Illustrator Matt Caserta
Wolf Bay Lodge, Orange Beach
What to expect: Enjoy mountainous portions of seafood at this iconic restaurant, which is thriving again after burning down in 2008.
Check it out: : 26619 Perdido Beach Road; 251/965-5129 or wolf-bay-lodge.com
Fly Creek Café, Fairhope
What to expect: Mobile Bay fishermen take their beer-and-po'boy breaks here. Crawfish season (usually March till October) means live music and $2 Bloody Marys. Fly Creek makes everything to order, so locals call it their “slow-food hangout.”
Check it out: 831 North Section Street; 251/990-0902 or theflycreekcafe.com
Gulf Shores Steamer, Gulf Shores
What to expect: Gigantic servings of steamed seafood. The vast combination platters (steamed only; nothing’s fried here) can easily feed a family.
Check it out: 27267 Perdido Beach Boulevard, Suite 115; 251/948-6344 or gulfshoressteamer.com
King Neptune’s Seafood Restaurant, Gulf Shores
What to expect: The many loyal regulars know that the kitchen buys good, fresh seafood and knows how to cook it.
Check it out: 1137 Gulf Shores Parkway; 251/968-5464 or kingneptuneseafoodrestaurant.com
LuLu’s at Homeport Marina, Gulf Shores
What to expect: Lucy Buffett (Jimmy’s little sister) barged her former LuLu’s Sunset Grill to this new location. Much bigger space, same open-air feel, same great seafood.
Check it out: 200 East 25th Avenue; 251/967-5858 or lulusathomeport.com
Nan Seas Restaurant, Mobile
What to expect: This waterfront restaurant does a fine job with fried seafood, notably shrimp and oysters. Soothing vistas of Mobile Bay, particularly at dusk, and solicitous service elevate it to the status of locals’ favorite.
Check it out: 4170 Bay Front Road; 251/479-9132
Wintzell’s Oyster House, Mobile
What to expect: Oysters “fried, stewed, and nude” and gumbo with soul. So rich and complex is the seafood gumbo, it’s like tasting this city’s entire history with each spoonful. Diners can peruse thousands of jokes covering the walls and reflecting the bygone-era humor of the restaurant’s late founder, Oliver Wintzell. Wintzell’s is now a multiple-outlet mini-chain, but purists prefer the downtown-Mobile original.
Check it out: 605 Dauphin Street (original location); 251/432-4605 or wintzellsoysterhouse.com
Tacky Jacks, Orange Beach
What to expect: Drive up in your car or boat. Known for breakfasts, fried seafood baskets, seafood sandwiches, and po’boys.
Check it out: 27206 Safe Harbor Drive; 251/981-4144 or tackyjacks.com
Pelican Pointe Grill, Point Clear
What to expect: Sunsets never looked better than from the dining porch of this Key West–style seafood shack. An ample fillet of grilled grouper is served fabulously fresh, and a chunky smoked tuna dip is a must for nibbling.
Check it out: 10299 Highway 1; 251/928-1747
Original Oyster House, Spanish Fort
What to expect: Have it your way: fried, steamed, grilled, or blackened.
Check it out: 3733 Battleship Parkway (on the U.S. 90/98 Mobile Bay causeway); 251/626-2188 or theoysterhouse.com; also 701 Highway 59 (Bayou Village), Gulf Shores; 251/948-2445
Sea-N-Suds Restaurant, Gulf Shores,
What to expect: Their seafood-filled gumbo achieves the perfect balance of richness and delicacy. The restaurant stands on pilings on the beach, with a view of the sparkling Gulf of Mexico.
Check it out: 405 East Beach Blvd.; 251/948-7894 or sea-n-suds.com