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It’s never the wrong time to plan a road trip along the Gulf Coast. From the old Florida towns dotting the panhandle to the historic European-inspired downtowns of the central Gulf Coast, sometimes it’s in those off-the-beaten-path towns and communities where you find the most soulful experiences.

Our friends at Zagat, known as a worldwide leader in restaurant ratings, explored some of the best under-the-radar dining destinations across America, including two stops on the Gulf Coast: Mobile, Ala., and Apalachicola, Fla.

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Wintzell’s Oyster House in downtown Mobile delivers fresh seafood from local waters and the Gulf of Mexico. (WIntzell’s Oyster House/Special to The Pulse)

Mobile, Ala:

Zagat.com’s Stephanie Burt had this today say about the historic Port City of Mobile:

“Hugging the Gulf of Mexico, it’s no surprise that seafood is a focus here. Beautiful oysters (when you can get them) from Murder Point Oysters a short drive away in Irvington show up on the best Mobile tables during the season, and old-school Wintzell’s Oyster House has it all, from oysters to shrimp to Redfish Bienville over Cajun rice.

Farm-to-table, a worn out phrase elsewhere, is still relatively new in Mobile, but no one is doing it better than chef Chris Rainosek of The Noble South Downtown. The deviled eggs are topped with salty roe, the vegetables sides strong enough to make a meal of their own and the seasonal fish always a go-to entree choice. It’s evident he has strong relationships with his fishermen and farmers.

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The Noble South, downtown, Mobile, Ala. (The Noble South/Special to The Pulse)

Beyond seafood, Mobile, home of a decadent Mardi Gras festival of its own, is also the home of decadent Southern desserts, including the cake balls of Cream & Sugar Cafe in the Oakleigh Garden District, anything at Pollman’s Bake Shop and, if you want to eat your dessert for breakfast, bananas Foster French Toast at Spot of Tea.”

The Owl Cafe, Apalachicola. (bearwoodsblog.wordpress.com/Special to The Pulse)

The Owl Cafe, Apalachicola. (bearwoodsblog.wordpress.com/Special to The Pulse)

Apalachicola, Fla:

Zagat.com’s Christopher Hassiotis had this today say about the old Florida town of Apalachicola:

“If people beyond the region know the name of the town Apalachicola — situated where the river of the same name meets the Gulf — it’s because of the famous Apalachicola oysters. Raw bars and Southern fare are what you come to Apalachicola for, and you’ll be offered a number of choices, many situated dockside, providing alfresco dining with a scenic view.

Up the Creek Raw Bar has both covered and open-air outdoor seating, as well as an expansive indoor dining room, and oysters arrive shucked with wet river silt still on shells, a testament to freshness. Hole in the Wall, Boss Oyster, The Tap Room and Papa Joe’s Oyster Bar & Grill all offer uncomplicated oysters and seafood. Antonio’s on the Bay takes a creative and European-influenced modern approach to its cuisine, while Latin flavors pop at Tamara’s Cafe Floridita and Cafe con Leche. The Owl Cafe, Apalachicola Seafood Grill, Caroline’s River Dining and Gormley’s turn out great seafood too.”

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