Beachside dining is nothing new on the Gulf Coast. One of the major perks of a trip to Gulf Shores, Orange Beach or Dauphin Island is the opportunity to nosh alongside stunning white sand and crashing Gulf waves. Many of these coastal restaurants feature fan-favorite fried seafood, with classic accoutrements, such as hush puppies and coleslaw, to boot.
Perch, however, is doing things a bit differently. “We don’t want to be cookie-cutter, right out of the box,” says executive chef James Balster. “You can get fried shrimp anywhere. You won’t find things like that on our menu.”
Located at The Lodge at Gulf State Park, Perch opened in 2018 with a menu of appetizers and small plates prepared with fresh, local ingredients and high-end techniques. They’ve since expanded to hosting banquets and wine dinners. The introduction of a Spanish la plancha grill emboldened Balster and executive sous chef Brad Gilstrap to develop a more complex menu of inventive, full-sized entrées. (One such specialty is a citrus-crusted tuna and toasted coconut rice with a mango butter sauce.) Paired with a full bar and signature cocktails imagined by restaurant manager Rocco Romanelli, Perch offers something for anyone with a refined palate. Diners do not have to be hotel guests to visit the restaurant.
The atmosphere is as much of a draw as the upscale menu. Situated right on the shores of Gulf State Park, perhaps the most impressive feature of Perch is its exterior patio outfitted with cozy firepits and a breathtaking view of the beloved park. Inside, the intimate dining room and bar are bursting with natural light flooding in from a full wall of windows. Alabama-made artwork accents the interior’s crisp, clean design, and a sleek black acrylic mural, entitled “Alabama the Beautiful,” showcases beloved stopping points on a quintessential Alabama road trip.
Perch is one of five dining establishments associated with The Lodge at Gulf State Park, all of which feature Balster’s menus. However, Perch has a premium appeal that attracts diners for both special occasions and casual evenings out.
“It’s well-rounded,” says Kurt Fedders, marketing and public relations manager. “Great food, unbelievable outdoor seating, two firepits; you can’t ask for much more than that on the Gulf Coast.”
On the Menu
Gem Wedge Salad
A lush wedge of gem lettuce, opposite, is dressed in an herbed blue cheese vinaigrette, and surrounded with ripened cherry tomatoes and pickled onions.
Crispy, fried portabella mushroom wedges stand at delicious attention alongside a rich, creamy garlic- and truffle-scented aioli.
Ponzu-Glazed Gulf Fish
Fresh, local Gulf fish rests atop butternut squash puree, paired with fingerling potatoes, mushrooms and marinated tomatoes.
Gulf of Mojito
The classic coastal combination of white rum, mint and lime gets a fresh upgrade with the addition of coconut and bright blue Curaçao.
Perch at the Lodge at Gulf State Park • 21196 E. Beach Blvd., Gulf Shores. 540-6100
5 – 11 p.m. W – Su, closed M & Tu