Gulf Coast Media's Year in Review 2023: Notable chefs, openings, national attention and elevate Baldwin County’s food culture

Lifestyle Editor
Posted 12/26/23

Every year, the culinary scene on the Gulf Coast grows and evolves with new restaurants, exciting events and notable people.

In terms of notable people, Bob Baumhower, the man who brought …

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Gulf Coast Media's Year in Review 2023: Notable chefs, openings, national attention and elevate Baldwin County’s food culture


Every year, the culinary scene on the Gulf Coast grows and evolves with new restaurants, exciting events and notable people.

In terms of notable people, Bob Baumhower, the man who brought buffalo chicken wings to Alabama, opened the 11th Baumhower's Victory Grille at Tanger Outlets in Foley in December. He has taken his years of playing football at the University of Alabama under Paul "Bear" Bryant and the Miami Dolphins and created a thriving hospitality company. Baumhower's oldest son, Spencer, has joined the company and is pushing the Aloha Hospitality brand to grow.

He wasn't the only big name to make a connection in Baldwin County. Guy Fieri of Food Network fame spent some time in the area in June. The TV personality came to celebrate the opening of his pal "Panini" Pete Blohme's new Daphne restaurant, The Waterfront. While in the area, he also filmed segments for his show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" at six Alabama Gulf Coast restaurants: The Noble South, The Hummingbird Way, Roosters, Meat Boss and Front Yard Tacos in Mobile and Southwood Kitchen in Daphne.

Speaking of Blohme, he and his business partner, Nick DiMario, opened The Waterfront in Daphne and also reopened Ed's Seafood Shed at a new location. The original causeway location closed in September 2021 due to an early morning fire, and they rebuilt at 6450 US-90, Suite J, Spanish Fort. The PP Hospitality brand is also working on a food hall in the RSA Trustmark Building in Mobile called Parc Le Tralour Food Hall.

Other local celebrities kept raking in the accolades. Gourmet Goodies in Daphne had a whirlwind king cake season in 2023. Owners Laura Stafford and Barbara Sylkatis dominated competitions in New Orleans and Mobile. Their savory crawfish king cake took first place for the state of Alabama, Best New Contender and placed third overall out of 150 king cakes from five states.

And a local favorite is being resurrected. Thanks to a partnership with William E. Fusaiotti, owner of Foosackly's and chef/owner of Southwood Kitchen Jeremiah Matthews, Ben's Jr. Bar-B-Que is coming back. Matthews began his culinary career in the kitchen at Ben's and now, with the help of his team, is bringing it back at 552 N. Section St., Fairhope. 


Much like the ebb and flow of the tides, restaurants come and go. Baldwin County's continued growth brings with it grumbling from locals wanting the area to stay small but bringing new businesses.

There were a host of new restaurants that opened this year, but here are some we think should be on your list of places to dine in 2024. Your palate will be delighted.

Rise Breakfast & Bakery and Taco Tony's has been a lifelong dream realized for chef Tony Luna. He has brought his culinary experience and his favorite dishes and flavors from childhood to Spanish Fort. Dine in at 10198 US-31, Spanish Fort.

Chicken Salad Chick opened at 19690 Greeno Road in Fairhope this September to much fanfare. The offer of free chicken salad every week for a year to the first person in line drew a crowd. The next 99 people in line received chicken salad every month for a year. Thanks to a dare, 20-year-old Carter Antinarella, arrived just after 4 a.m. to secure first place in line. Joe Klump arrived just after 5 a.m. to secure second place.

Other Notable New Eats in 2023

  • The Barn at The Hope Farm, 915 Nichols Ave., Fairhope
  • Jesse's On the Bay, 1631 Crosswinds Court, Gulf Shores
  • Crumbl Cookie, 3800 Gulf Shores Parkway, Building 100, Suite 138, Gulf Shores
  • Savanna Restaurant, 20499 Oak Road East, Gulf Shores
  • R Bistro, 19270 Scenic Highway 98, Fairhope
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill, 914 Van Ave., Daphne

All good things must come to an end. Baldwin County saw the loss of a few popular and well-known restaurants.

Bahama Bob's, a beloved Gulf Shores institution at 601 W. Beach Blvd., caught fire on a busy July day. No one was hurt, but the restaurant was a loss. According to reports, the owners plansto rebuild.

Fisher's at Orange Beach Marina and sister restaurant Playa at Sportsman Marina both shuttered in 2023. Playa closed in early October with no warning. Fisher's soon after announced they would serve its last customers Nov. 7. The statement released thanks the community for 10 years of patronage and encouraged diners to come in for one last meal. The owners are in a legal battle over financial agreements.


Blessed Kettle Brewery may still be in the beginning phases, but Tim and Alexa Lipe have an entire community excited for what the future holds in Foley. The couple purchased a piece of property in downtown Foley in 2023 and have big plans to open Foley's first brewery.

Legendary Marina and Yacht Club in Gulf Shores made a big announcement during a ceremony to mark the completion of its structural framework that Margaritaville, the now late Jimmy Buffett's restaurant chain, will anchor the development. The announcement came just a month after Buffett's death. The restaurant will be just west of Lucy Buffett's LuLu's Gulf Shores as part of development on the 26-acre property, which is set to open in early 2024 and will include restaurants, shops, a pool and clubhouse.

Starbucks buzz hit Fairhope in March 2022 when plans to build a dual drive-through in the parking lot of the Eastern Shore Village Center were made public. After more than a year of no action at the proposed site, developers requested a one-year extension on the project. But a Starbucks is under construction in Daphne next to the new Chipotle location on Van Ave.

What are you most looking forward to in 2024? Did we miss your favorite food and dining-based storyline of 2023? Email Lifestyle Editor Melanie LeCroy at