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June 2019

Jesse’s Restaurant

When dining out, people want more than good food and friendly service. They want atmosphere.  Around here, that usually means nautical themes, salt breezes, and Gulf views. But not always, and Jesse’s Restaurant is a great example.

Thirty miles west of Gulf Shores is the tiny town of Magnolia Springs,  population 723. Small, yes, but it isn’t one of those places where if you blink, you’ll miss it. The town is so lovely; you won’t let yourself blink. It’s a serene place, and the most activity you’ll see will be at Jesse’s.

One hundred years ago, the building now known as Jesse’s Restaurant, housed Moore’s General Store.  You can find it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2012 Steve & Angie Coltharp purchased the property. Although they incorporated as the Magnolia River Restaurant, they chose to name their new venture Jesse’s, in honor of Jessie King, who managed Moore’s General Store from 1922 to 1933.

Steve came to Magnolia Springs from Colorado but was no stranger to the South. He attended both Ole Miss in Oxford and graduated from the Culinary Arts Institute of Louisiana in Baton Rouge in 1999. After a decade out west, he and his wife were inspired to return South. Their opening of Jesse’s restored the historic property to its long-held prominence as the hub of the town.

The restaurant has outdoor seating under the shade of magnificent live oaks. Inside, it is much larger than it appears, with several different dining rooms. Despite its capacity, you will want to make reservations for dinner. You’ll find most patrons dressed in casual to special occasion clothing depending on why they are there. Wear shorts, a tee-shirt, and flip flops, and you’ll feel under-dressed, even for lunch.

Jesse’s is most proud of their steaks, including dry-aged and wet-aged options. Their Whiskey Steak specialty is a 16-ounce cut that soaks for 24 hours in a concoction of Jack Daniel’s, Cajun seasonings, ginger, and soy sauce before it hits the heat. Chef Rebecca Jordan focuses on local produce and makes sure there are offerings for vegetarians and those looking for gluten-free selections. Their BLT incorporates fried green tomatoes and bacon that they cure on site. They even make their own butter.

If you are here for a while or come so often that your once magical beach vacation has become routine, take a trip to Magnolia Springs. A nice meal, a bit of history, and a slow cruise under the canopy of live oaks will rejuvenate your sense of romance.

Tips for visiting Jesse’s Restaurant

  • For dinner, make reservations. Do not be surprised if there is still a wait after you arrive since its the type of place people like to linger after they’ve finished their meal.
  • For a special occasion, ask for your favorite dining room.
  • Don’t go on Sunday’s, they’re closed. They also don’t serve between 4 pm and 5 pm.
  • Check the website for holiday hours. They are open for several, but with particular hours.
  • Let the server know if you have a fish or shellfish allergy in case the recipe includes these and the menu doesn’t make it obvious.

Hub Stacey’s at the Point

Hub Stacey’s in the afternoon will make you say, ‘Aah.’ The shady live oaks and water-borne breezes make it a great place to escape from the summer sun. In the early evening, you can watch the sun take its colorful dive into Perdido Bay. And later, when the sun goes down, the musicians show up.

Hubbard and Donna Stacey opened the original Hub Stacey’s Restaurant in downtown Pensacola in 1998. Five years later they launched Hub Stacey’s at the Point. Both have persevered. They’ve survived Ivan, Katrina, and the BP oil spill. Considering the impact these events had on area residents, the local economy, and tourism, that’s saying something. Read the messages on the thousands of dollar bills that patrons plaster onto the walls and you’ll get to know the place a little better.

Hub Stacey’s at the Point opens at 7 am seven days a week. This makes it one of the few restaurants in the Perdido Key area serving breakfast. In case you want a little Bailey’s in your coffee, the bar opens at 7 am as well. Sunday through Thursday they close at 10 pm. But on Fridays and Saturdays, Hub’s keeps it going until midnight, nearly always with local musicians. (See calendar.)

If your taste buds are crying out for more fish and seafood, this isn’t your place. Hub’s is known for custom-designed sandwiches, homemade potato salad, burgers, wings, and other assorted “bar food.” You can bring your kids, your dog, and if the spirit moves you, your dance moves. It’s a great place to relax, be entertained, and meet new friends.

Our favs: The Ono (original chicken salad on a pita) and The River Road (Hub’s take on the Rueben

Tips for visiting Hub Stacey’s at the Point

  • Be prepared for outdoor seating. All under roof.
  • If you hate the smell of cigarettes, ask where the smoking section is before you settle in.
  • If you want to see, not just hear, the musicians, go bit early. 
  • If you feel like singing, go on Tuesdays. Karaoke starts at 6 pm (check calendar)
  • Sandwiches and portions can be pretty big. Take a look around before ordering, you might want to split an order with someone in your group.
  • When ordering drinks, ask about the bump.
  • If you don’t know where it is, use an app. It’s off the main road.
  • You can go by boat to Galvez Landing.
  • Dogs must be on a leash.

Royal Oyster Bar

You can find the Royal Oyster Bar sitting just below the southbound lane of Gulf Shores Parkway (aka Hwy 59) on the edge of the Little Lagoon. Go a few hundred yards farther south, and you’ll end up at its much larger neighbor. Both specialize in oysters, but they offer very different experiences.

The Royal is small. Its got that beachy, dive, “I discovered it,” feel that so many travelers love. Except when it’s jam-packed, this is a good thing. Then, you might find yourself waiting for a table. But, that’s true of nearly every area restaurant during ‘the season.’ Go when it isn’t busy, and you’ll come away thinking the place is run by friends rather than ‘staff.’ You won’t be far off.

Area residents David Thompson and Marissa Wilkins opened the Royal Oyster Bar in the spring of 2017. Early on, they began purchasing oysters from Lew Childre, a mechanical engineer who started farming oysters on the Bon Secour Bay just a year earlier. By 2019, Childre’s Shellbank Selects along with the Royal Oyster found their way into a Forbes.com article about preserving Gulf coast oysters.

The Royal Oyster doesn’t limit itself to regional harvests. They also offer fresh boutique oysters from around the U.S. and Canada. The chef, Tim Hensley, competed in both the 2018 Hangout Oyster Cookoff and Pensacola Peat and Pearl events. He’s got some creative ideas when it comes to toppings that you won’t run into elsewhere. Try a flight of six oysters, and you’ll find truffle oil and shiitake mushrooms, Chipotle honey butter, creamed spinach, ginger, and Buffalo Trace Bourbon waking up your tastebuds.

If you don’t love oysters, there’s more on the menu. The Royal offers burgers and other dishes, including coconut curry crab claws, shrimp Yakamien, and fried Brussels in Ponzu sauce. The bar has some surprises as well. Their take on the Bushwacker and other creations such as a Pumpkin Pie Martini alone may make the Royal Oyster Bar worth finding.

Our favs: Chipolte Bourbon baked oysters, Shrimp Yakamein,  and Delta Slaw

Tips for visiting The Royal Oyster Bar 

  • The food is delivered when its ready. If your friends order items that take longer to prepare you might not be served at the same time.
  • Rustic doesn’t mean cheap. Check the pricing on the menu so you’ll know what to expect.
  • Be prepared to eat outside since indoor seating is limited.
  • The entrance is shared with David’s Gallery. It’ll be easier to turn in if you approach from the southbound lane of Gulf Shores Highway.
  • Haven’t tried it, but they do show delivery is available via Gulf to Go