Gulf Shores, Alabama, restaurateur says, ‘Come back!’

We met a lot of great people on our visit to Gulf Shores, Alabama, a couple of weeks ago for the Mamas 4 Mamas Tweetup. But none of them touched my heart quite as much as Al Sawyer.

Al owns King Neptune’s Seafood Restaurant, a vacation mainstay in Gulf Shores that has been dishing up all manner of Gulf seafood for 18 years.

He grew up right there on the coast, catching seafood and then learning how to prepare it from the women in his family.

“I love the variety that seafood can offer,” Al told us. “You can prepare it in so many ways.”

And at King Neptune’s they prepare it to great renown. Celebrity Chef Bobby Flay has brought the Food Network cameras for a visit, and Coastal Living magazine recently named King Neptune’s one of the “Best Seafood Dives” in the country.

Everything at Al’s place is made from scratch, right down to the salad dressings, and tartar and cocktail sauces.

The food definitely got the Traveling Mamas’ stamp of approval.

King Neptune’s is a tiny place that used to have big crowds. But it’s kind of empty now, as are the streets, beaches and hotel rooms in Gulf Shores.

They’ve been that way since the oil spill.

On our 3-day trip, we did not see or smell any oil during our stay at Turquoise Place in Orange Beach. There were no warnings to stay out of the water, and the folks who were there were enjoying the beach. There was the telltale line of oil-absorbing boom in Perdido Pass, and we did see some oil cleanup activity on the beach late one night – machines were sifting the sand to remove oil.

When we asked, we were told there had been a report of oil and though no significant oil was seen, the beach cleanup was being done on a precautionary basis.

Al agrees that the clean-up efforts in the area have been great.

But King Neptune’s business is down 40 percent this summer, during the crucial months of the year when the restaurant typically brings in 75 percent of its annual income.

“BP has stepped up to the plate,” Al says. “They’re trying to compensate us, but we’re still short money we would have made.”

And he needs the traveling public to return to make up for that.

“We need you to come back down and see us,” Al asks us to tell our readers.

But he’s confident that his restaurant, and his hometown’s tourism business will weather this storm.

“The people down here are resilient. We will bounce back.”

We would love for you to visit Gulf Shores, Alabama, too! That’s why we’re giving away three trips this month. Check out how you can blog and win a trip to the beach!

This post is part of the #Mamas4Mamas event sponsored by Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism.

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  1. This is the heartbreak of the oil spill – there are tragedies behind the overall one. There will he thousands of small businesses struggling to survive as tourists decide to take their dollars elsewhere.

    Good on you, ThemeParkMom, for letting people know exactly what you found. that’s the sort of unbiased reporting that will bring people back to the area.

    Here in New Zealand, we have recently had a major earthquake in one of our capital cities and locals are begging folk to continue visiting. The tourist dollar is never more needed than after a tragedy.

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