Discovering Fabulous Restaurants and Quaint Shops in Small Towns
One of the perks of living on the Gulf Coast is the proximity of quaint little towns that are a short drive away. A great way to spend a beautiful Saturday is exploring these small towns with their shops and restaurants. Often you can find hidden gems that are on the brink of discovery. You never know what outstanding talent and superb cuisines you may discover in these small towns.
Fairhope, Alabama, is one of those towns. Approximately an hour’s drive from Pensacola. (Give or take a few minutes, depending on whose driving. Ahem. 😁) Fairhope is the perfect spot to spend a leisurely Saturday strolling along the streets of downtown. A sampling of some of the many and diverse shops you will find in Fairhope include: clothing boutiques, antique shops, art galleries, book stores, coffee shops, wine and speciality food shops, jewelry stores and even thrift shops. As you can see, there’s lots to explore and plenty of options for a lazy weekend afternoon.
Sunset Pointe Restaurant
A great local gem I discovered this year is Sunset Pointe. Pete Blohme opened Sunset Pointe in 2014. I’m sad that it took me 3 years to discover this place. You likely recognize Pete from Panini Pete’s and from his appearances on Food Network’s Diner’s Drive-in and Dives, Guy’s Big Bite and CMT’S Sweet Home Alabama. Pete has kind of made a name for himself, and not just locally.
Sunset Pointe is located on Fly Creek Marina. With this prime location, you can also expect to experience some incredible sunsets as a stunning accompaniment to your evening meal. In typical Gulf Coast, southern hospitality style, the restaurant is comfortable and casual. You have your choice of indoor or outdoor dining. The outdoor dining area sits right on the bay. When the weather is nice, you’ll find this is a popular spot to be. Fire pits add character and warmth for those cooler evenings. Inside, windows line the restaurant to offer you a fantastic view of the bay. Local decor graces the walls. The ambiance is unfussy and relaxed, yet still stylish.
On to the food! These are the tapas and entrée I enjoyed on my visit to Sunset Pointe.
Leo’s Seafood Lettuce Wraps
This was my favorite thing I ate. The seafood in these lettuce wraps was so fresh! It was as if it was caught that very day and immediately served from boat to table. Shrimp, scallops and calamari were marinated in a tangy, citrus vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was peppered with seasoning and spices that added a vibrance and snappiness.
Truth be told, I carefully contemplated ordering these lettuce wraps. I’m not the biggest fan of fried calamari. The few times I’ve had it, I’ve found it chewy and somewhat tough. Up until this point, fried is the only way I had ever eaten calamari. I figured I would give it a try marinated. This was game-changing! I never want to go back to fried calamari.
This grilled calamari was not the LEAST bit leathery or overdone. It was tender and full of flavor. The Gulf Shrimp and scallops were equally delicate. Served on a leaf of butter lettuce, this tapas was my favorite of the evening. Sadly, my photo of this wonderful dish has been deleted, but you can view a picture of it here on Sunset Pointe’s website.
Seared Tuna Nachos
The tuna on these nachos was just the way I like my tuna. Gently seared along the outer perimeter of the tuna slices and leaving a bright pink center that is fresh and imparts levels of clean flavor. The tuna rests atop golden, crunchy nachos. These nachos are not your typical corn tortillas, but rather are fried flour tortillas. The flour lends itself to be a delicate crunch instead of a hard and brittle texture. It pairs quite well texturally with the tuna.
Yellow bell pepper dices, chopped onion pieces, tiny segments of tomatoes and roasted edamame adorn the nachos. There are two kinds of edamame on these nachos; traditional green edamame and black edamame. I really enjoyed the roasted black edamame and the dry saltiness it contributed to the dish. A light green edamame drizzle finished off this small plate and added a rich earthiness to round out the flavors.
Gulf Snapper Throats
Continuing the trend of trying new things, the Gulf Snapper Throats was the entrée of choice. Fried crisp with a flour and cornmeal batter, these snapper throats were salty with a good crunch. If you’re like me and have never eaten snapper throats before, you may not know what to expect. This part of the fish is rather bony, so you have to work a little harder for the meat. However, as it is meat that is near the bone, it tends to be more succulent and tasty as it absorbs all the flavors of the bones.
A house starch and vegetable complimented the snapper throats. For this evening the starch happened to be roasted cauliflower. Marinated in a balsamic sauce and roasted to an almost caramelized texture, the cauliflower was exquisite. Even if you’re not a fan of cauliflower, you MUST try this! Not the least bit mushy, this cruciferous vegetable was the star of the entrée in my opinion. This vegetable was flavorsome and sapid with that salty, sweet tang of the balsamic vinegar.
The vegetable of the evening was baby limas. The baby limas were a nice accessory to the cauliflower and snapper throats. Well-seasoned and coated with savoriness, they were firm with a good al-dente texture. Anything but bland, these limas were tempered with fixings that reminded you of all the flavors of good, southern comfort food.
I’m happy to say that Sunset Pointe was a win and I have every intention of eating there again next time I’m in Fairhope. I may even have to make a special trip to Fairhope JUST to enjoy the food and view at Sunset Pointe.