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A Seafood Legend Is Worth the Trip Across State Lines

If you read my column with any regularity, you know my love of the Mississippi Gulf Coast is strong. However, every now and then I venture further east to Alabama and Florida to enjoy their beautiful beaches. A recent trip to the Gulf Shores area was the perfect antidote to Mississippi's frigid fall temps. A visit to a genuine seafood legend since 1983 was the icing on the cake.

Whether you’ve realized it or not, driving in to the Gulf Shores beaches via Highway 59 South, you’ve passed the Original Oyster House Restaurant countless times. It’s been a staple in the Bayou Village Shopping Center, otherwise known as the “Oyster House Boardwalk,” for decades, reigning supreme when other seafood places have come and gone. It’s not only conveniently located, but the food is consistently good. Otherwise, it would have closed or been replaced years ago in the rapidly-growing area and that just hasn’t happened. If you're staying in nearby Orange Beach, it's a short drive down the scenic beachfront. It’s billed as “one of the most successful and longest-running seafood restaurants in South Alabama,” and one look at the menu explains why.

The restaurant is open for lunch, but I’ll feature the dinner menu, filled with the usual seafood starters, fried and grilled shrimp, fish, crab, and, of course, its namesake, oysters. Unlike some restaurants found in tourist areas, the Oyster House’s portions are generous, and, best of all, prices are reasonable. That’s reason enough for me to stop by whenever I’m in the area.

To get the party started, homemade seafood gumbo (cup-$4.99/bowl-$6.99) filled with crab, fish, shrimp, and bacon-rendered roux is in order. It’s thick, succulent, and hearty enough for a meal if you decide not to go any further.

Other shareable appetizers are Captain Bud’s appetizer sample ($11.99) filled with fried pickles, Cajun popcorn shrimp, and crawfish pies; fried pickles with dipping sauce ($6.99), fried crawfish tails ($12.25), alligator bites ($11.99), fried green tomatoes ($7.99), a dozen hushpuppies with dipping sauce ($4.99), crawfish pies ($9.25), crab cakes with remoulade sauce ($11.99), and peel and eat shrimp ($11.99), to name a few.

As you might expect from its name, oysters occupy a prominent place on the menu. In fact, an entire menu section is devoted to the savory crustaceans. Items include oysters Rockefeller ($15.99), parmesan garlic oysters ($14.99), Joe and Dave’s favorite ($14.99), oysters on the half shell (market price), and shell shocked oyster sampler ($16.99).

If you’re not worried about such things for health reasons (if you’re on vacation, hopefully you’re not), dive into the tempting section entitled “Deep Fried.” It includes some delicacies as fried shrimp ($16.99), soft shell crabs ($21), southern-fried flounder and grits ($17.50), and fried oysters ($18.99).

House specialties include, but are not limited to, Joe and Dave’s favorite ($22.99), composed of crab cakes and grilled shrimp; Boardwalk combo ($17.99), filled with stuffed flounder and fried shrimp; Pleasure Island stack ($19.99) made of fried green tomatoes stacked with blackened fish and topped with Parmesan cream sauce and shrimp; shrimper’s delight ($23.50) filled with fried, boiled and stuffed shrimp, fried flounder and a crab cake; Captain’s choice ($18.99) comprised of shrimp scampi, flounder, boiled shrimp, stuffed crab, and whole flounder (market price) stuffed with crab meat dressing.

One of my favorite Oyster House dishes, especially when I’m with a group of other shrimp-loving friends, is the ultimate shrimp platter. For $22.25, a feast of fried, stuffed, and boiled shrimp is paired with shrimp scampi. Believe me when I say, you won’t leave hungry.

Additional house favorites are shrimp or chicken Alfredo baked pasta ($16.99), butter pecan Mahi ($21.99), shrimp au gratin ($15.99), bourbon grilled chicken ($14.99), and blackened shrimp and grits ($17.99).

If beef, not seafood, is your favorite meal, you’ve come to the right place. Choose from among steak and shrimp ($23.99), a petite New York strip served with fried shrimp, and a 12-ounce New York strip ($26.99).

Create your own platter by mixing and matching any three seafood choices for $20.50 or two choices for $18.50.

Sandwiches are hearty and served with fries and Cole slaw. They include the shrimp poboy ($10.99) and oyster poboy ($12.50), bourbon glazed chicken ($9.99), and cheeseburger ($8.99).

I’ve never been able to order dessert after finishing one of Oyster House’s sumptuous seafood meals. However, I was informed by area tourism folks that I’ve missed a treat in the form of the chocolate chip peanut butter pie ($5.99). There’s also key lime pie ($4.99) and other homemade delicacies like bread pudding, cheesecake, and chocolate desserts.

The Original Oyster House is located at 701 Gulf Shores Parkway in Gulf Shores, Ala. Winter hours through February are Monday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call 251-948-2445 for more information. Another location is on the Mobile Causeway in Spanish Fort.

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