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When you’re on vacation at the beach, you want to take advantage of the local culture and cuisine. Chain restaurants with stock menus just won’t do. After all, you want to enjoy fantastic meals.

If you’ve asked the question, “What do you want to eat,” only to hear the infamous reply, “I don’t know, just something we can’t get at home,” then let our insider’s guide to chef-inspired cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere take the guesswork out of dining.

From Gulf Shores to  South Walton, local chefs are preparing coastal cuisine in appetizing new ways. What’s more: these picks for fantastic meals and unforgettable moments won’t disappoint.

Roselie Dining & Seafood Bar, 30A

Husband and wife duo Kevin and Angela Korman established Roselie at 30Avenue. They envisioned a place for families to enjoy fine dining. Then, Chef Kevin Korman fused his love of local ingredients with French techniques to create a sophisticated twist on American fare. Known for his ability to reinterpret classic dishes, Korman created a hit menu menu with diners of all ages and palates. The Bloody Mary Mignonette Gulf Oysters aren’t to be missed. And Roselie even features a Chef’s Tasting Menu that changes weekly according to what’s seasonally available. Recent favorites include beef tartar, grouper with spaghetti squash and tomato curry, and a seasonal vegetable offering.

Boshamps Seafood & Oyster House, Destin

Boshamps is one of those places where even the locals will wait for a table. It has waterfront docks, panoramic views of the Destin Harbor, and live music every Sunday. Without question, Boshamps’ atmosphere is as good as its food. So show up fresh off the boat, tie off at a dock, and enjoy Gulf seafood with Southern flare. Start with the jumbo lump crab cakes with roasted pecans and sauce meuniere. Then dig into lobster mac ‘n cheese, a rich and creamy signature dish. For the land-lover, how about a chargrilled Angus filet served with southern squash casserole. For dessert (because all Southern cuisine comes with dessert), explore the mystery pecan pie, a pecan pie and cheesecake fusion. Or cool down with the always-popular, Mrs. Cynthia’s handmade ice cream.

Al’s Beach Club & Burger Bar, Fort Walton Beach

Al’s made a name for itself with burgers, but you’ll find so much more to love at this beachfront bar. Located at The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island, Al’s boasts spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico and an iconic beach food menu. Burgers, fries, shakes, and beer, Al’s cranked everything up a notch. They grind their proprietary blend of beef daily, and craft milkshakes from all-natural custard. Meanwhile, their beer selection is an homage to Florida craft beers, like 30A Beach Blonde, Cigar City Jai Alai, and Funky Buddha Floridian.  Plus, with live music, a pirate show every Monday, and all-day volleyball tournaments, there’s always something to do at Al’s.

The Grand Marlin, Pensacola Beach

Overlooking the water, The Grand Marlin serves fresh-from-the-docks fish daily. With a menu that changes according to what’s locally sourced, you can order any item on the menu with the confidence it was carefully selected by the chef—today.  So try their signature barbecue shrimp served with New Orleans’ famous Gambino’s bread. Or, indulge in crispy lobster fingers, served with vanilla bean-infused honey mustard sauce. And the pan seared red snapper, caught right here in the Gulf of Mexico, is a locals’ favorite.

Lulu’s, Gulf Shores

Alabama native Lucy Buffet (sister to Jimmy) opened a little grill on Weeks Bay for good burgers, cold beverages, and breathtaking sunsets. In 2003, her restaurant moved—literally by barge—to the intracoastal waterway in Gulf Shores. Known for its Bayfront beaches, arcade, ropes course, and of course, Southern comfort food, LuLu’s is the place for family fun. Furthermore, the “pa-menna” cheeseburger takes top spot as Lulu’s signature dish. They top it with pimento cheese, bacon and fried green tomatoes. For a taste of the Gulf, order the red snapper sandwich. Or, if you can’t decide on one type of seafood, try the half and half basket. Because who doesn’t love Gulf shrimp and the catch of the day?  You’ll also enjoy a side of live music every day at 5 p.m.

The Hangout, Gulf Shores

We have to include two restaurants in Gulf Shores, because you can’t talk about food, views, and music without mentioning The Hangout. You’ve probably heard of Hangout Fest, the now legendary beach music festival every May. For one speaker-blaring, center-stage sharing weekend, the biggest names in music descend on Gulf Shores for Coastal Alabama’s favorite music festival. This year’s line-up features Mumford & Sons, Twenty One Pilots, Lukas Graham, Magic, and more than eighty others. Oh, and as for the food. If you like fried pickles, this is the place to get them. Sliced length-wise, The Gulf’s fried pickles are Southern-fried heaven. For the main course, their coastal seafood market features oysters on the half shell, peel and eat Gulf shrimp, crab legs, and Maine lobster.

When you’re on the beaches of Northwest Florida or Coastal Alabama, fantastic meals with a coastal soundtrack are always in season. Book your vacation rental today and plan your own food tour of the Gulf Coast.