Cajun food has always played an important role in Michael and Melissa Lee’s life, from their childhood upbringing in Louisiana to their 15 years spent working at a southern seafood restaurant. The brother and sister teamed up to open Mikey’s Grill, pulling from their combined talents and years of experience to craft a menu filled with contemporary takes on classic Cajun dishes that have been lauded by reporters from Birmingham Weekly. Chef Michael “Mikey” Lee commands the kitchen, slicing steaks and grating cheese himself while ensuring only the finest seafood is used in his innovative pastas and specialties, turning away catches that aren’t fresh enough. Michael’s mother Donna can also be spotted in the kitchen, whipping up the restaurant’s freshly baked desserts from scratch and pinching any exposed cheeks in her visual range. Out in the dining hall, Melissa takes the lead, cheerfully greeting guests and captaining a team of friendly servers, who place plates of gourmet dishes, baskets of rolls, and glasses of colorful cocktails on red-clothed tables.
There’s no shortage of renowned oyster establishments in the South. But TripSmarter.com pegged Wintzell’s Oyster House as its #1 destination for the specialty. “Fried, stewed, or nude,” they come served in every way imaginable at Wintzell’s—oysters are, unsurprisingly so, the trademark dish. And they’ve been the trademark dish since the eatery’s flagship location opened in 1938.
Regional seafood favorites also dominate the menu, from low-country boils to Cajun seafood fettuccine and bacon-wrapped shrimp. While the original location became something of a landmark in historic Mobile, the restaurant has since expanded to multiple locations. Each one, though, retains the original’s decorative signature: several dozen whimsical signs on the walls. The website even features some of their slogans: “Never kick a man when he is down—he may get up.”
With a delectable selection of chophouse favorites from land, sea, and sky, Austin's Seafood and Steak gives premium proteins new homes on plates and palates. Each of Austin's certified Angus steaks—from the 8-ounce top sirloin ($12.99) to the 14-ounce cajun ribeye ($20.99)—is hand-cut daily by kitchen beefmasters, preserving freshness and appeasing the cravings of the restaurant's eager-to-help meat cleavers. Fish and fowl round out the menu, as tender scallops ($16.99) bring familiar comfort to tables of off-duty mermaids. The Mardi Gras chicken ($12.99) throws a tablecloth Carnival with a colorful assortment of peppers, onions, and sauces served in the shape of a smiling-jester float.
In 2009, CityVoters named Fox Valley the Best Seafood restaurant in Northern Alabama. Launch an elegant feast with a cup of cream of crab soup ($5.25 per cup) with curry and coconut milk. Or try the fried eggplant pirogue ($12.75) stuffed with lump crab and gulf shrimp and topped with fried Apalachicola oysters. Once your tongue's toes are wet, submerge the rest of your taste buds in the flavors that lie on a plate of pecan-fried gulf red snapper ($23.75) with shrimp etouffée and rice. If you're looking for fare that's more likely to walk in a straight line when pulled over, opt for a turf-born protein such as char-grilled New Zealand lamb ($25.75) with fried polenta and bourbon mint-julep sauce.
The flavors of Mexican, Caribbean, and Tex-Mex cuisines mingle on Mexibbean Island Grille's small but mighty menu. The kitchen prepares tacos four ways: Mexican style with onions and cilantro; fajita style with cheese and grilled peppers and onions; Texican style with lettuce, cheese, and tomato; and island style with cabbage, lime, and chipotle cream. Plates of spicy jerk chicken join Texacali chicken-fajita sandwiches smothered in pepper jack cheese and grilled veggies, and drinks such as soda and tea quench thirst or help tamp down cowlicks.
Founded in Harahan, Louisiana, by a trio of restaurateur pals in 1997, Zea Rotisserie & Grill champions the tastes of the American South across its 11 locations. Barbecued ribs and étouffée join the restaurant's signature rotisserie entrees, which slow-roast chicken, rib eye, and a rotating selection of pork, veal, and beef slathered with herb glacés or au jus. A specialty menu takes Zea's roots-centric recipes even further, revisiting classic New Orleans meals of pasta jambalaya, fried catfish with remoulade, and battered Mardi Gras beads. Zea Rotisserie & Grill also caters special events.