Wilson Blvd., this unique eatery is known for its changing seasonal menu. The menu is diverse but not overly large and complex. It’s just good.

In January, the menu included Pork Belly Pot Pie Tots (braised heritage pork belly atop crispy tator tots with smoked neck gravy, roasted mirepoix relish, fresh English peas, and a sunny up farm egg. I know, right!), the “More In Than Out” Burger, the Cuban, a Marrow Meatball Sub, the Gringo Taco or a salad filled with seasonal vegetables.

For kids, there’s a cheeseburger, a grilled cheese, beef and cheese tacos and a good old PB&J sandwich.

One of the best items on the menu couldn’t technically be called “food.” It’s the restaurant’s signature bushwacker, which contains vanilla vodka, Frangelico and ice cream. Depending on the season, you might also see themed bushwackers for Mardi Gras (King Cake, anyone?).

You’ll also find a variety of beers, specialty frozen cocktails and a selection of wines.

Maggie’s Bottle & Tail

25753 Canal Road, Orange Beach

One of several food and beverage outlets at the Cosmo’s Restaurant & Bar complex in Orange Beach, Maggie’s Bottle & Tail offers a break from the typical bar experience.

Maggie’s is a parlor filled with big, comfortable sofas and chairs tucked into small groups to invite conversations. You’re welcomed to play a board game, cards or the record player. The only rule is to relax.

Before entering the cozy, nostalgic parlor, stop at the bar to order a glass of curated wine or a mug craft beer along with a couple of small plates of food. If you find you like a particular beer, take some home for later in a growler.

If you need a bit more food, restaurants at this complex include Cosmo’s and Luna’s Eat & Drink for lunch and dinner. For breakfast or lunch, stop into BuzzCatz Coffee & Sweets for locally roasted coffee, homemade pastries and other delights.

Papa Rocco’s

101 W. 6th Ave., Gulf Shores

Open in Gulf Shores since 1985, this restaurant is a consistent “People’s Choice Award” winner for its oysters, pizza and other menu items, such as lasagna, spaghetti and more.

It’s also a top spot among locals for watching sports matches and listening to live music in the afternoons and evenings.

The Keg Lounge & Grill

26796 Canal Road, Orange Beach

In Orange Beach, the Keg Lounge & Grill is a favorite watering hole for locals and visitors alike.

Of course, there are the traditional beer, wine and spirits. And you can also play a game of pool, crank up the jukebox, or spend time in the outdoor courtyard.

But it’s the burgers that people tend to talk about most. Affectionately called the “Keg Burger” by those in the know, this burger is large, juicy, tasty…and famous. The burger comes with lettuce, tomato, pickle, ketchup, mustard, mayo and grilled onions. Extra hungry? Make it a double.

There are also many other sandwiches on the menu; fries, onion rings and other sides; and a kids’ menu.

One of the establishment’s Facebook reviewers stated, “They advertise the best burgers, and they aren’t lying! They’re big and better than homemade.”

Flying Harpoon

112 Windmill Ridge Road, Gulf Shores

The home of great food and big personalities, Flying Harpoon is known for its New Orleans-style cuisine and oysters shucked to order.

With locations in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, this is the place to come for a drink and an oyster poboy, oyster Caesar salad, shrimp and crab cakes, and even a boudin king cake for Mardi Gras season.

Beach House Kitchen & Cocktails

1154 W. Beach Blvd., Gulf Shores

Featuring a casual atmosphere, including a porch, this West Beach restaurant serves a variety of appetizers, salads, sandwiches/wraps, burgers, tacos and more.

Some of the Beach House’s favorite items include a burger on a brioche bun, Gulf triggerfish tacos, crawfish mac and cheese and pineapple slaw, among many other items.

Tin Top Restaurant & Oyster Bar

6232 Bon Secour Hwy., Bon Secour

A little off the beaten path, Tin Top is a rustic restaurant tucked away in Bon Secour near the local fresh seafood markets.

As a starter, Tin Top patrons rave about the ahi tuna served with wasabi, peeled ginger and a sweet chili sauce. Another great appetizer is the seafood stuffed mushrooms with house lobster sauce.

Dinner menu items are diverse and include pan seared tuna, steamed royal reds, crab cakes and oysters as well as chicken, pork and steaks.

Royal Oyster

807 Gulf Shores Parkway, Gulf Shores

A small spot that packs a big punch, this restaurant serves raw or roasted oysters in addition to small plates, big plates, salads and sandwiches.

This restaurant offers other special items like tuna tacos with wasabi cream sauce topped with Asian slaw, a tuna sandwich with wasabi cream sauce, seared scallops, oyster and Conecuh stew, and loaded seafood soup.

Royal Oyster is one of several restaurants that offer outdoor dining.

Eating out is a big part of what people love about vacationing on the Gulf Coast, so be sure to enjoy one of these or the area’s other restaurants. Or, you may choose to dine in and make use of your fully equipped kitchen to prepare meals.

If you have a large group, choose a beach house with five or more bedrooms. For smaller families, a two- or three-bedroom condo is a comfortable option.