What are the best restaurants in Fairhope?
This is the #1 question I get asked by readers on their way to Fairhope. I completely understand if you have limited time in a new city, you want to sample the local food and atmosphere and not indulge in the average.
I always hesitate to give recommendations for Fairhope restaurants, because everyone has different likes and dislikes, but I’ve heard from so many of my readers, that I finally decided to give you a brief run-down of my choices. I invite locals to chime in on the comment section at the end and give their suggestions. Just remember, when our mamas tell us not to “be ugly,” they aren’t talking about looks!
These are the best places where you will get local flavor and great atmosphere.
If I didn’t include a restaurant in this list, it’s probably not because of the food caliber, because almost all the locally owned restaurants strive to bring delicious fare to their diners, but often, it’s the service or atmosphere that is lacking quality. I completely understand that good help is hard to find, but if I return to a place time after time, and the service is snarky, slow or befuddled, I have to limit my endorsement.
For example, there is a restaurant that has delicious food, but is a dirty, empty-looking place with flies buzzing around. In a blind taste test, I would choose their specialty dish every time, but I can’t in good consciousness send tourists there. Others not found here just have terrible, rude service or a blah atmosphere. Another example has pretty good food, but I’ve never been there when they didn’t get the order confused or take twenty minutes to bring me a sandwich. That’s not what you want when you are on vacation. So if you think I forgot to include a restaurant, there’s probably a reason.
And of course, everyone has their own opinion. I told a friend what my three favorites were, and she strongly disagreed with one choice, so remember, it’s just one person’s opinion.
*In order to feature local flavor, NO LARGE CHAIN RESTAURANTS ARE INCLUDED. Locations and sample menus can be found by clicking the links. If no link is provided, it’s because I couldn’t find one.
In no particular order, here are the restaurants in downtown Fairhope I recommend . . .
Tamara’s — Very nice atmosphere and the food is always wonderful. I order something different each time, which is easy to do since the menu changes to feature seasonal and local items. I’m never disappointed with any of my choices. The omelets for Sunday brunch are some of my favorites. There’s a beautiful bar area where you can also order from the menu.
Bone and Barrel – Next door to Fairhope Hardware. Varied casual menu, large bar area, casual good food.The menu is sure to change now and then, but I love their spinach stuffed fried grits. – It’s hard to explain, but delicious.
The Fairhope Inn — Charming, cozy atmosphere and delicious food every time. My husband has thrown me birthday parties at The Fairhope Inn because he knows I love it so much, and the staff has always gone out of their way to give us excellent service. Superb lunch and dinner served daily with a little bit of everything on the menu.
Pinzone’s Italian Village
Pinzone’s is a delicious Italian restaurant with several small indoor spaces, or outdoor tables under twinkling lights and the stars. The complex also has a separate bar that serves a complete selection of wine, beer and mixed drinks along with delicious appetizers. You can also order and have dinner served through the bar.
Inside the Pinzone’s complex is:
Adonna’s Bakery,which features casual, yet gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner items all in a charming bistro atmosphere. Their pastries and sweets are fabulous.
Bay Breeze Cafe’ – Located in the large building on Church Street, at the end of DeLa Mare Ave. I’ve been there for lunch many times and it’s a great place to eat outdoors when the weather is pretty. There’s also indoor seating where you can enjoy their delicious sandwiches, soups and other lunch items. They are also open at 8am for breakfast. Good place to meet a friend for lunch!
Dragonfly Food Bar – “Quirky” is the first word I think of for this popular place, and I mean that in a very good way. Original soft taco combinations like Tempura Lobster and Pork Carnitas are offered as well as innovative noodle bowls. Dragonfly recently moved to a new location to accommodate the large number of patrons and has opened a new wine bar with outdoor deck seating. Very popular with locals for both lunch and dinner. Popular $2 taco nights bring in a packed crowd. Check the web site for schedule.
Sage Lebanese Cuisine and Cafe’ – One of my favorite specialty restaurants in Fairhope, I sometimes call in an order and go pick it up when I feel like eating at home. It is a wonderful, delicious taste of Lebanese food which is a great global addition to the downtown food scene. Appetizer plates, salads, sandwiches, main entrees . . . it’s all good. They’ve recently added wine, beer and specialty drinks to their menu. For something different, this is the place I recommend.
Locals – One of our most unique and fun restaurants that specializes in adventurous burgers. Bison, venison, lamb and even (hold on) . . . kangaroo burgers are popular and I must say, delicious. They also offer veggie burgers and side dishes that are made with the freshest of local ingredients. Upscale food, yet in a casual, friendly atmosphere. This is my eldest son’s favorite.
Master Joe’s – Repeatedly voted the best sushi restaurant in our area. “Joe” came to Fairhope a few years ago via New York, on his way from China. Authentic dishes other than sushi are also available, but seating is limited, so get there early. This is my youngest son’s favorite place to eat.
Camellia Cafe – Absolutely some of the most delicious and inventive food in our area. The only shortcoming is the slightly higher price (but I do think it’s well worth it, especially for a big night out). They’ve recently renovated to increase seating, but reservations are usually needed. When I eat here, it reminds me of dining experiences in much larger cities.
Panini Pete’s — Ultra popular sandwich place. Savory paninis made with fresh mozzarella cheese they make themselves. Featured numerous times on The Food Network and snuggled in a beautiful courtyard with outdoor service if the weather is good, which is almost always. The only thing I don’t like is sometimes having to wait for a table, but that’s a sign of a good place. Fresh beignets made every morning to rival those in New Orleans.
Speaking of Panini Pete’s, Sunset Pointe is Pete’s latest venture into a more traditional, yet innovative restaurant. Offering the most lovely view of Fly Creek Marina, with dreamy sunset views, the food features local seafood, but also offers mouthwatering steaks and burgers as well. An open teaching-kitchen brings surprising new combinations to the ever-changing menu. I’ve tried just about everything on the menu and love it all, but my favorites are the bouillabaisse and the skirt steak. My sons love the tuna burger.
Thyme by the Bay – Gorgeous outdoor seating overlooking Mobile Bay, this newcomer to the restaurant scene is operated by long-time restauranteurs who know what customers like. Homemade soups and their own house-made ravioli recipe are also offered with a certified angus steak that has received rave reviews. Very good food with a little bit of everything, and all of it being very inventive. Very small seating areas, but will soon open a new location in downtown. Stay tuned!
Gambino’s – I think this was the first restaurant we ate in when we visited Fairhope. Locals have always loved this place and it features not only delicious Italian dishes, but also a selection of local seafood as well as other standard items. Last time I checked, it had a lunch buffet, with a southern flair. Here’s a previous review I gave it.
Shux on the Pier – The owners of Shux on the Pier also own Gambino’s and Thyme by the Bay, but all three are very different. Shux is down the hill on the Fairhope Pier and offers an variety of oyster and seafood dishes, along with a burger, steak and Philly steak sandwich.
Julwin’s – This is Baldwin County’s oldest restaurant. Good, down-home southern cooking and friendly service is what you will find here. Locals flock in for breakfast and lunch specials that change daily. Very popular for big pancakes and good coffee. Check their web site for popular steak nights.
Mary Ann’s Deli – Located in The Windmill Market, Mary Ann’s is a Fairhope favorite. Their chicken salad is a mainstay and also offer tasty soups and sandwiches.
Sweet Olive Bakery and Cafe’ – Also located in The Windmill Market. Specializes in organic and locally grown ingredients in ever-changing breakfast and lunch selections. Baked goods and made to order smoothies. One of a kind wraps, salads, sandwiches and pizzas. There’s usually live music at the Windmill Market throughout the weekends.
R Bistro – A small dining area, but very good food. We dined there for Valentine’s Day one year, but it’s also a good spot for a casual lunch or Sunday brunch. Recently ranked as one of the highest rated restaurants in Alabama.
Sandra’s – Another deli with outdoor seating available. Great location to people watch. Specializes in delicious sandwiches, homemade soups and everyone loves their desserts. Friendly staff makes everything daily from scratch.
McSharry’s – I often overlook McSharry’s for a meal, because being a true Irish pub, it exudes a party atmosphere rather than a traditional restaurant. But the Ireland native and charming owner, Ronan McSherry knows how to cook a tasty meal and has delicious, authentic Irish dishes as well as good American pub staples ready for lunch, dinner, or a late night hunger attack. Fun outdoor seating with TV’s tuned to American football as well as Irish sporting events. And would you be surprised to know, McSharry’s has the best St. Patrick’s Day party in all of Baldwin County?
Ravennight Pizza — New York style pizza with pool tables in the back and TVs tuned to sports. Good place to go early in the evening with kids. Great salads (the Greek salad is my favorite) and calzones. Late night bands bring a party atmosphere after 10pm.
Papa’s Pizza — Tasty traditional pizza, we like the deep dish Sicilian. Does a big take-out business.
Outside of the downtown Fairhope area, I also recommend these restaurants:
Wintzell‘s— Very casual, and a small local chain, with the original location being across the bay in Mobile. At one time, their service wasn’t so great, but they’ve had a new manager for a while and all seems to be okay now. The Fairhope location is good for oysters and other local seafood, with an outdoor deck or plenty of indoor seating. Fried, steamed, raw, blackened or boiled, with delicious gumbo and a fun atmosphere. Also offers non-seafod items.
Market by the Bay — Here, the food trumps the atmosphere. Located on “The Fourlane” which is Greeno Road, the decor and location probably turn some people away, but they have the freshest and most delicious seafood around. Cooked to order, we like to eat there for a casual meal, or get it to-go for a picnic. If they had a more charming atmosphere (It’s actually in a former auto — lube shop), it would have a line out the door, which come to think of it, on some days it does. Click HERE for my review of their other location in Daphne, which was written before they had a Fairhope location.
Old 27 Grill — Located on Hwy 181, this is a casual “hang-out” type of place with local bands beneath the huge oak trees. The menu is fun, kid-friendly, and features dishes adults will also love with local ingredients when possible. They cure and smoke their own bacon which elevates this once breakfast-only meat to “gourmet” status. Fish, hand-cut steaks and burgers are all made with care. There’s also a full bar with a regular crowd. Big burgers with 27 toppings to choose from.
Rae’s Southern Kitchen – I almost forgot to include Rae’s because it started out as a take-out catering place only, but just recently has added seating. This mother/daughter duo makes wonderful food from scratch and offers great soups, sandwiches, dips, spreads and casseroles. Eat on the deck on a sunny day, or indoor the funky and bright store. Here’s a review I did on them last year.
The Washhouse — Situated south of The Grand Hotel on Scenic Hwy. 98 behind The Punta Clara Candy Kitchen. The Washhouse looks deceiving from the outside, like a tiny old house, but offers exceptional upscale Southern coastal cuisine and is a favorite of local residents. It’s like a hidden gem only locals (and lucky visitors) know about.
The Sunflower Cafe – Organic, healthy choices associated with the Fairhope Health Food Store next door. I love eating here and you don’t feel deprived and always leave feeling full but not overly stuffed. Soups, wraps, quiches, sandwiches and other daily specials, all with an organic/international vibe. Very good!
Catering/Pick up in Fairhope
Chive Talkin’ Catering – I’ve had a couple of people tell me they were planning a family reunion or girl’s get-together in Fairhope and wanted me to suggest a caterer. Although most of our restaurants will work with you on this, I also want to mention Chive Talkin’ who specializes in catering delicious and innovative food. I’ve used their casseroles as gifts for teachers, and let me tell you, I was much loved after that! Go to their page for a list of mouth watering spreads, casseroles, desserts and more for a quick take-home dish to your condo, a romantic picnic on the bay, or for a large happy party for hundreds.
Coffee, ice cream and snacks in Fairhope:
Mr. Gene’s Beans — Famous for their icy cold “Fairhope Float.” Coffee, ice cream and milkshakes, this is a favorite hang-out for locals. There are Moms in the morning grabbing coffee with friends, the kiddies take over the place in the afternoon for ice-cream, and a nighttime date crowd shows up for after-dinner dessert. A true Fairhope tradition.
Latte’ Da — The coffee shop inside of Page and Palette Bookstore, this is the perfect morning spot for coffee, bagels and other sweet treats. It’s the main hub and meeting place for locals. You can sip coffee next to an artist, inventor, former actor, college kid or New York Times best selling author. They offer iced coffees, ice cream, cake by the slice, bagels and muffins.
The Coffee Loft — Just a few blocks north of the downtown area, The Coffee Loft is a hip coffee shop where locals meet to catch — up, teens meet to hang-out and study, and business owners use for a meeting spot. Delicious coffee and tea options with heathy muffins and organic energy bar — type foods.
Red or White — A fun place to meet in the evening for wine, the shop is more of a wine store that happens to offer tables for tasting and a small kitchen that whips up delicious appetizer- sized pizzas and cheese and charcuterie boards. They close early and seating is difficult to find.
And even though Marriott owns the hotel, and that makes it a chain, there’s a special place in locals hearts for . . . Sunday brunch at The Grand. Although their regular restaurants are wonderful and menus for these can be seen HERE, the Marriott Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa offers one of the best Sunday brunches in the Southeast.Â The Grand Hotel makes a fabulous brunch every Sunday, complete with live jazz music. It’s a pricy option for brunch, but well worth it. The menu is always changing, but there is a fresh, made-to-order omelet station, carving station, belgian waffles, and all the local seafood, and southern staples like grits and biscuits you can hold. Just when you think you’ve gone to foodie-heaven, you see the huge dessert assortment, which looks like it belongs in an art museum, but really belongs in your lucky mouth.
We always go for the Christmas brunch (Santa’s there) and for special occasions, like the time my youngest was baptized, the entire family celebrated at The Grand. The band saw our precious babe and launched into a jazzy version of, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” but used the words, “Just a little butter bean.”
Proving there are as many nice people around here as there are nice places to eat.
Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment and tell everyone where you like to eat and what your favorite thing is to order in Fairhope!