The Opinionated Foodie: The Love (or Not) of Food and Everything That Goes with It

Uncle Mick’s-Prattville, Alabama

The ride home from vacation is never fun.

This year, the trip from Destin was a quiet one. We were tired, full of memories, and road-weary. The movies were going in the backseat, and sand was still in our shoes. We had had enough fun for a while. Still, I had to have just one more foodie stop on the way home.

I did a little searching on my phone for a lunch stop as the miles rolled by, and Uncle Mick’s in Prattville, Alabama was a name I kept seeing.

Maybe it was that Uncle Mick’s sounded like a good place, or maybe it was the fact that they didn’t care where lunch came from, or maybe it was that they didn’t want to hear me whine about missing it, I don’t know. But regardless, the fam went along with the idea of stopping there for one last culinary adventure before home.

We took an exit and drove and drove and drove. There was a lot of huffing at this part of the journey as Mr. Opinionated was not too happy to be driving past the chain restuarants by the interstate to try a place we’d never heard of. He survivied, and we made it to Uncle Mick’s just before a meltdown.

We walked in, and the place was very nice. The food is served cafeteria style, and so we just walked right up to the start of the line.
We weren’t sure what to eat, but Uncle Mick was there to serve us some samples of several dishes. He was the nicest man and very good to us as we tried out his food. He said, “You like shrimp? You like fish? What’ll you try?”
I had the tilapia with the Corn Maque Choux and tomato salad w/Feta cheese. Even though we had just eaten fish for a week, the tilapia was still good. The corn was awesome. I had never heard of maque choux before, and it was a dish to try. Yum.
After all his huffing, Mr. Opinionated had the crawfish etouffee, and he liked it fine. He may have loved it, but he wouldn’t have let me know that.
Mr. Picky enjoyed the garlic bread. Go figure.
For dessert before the rest of the long road ahead, we had the bread pudding. When we ordered it, they set it aside and warmed it up when we were ready for it. It would have been better had we not just had the best bread pudding on earth at Harbor Docks.
This ride home was another long one, but Uncle Mick’s is a place to put in the GPS for good. The food and atmosphere were a nice break from the interstate-even if it took us a little while and a lot of huffing to get there.
Uncle Mick's Cajun Market and Cafe on Urbanspoon


Not Fitting in at The Acme Oyster House-Destin, Florida

The Acme Oyster House is a fabulous place to eat. We love it. It was a must-go-to on our trip to Destin.
There is only one problem-the neighborhood.

When we are around the beach, the people in the restaurants we visit are nice and comfortable. Folks may be dressed nicely, or they may be in their sandy swimsuits, which may or may not be a good thing to look at. People at the beach are going with the flow. They are there to have a good time. If someone doesn’t wear makeup or fix their hair or even match? That’s okay. It is all good in the sand.

The Acme Oyster House is not in a run down neighborhood, for sure. Quite the opposite. It is found in a nice area in Sandestin called the Baytown Warf. They have shops and restaurants and neat things to do. It is not really near the beach. Therefore, it is not so near the beach mentality. Everytime we have visited this area, we have felt a little out of place.

Not that we are slackers, I guess. It is just a shock to the system to go from seeing bathing suits and flip flops to seeing whole families dressed in matching outfits of blue and white seersucker with their noses slightly affixed in the air.

For example, we took Miss Helper to the American Girl Doll store near the restaurant. She picked out a doll and an outfit to go with her doll. She had a hard time with the outfit since she was only allowed one. After much thought on Miss Helper’s part, she picked out a green Hawaiian dress with matching lei. It was cute, and it was the last one. Miss Helper was proud of the doll with the dress, and so she carried her around with her all the time.

As we were shopping and such, I heard (and Miss Helper did too) several grown women say to other grown women who all had on Outfits and could have used a sandwich for some meat on their bones, “That was the American Girl dress we wanted.” They were talking about the dress Miss Helper’s doll was wearing.

I wanted to say, “Welp, you snobby little snob, too bad for you.”

That would never happen at Fudpuckers.

And so, when we visit Acme Oyster, it is an experience.

On this trip, our family plus our well-dressed doll ate on the patio to the side of the restaurant. A family in line in front of us wouldn’t eat outside (maybe it might wrinkle their seersucker to sit outside?), but we will and walked right in. The non-outside eating family waited. Outside.
We started our al fresco dining experience with the broiled oysters and the boo fries.
The oysters were fantastic as expected. They were hot as fire and good as gold.
The boo fries were a long shot. I picked them because they reminded me of an article I read recently about the way fries are often served up North.

They were crisp fries with a warm, rich, beefy gravy and cheese on top.
Deee-vine. I now have permission from my non-roast eating hubby to make roast just so we can try making boo fries on our own with the roast gravy.
For our dinner, Miss Helper had the seafood gumbo. She had asked our waitress if it was a spicy dish, and the waitress said no. It ended up being a little too spicy for her, but we think she takes after her Granmommy in such a way that rice krispies would be spicy for her. She still ate like a champ.
Mr. Opinionated wanted to order the boiled crawfish, but they were out. We found that peculiar. He had the fried crawfish po boy instead. So, they could fry them but not boil them. Hmmm….
Mr. Picky had the chicken and liked it fine. No surprises there.
For the second time in a row, I had the Peacemaker. Good Lawd, it is good. It is spicy and crunchy and fresh and amazing. I love it. I ate the whole thing.

While we were enjoying ourselves, our vacation, and our food, the table next to us became occupied with a group of fellow outside the restaurant eaters-a mom and her three kids. They were none of our business, but soon, they became too interesting to ignore.

Two of the kids made it fine, but when it came time for the daughter to order, she wasn’t going to cooperate easily. The fish she wanted was off the menu. The waitress explained that the new fish on the menu was about the same as the one she was looking for. The daughter wouldn’t hear of it. Then, the waitress offered a different fish cooked a different way and several other options. No go. The daughter resorted to pouting and eating nothing.

When the fresh oysters they ordered arrived, the mom took one look and declared they would not do because they were too big. The waitress explained that those oysters were the smallest they had and that she specifically asked the kitchen for small oysters just for her. The mom refused them and sent them back.

What a snot. Like they should shuck all the oysters they had just so she could have the twelve smallest ones.

She didn’t even say thank you.

That’s my only problem with Acme Oyster House. We love it-really, we do. The food is top-notch, but the company could be a little less on the Real Housewives of Destin side.

Acme Oyster House on Urbanspoon

Sandestin on Dwellable

Half a Dozen at the Shrimp Basket-Destin, Florida


A half a dozen times, we have driven to the shore. A half a dozen times, we have eaten at the Shrimp Basket. A half a dozen times, I have ordered the crawfish platter. A half a dozen times, it has been the best meal ever.

Today, the waitress suggested that I try something new. I laughed, and then my tone turned serious as I said:

“Um. No.”
Why mess with success? I am all for branching out and trying new things. It is one of the things I like about myself. But this? This meal is not to be messed with.

My husband and I first ate it by mistake. We were at the beach in Gulf Shores for a short trip, when one night we got hungry really late. We drove the short trip from our hotel to the first place we found that looked good-The Shrimp Basket. I ordered the crawfish basket while he ordered something else, and we took our food to go and ate it on the balcony overlooking the gulf at our hotel. It was one of our favorite moments of the trip.

Coincidently, nine months later our first child was born. That doesn’t have anything to do with this meal. It’s just a nice part of the story.

There won’t be any such surprises on this trip, we can hope.

We did try something new for our appetizer. We ordered a dozen steamed oysters. Now, I lova some oysters, but these were not my favorite. The last time we ate at the Shrimp Basket, the Bama oysters were not my favorite then. Today they were flavored weirdly and were a little bland.

That’s okay, though, because our entrees were next.
My crawfish platter was as good as ever. The etoufee is to die for, and the crawfish tails are better here than anywhere else.
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Mr. Opinionated had the fried basket with crawfish, oysters, and crab claws.
Miss Helper had the crawfish.
Mr. Picky had the grilled cheese. But-he did try a crab claw and HE LIKED IT!

He gets fifty cents for trying one.

We’ll try anything to get him to try something new-except change my order at The Shrimp Basket. I can’t wait for visit #7.
Shrimp Basket on Urbanspoon

Harbor Docks-Destin, Florida


Day 2 of the Vacation of the Year. The beach, the sun, the food.
Lunch today was at a place new to us-Harbor Docks. A friend recommended it last time we were here, but we just didn’t get to it. Then, we had a hard time with this place, not because we couldn’t find it or anything like that. No, we had a hard time remembering what it was called. The Harbor? The Dock? The Fishing Dock?

After a while, all of the seafood places (and the condos) around here sound the same.

But, we found it and the four of us walked right in to Harbor Docks for a late lunch. Our first table was a dark, quiet one inside surrounded by a lot of blue haired old people. No view, no breeze. Nevermind that.

Our second table was much better. We ate outside in the open air surrounded by some lady on her phone and a younger lady who was apparently napping.

The View

The View

It was awesome.

Our waiter was a nice young man who started us of with a nice bottle of cold water. They don’t do that at restaurants anymore, and it was nice here.

Really, even the water was impressive.
After looking at the menu, we chose the smoked tuna dip as an appetizer. I have an acquaintance who makes a tuna dip. A lot. I swear every time a potluck comes up, the tuna dip will be there. That tuna dip was what I was expecting, but what we got was far, far better. The tuna was fresh caught and smoked on sight. It was so, so good, and it didn’t last long.

Not Your Frenememy's Tuna Dip

Not Your Frenememy’s Tuna Dip

I had one of the specials-the grilled swordfish with jalapeno-tomato cilantro cream sauce with jasmine rice and cucumber salad. It was very similar to what I ate at The Back Porch, and just as yummy. When I order something with jalapeno, I know that I always run the risk of getting something too hot and spicy. This dish was a little on the spicy side, but not too much. I could handle it thanks to that tall bottle of complimentary water.
Mr. Opinionated had the fried red snapper sandwich. Again, very similar to the day before. It was good but not as good as the fried grouper at The Back Porch.
Miss Helper branched out a little and had the fried swordfish. She loved it.
Mr. Picky again had the chicken fingers. I see a pattern here.
Our lunch was very, very good. Harbor Docks is a keeper on the permanent list of places to eat while in Destin.

When the meal was over, we sat back in our deck chairs-happier and chubbier than we were when we walked in. Our waiter asked about dessert. We hardly ever get dessert and so the answer was a no.

Then, he mentioned the homemade key lime pie and the homemade white chocolate bread pudding.
The key lime pie was good. A little on the tart side but not in a bad way.

The bread pudding? Good Lawd.
I have never had dessert like this. It was super moist and divine. I was as full as a tick but I still could not leave any on the plate. It all had to go.

When I complimented the waiter on the bread pudding, he started talking about how easy it was to make. He kept talking and I thought he was going to give me the recipe.

No such luck.

I guess we’ll just have to drive back again someday. Harbor Docks is a name we won’t forget again anytime soon.

Harbor Docks on Urbanspoon

Take Two: The Back Porch-Destin, Florida

So, we have driven what seems like the equivalent of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and we are back in our beloved Destin, Florida. Land of sunny skies, white sand, and awesome restaurants.

After driving several days and enduring hours in the car, we made it. First stop-to eat!

My policy on vacation is no Mexican food, no restaurants that we have back home, no places that offer a coupon via brochure, and no cheesey chains.

Fudpuckers? Hooters? Harry T’s? Um, no.
We went to The Back Porch for our first meal, and we walked right in, took a table outside, and ordered.
We had eaten at The Back Porch before. Just like last time, it was fabulous.
We started with the oysters. Fresh and delicious.

I had the grilled mahi-mahi with the pineapple rice and lemon-caper beurre blanc sauce. It was divine. The fish and the sauce were wonderful together, and I was glad I got the sauce on the side as it was a little runny. I ate the whole thing even though I told myself that the sauce was full of butter and was horrible for me.

I loved it still.
Mr. Opinionated got the fried grouper sandwich-his favorite beach food. Miss Helper got fried shrimp, and Mr. Picky began his culinary tour of the gulf with chicken tenders.

We were a little disappointed that we didn’t see any of the cats, and the trash on the side of the restaurant from the restaurant was gross. The Smell was still there too. Even with all these flaws in our experience, The Back Porch alone was worth the drive. But, I can’t stop here. We are looking forward to more food and fun.

Over the Top at The Hangout-Gulf Shores, Alabama

While on vacation, we went to The Hangout once for breakfast. It was fun, fun, fun.

Before we left, we picked up a menu. We do this a lot to remember where we have been and what we ate while there.

When we returned to our vacation house, we looked over the menu, and I spotted a dish I had to have-the shrimp and lobster corn dog duet.

Yeah, baby.

I had to have it-all $35 worth.

So, we went. When we returned for lunch later in the week, we started with the oysters. I think we ordered oysters everywhere we went, and these were some of the best.

We also had the fried pickles. We are fried pickle people, and we liked how these were sliced long and thin.

Then, our entrees came. Mr. Picky continued his grilled cheese tour of the Gulf. Miss Helper had the shrimp. Mr. Opinionated had a burger-the size of his head.

He ranked this burger second on his list of all-time best right after the burgers we had on the way to vacation. It was a good trip for burgers.

My plate-unreal.

I had four corn dogs-two shrimp and two lobster.

The lobster corn dogs were good and sweet, but my favorite of the two was the shrimp. Eating a shrimp corn dog was not unlike eating regular fried shrimp, except for the stick. I think the stick added a fun, yet dangerous quality. Plus, Mr. Opinionated has always said that meat tastes better on a stick. I agree.

The Hangout has turned into a special place for us. I love it-the food, the fun kid activities like playing in the foam, the gift shop. Fun. I hope it replaces our normal first stop when we visit the gulf.

When the bill came, our total was over $100 for lunch. Sheesh. But, we had a fun time, we all enjoyed our meals, and I got to try something that I had never even heard of. In my opinion, that makes for a great lunch.

The Best Meal in the Gulf: The Shrimp Basket-Gulf Shores, Alabama

One day this week, I was at the dentist getting my teeth cleaned. I always enjoy chitchatting-as best I can- with the lady who works on my teeth. This week as she cleaned my bicuspids and other dental thingys, we discussed her daughter’s recent wedding, school starting back soon, the rainy weather, and my family’s recent trip to the gulf.

Last year, she helped us decide what to do and where to eat before we went to Destin, which is her beach destination of choice. This time, we discussed Gulf Shores and trips of the past. She told me about how her whole family used to travel to Gulf Shores together, but now her parents weren’t in good enough health to go. I told her all the fun things we did on our trip and the great places we ate like Lulu’s and the Hangout.

As we discussed restaurants, she shocked me. She told me that when she used to go to Gulf Shores years ago, her family cooked in the condo and would only go to a restaurant once.

Once. The whole trip.

She explained to me that her mom was an excellent cook and enjoyed cooking for the family. That I can understand. But, on vacation?

That, I don’t get.

To me, traveling to the beach is 50% about the beach and 50% about the food. It is 0% about eating my own cooking.

Bleh. I can do that at home.

To each his own, however. Some people get a kick out of cooking on vacation, and for others, it is a money decision. I asked her what restaurant was the one, since there only was one.

For the two of us, it was the same place.

If I could only choose one meal at one restaurant, it would be an easy decision.

It would, without a doubt, be the Shrimp Basket.

In 2002, Mr. Opinionated and I went to Gulf Shores in October. One night on that trip, we ordered a late supper from the Shrimp Basket and took our food back to our room. While we sat on the deck overlooking the beach, we ate some of the best food we had ever eaten.

Since then, the Crawfish Platter has been one of my favorites of all time. It is one of the reasons we drive to the gulf. I think about it a lot, and it is the only thing I have ever ordered at the Shrimp Basket since that first trip. If I only ate out once, I would choose this meal not only for the deliousness but also for the memories.

This year on this trip, we started with the Bama oysters. They were fine, but I wouldn’t order them again. To me, oysters this fresh belong in butter and garlic and not spaghetti sauce.

After that, though, came the big daddy.

My favorite meal of all meals. The Crawfish Platter is made up of two main parts-the crawfish etoufee and the fried crawfish tails. Both dishes are spicy and perfect. The etoufee is the best I have ever eaten, and the crawfish tails are fried to a perfect crunch. There is quite simply nothing better in this world. In the middle of the two is the co-star of the platter, the shrimp slaw. It lends a cool component to the two hot stars of the dish.

When we went this time, some dude walked up to our table to check on us. Thinking he was just the manager or something, we talked for a minute. Then he told us he was the owner of all of these fabulous establishments and was actually from a town close to where my husband grew up.

It is a small world. I regret not telling him to pull up a chair and let me pick his brain about his awesome restaurants.

And I didn’t get the chance to offer my backyard as a place for his newest one.

I adore the Shrimp Basket. Best food there is.

To say the least, I bought the t-shirt.

Gulf Shores on Dwellable

Shrimp Basket on Urbanspoon

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