The Best Beach Bars and Casual Restaurants along the Northeast Gulf Coast
Updated: Nov 5, 2022
I have been traveling to the Northeast Gulf Coast since 1969. My first trip was to Pensacola Beach. We camped at Fort Pickens State Park just a few days after Hurricane Camille wreaked havoc on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Being from landlocked Missouri, one of the things my family loved about visiting the Gulf Coast was enjoying fresh seafood. My Dad especially loved smaller family owned restaurants, he affectionately referred to as joints. As I aged I never lost my love of fresh seafood, however I gained an appreciation for icy libations served with the waves in my ears and the sand in my toes. Here you will find a list of my favorite spots along the Gulf Coast to enjoy seafood and libations. This list is a work in progress as I find myself visiting the Gulf Coast several times a year. If you have a favorite place I have failed to mention, please drop me a message in the comments section or by email.I love trying new places.
If you are looking for Beach Gear, check out my Amazon Store where you will find some of my favorites like the beach chair, cooler and sun shade pictured below.
Mexico Beach, Florida
Shipwreck Raw Bar
On a recent visit to St. Joseph's Peninsula State Park, we had lunch at this little gem. Mexico Beach is still recovering from Hurricane Michael. Shipwreck Raw Bar has rebuilt and reopened. On the day we were there it was filled with locals and construction workers enjoying delights from the local waters. The menu is extensive and predominately seafood although there were a few things for carnivores. We tried the Fried Oysters, Grilled Fresh Catch Sandwich, and my favorite the Fresh Catch Grilled and served over a salad tossed with Honey Mustard Dressing. We started with a dozen Raw Oysters, local and fresh from the Gulf of Mexico. They have a full bar, limited wine menu and lots of local beers. Shipwreck Raw Bar is a great place to fuel up before an afternoon on the beach. For more information on visiting this area, check out my blog post Things to Know When Visiting St. Joseph's Peninsula State Park.
Panama City Beach, Florida
Hook'd Pier Bar & Grill
In my mind, there is nothing better than a cold cocktail and a beautiful view. Sitting on the base of Panama City Beach Pier, Hook'd Pier Bar & Grill delivers both with the cold cocktail served in a freshly cut pineapple cup. This non-frozen pina colada tasting drink comes in a nonalcoholic version, however my favorite is with a generous pour of rum. Their menu has lots of interesting bites on it, including a great seafood taco selection. Unfortunately, we never made it back there to eat. It is on my list for next time. Check out their menu at HookedPierBar.com
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Dusty's Oyster Bar
In a beige, unassuming building, surrounded by a ground shell parking lot on Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach is Dusty's Oyster House. Inside is a lively combination of locals and tourists enjoying craft beer and seafood. The walls are decorated with dollar bill graffiti, mementos left by past visitors. If you are a beer lover, you have come to the right place. There is an extensive selection of draft and bottled beer, including a nice selection of local beers. The is a limited selection of common wines. No hard liquor is served. This part of the Florida Pan Handle is known for their oysters and Dusty's gives you numerous delicious options for eating them. My favorite was the Oyster Sampler, with 3 Baked Oysters, 3 Oysters Casino, 3 Oysters Rockefeller and 3 Oysters Mexican. The menu is seafood heavy with interesting choices like frog legs and alligator bites. There are also options for meat eaters. During peak seasons they do get very busy. They do not have a website, but you can get information about them on their Facebook page.
Navarre Beach, Florida
One of my all time favorite beach bars is Juana's Pagodas. With water sport rentals, beach volleyball and a white sand, back bay beach, there is plenty to do all day. As the day ends, they are perfectly situated to catch a sound side sunset. With live music 7 days a week in the summer, weekends year round, they offer a fun night out for adults. The Sailor's Grill Pagoda offers indoor and outdoor seating where you can get a delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner. My favorite is the grilled fish Pagoda Sandwich, topped with Swiss cheese, grilled onions and sautéed mushrooms.and a slice of the Key Lime Pie. Opened in 1989, our family has been making vacation memories there for over 30 years! Check out their live music schedule and menu on their website www.juanaspagodas.com. For more information on visiting Navarre Beach, check out my blog post, Navarre Beach, A Gem on the Gulf Coast.
Pensacola Beach, Florida
Peg Leg Pete's
On Fort Pickens Rd. in Pensacola Beach, Peg Leg Pete's is a place where you will find both locals and tourists. It is a large open air restaurant with a smaller sand floor bar on the lower level. The upstairs restaurant has a slightly larger menu. Both the upstairs restaurant and the downstairs bar have lots of options for both those hungry for fresh seafood and those wanting a steak, burger or pasta. During the summer there is live music every night and on Thursday - Sunday evenings in the winter. It is a large family friendly place, that can have a significant wait in the summer. It is not a bad place to have to wait, just grab a cold drink, listen to some music or wander around LaFitte Cove Marina. Their menu is available at www.peglegpetes.com.
Joe Patti's Seafood
Technically not a restaurant, although you can get prepared foods and sushi there, Joe Patti's Seafood is a Pensacola icon. Open since 1930, Joe Patti's has been selling fresh, off the boat seafood to locals and visitors for almost 100 years. We stop on the way to the beach to get some oysters, shrimp and fish to cook during our stay. When we were kids, we would stop on our way home to fill up our cooler with shrimp to bring home. First thing we did after our 15 hour drive was pull the heads off those shrimp and bag them for the freezer. Their seafood is fresh and their prices are great.
Perdido Key, FL
The Flora Bama at the top of my list of Best Beach Bars in the World. Opened since1964, they have been serving up cold drinks and live music on the Florida Alabama border to generations of beach goers. I understand the food is very good. I have only had their peel & eat shrimp, which I enjoyed one beautiful afternoon while taking in the stunning views of the emerald Gulf. Their signature drink is the frozen Bushwacker, which has an icy, chocolatey flavor and can be very refreshing on a hot summer evening. But the best thing about the Flora Bama is the music. They are currently running 4 stages and there is usually music on three. The bands are sing along, get the audience involved, dance till you drop kind of bands. It is hard to go to the Flora Bama and not stay up past your bedtime, having a good time. Checkout their music schedule at www.florabama.com.
Orange Beach, Alabama
Looking for a speciality cocktail or a nice glass of wine, while enjoying the boat traffic in the Perdido Pass or the sun setting, head to Cobalt, under the Perdido Pass Bridge on the east side. Their large outdoor area is perfect for both. During the summer months and weekends, they frequently have live music. They are open for Lunch, Dinner and Sunday Brunch. They always rank in the Top 10 of restaurants in Orange Beach. If you are looking for a beachy fine dining experience with amazing views, I would recommend Cobalt. They do not take reservations, in busy times you should expect a wait. Their menu is available at www.cobaltrestaurant.com.
Created from old Land/Sea shipping containers, The Gulf sits on the northwest side of the Perdido Pass with gorgeous views of the gulf and the pass. This open air and casual place offers a small but very tasty menu, including tacos, burgers and one of the best fish sandwiches on the Gulf Coast. You place your order at one container, grab a drink at another container and find a place to sit at one of the many picnic tables, beach chairs or around one of the their fire pits. It is a big place, but can get very crowded on the summer. You will find their menu at www.thegulf.com.
Doc's Seafood claims to have the best fried shrimp in the civilized world. I could not let that claim go untested. I headed out to Perdido Beach Blvd for a taste test. I am a die hard Fried Shrimp fan! It is my favorite "Cheat Day" food. I am eaten them throughout the south. Their shrimp are big, butterflied, tails removed and served piping hot. The coating is crunchy and not too thick. Naturally, they are made from fresh gulf shrimp. I have to admit they are some of the best I have ever eaten. The menu includes all types of seafood and po boys, as well has fried chicken and steaks. They also offer several southern style lunch specials until 2:00 daily. To get directions to their location and look at their menu go to www.docsseafoodandsteaks.com.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
The Shrimp Basket
A Gulf Coast classic you will find Shrimp Baskets throughout the Northeast Gulf Coast and Alabama. The original location is in Gulf Shores just two blocks from the sugar white beaches along the shore there. No trip to the beach is complete for me unless there is a meal of fried shrimp. The Shrimp Basket is one of the go to places. It is super causal, wear your bathing suit cover-up and your flip flops. Whether you like your your seafood grilled, steamed or fried, there is something for everyone on the menu. There are also burgers and chicken fingers for the non-seafood lovers. Their cold slaw is extra special because they add tiny shrimp into the creamy, crunchy deliciousness. To find a location and see their menu go to www.shrimpbasket.com.
If I have missed your favorite spot along the northeast Gulf Coast, please leave me a message in the comments section or send me an email. I would love to try your favorite spot.
Check out Booking.com, for best prices on Gulf Coast Accommodations.
For more information, check out my other blog posts on the Gulf Coast:
19 Gulf Coast Photos to Inspire You to Plan a Trip
Navarre Beach, A Gem on the Gulf Coast.
Exploring the Coastal Wetlands on the Hike/Bike Trails of Gulf State Park, in Gulf Shores AL
Charter Fishing along the Gulf Coast of Florida
5 Things to Know about Spring Break on the Gulf Coast
Things to Know Before Visiting St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, Florida