There’s no shortage of restaurant options at the beaches. What Lilly Zislin saw missing, however, was healthy and fresh food that could be packaged and taken straight out to the sand. Families and groups of friends who travel to Gulf Shores don’t want to spend a lot of time in the condo kitchen, and sometimes they don’t even want to lose their prime spot in the sand to go grab a meal. With white beaches and endless sunny views, who could blame them? Lilly had the perfect fix in mind.
When a restaurant space just across the beach highway from The Hangout, which Lilly owns with her husband Shaul, came available, she jumped on the opportunity, and Picnic Beach began to take shape. Lilly designed the white walls and wooden beams of the interior herself, added fun surf shack décor and tons of board games for families to enjoy on rainy days. But the restaurant has become well known in design circles for its artificial turf, a bold aesthetic element that has paid off in spades. The floors, indoors and out, are covered in a bright green carpet of grass that never dies, giving Picnic Beach a preppy attitude and cool modern vibe. This isn’t your grandma’s AstroTurf. The grass is steam-cleaned weekly (and of course, swept daily) to keep it polished and crisp for customers looking to “eat happy, eat healthy,” as they say.
Lilly helped develop a menu that would have something for everyone with a focus on fresh ingredients. Picnic Beach offers everything from slow-smoked brisket and mac and cheese to acai bowls and fresh juices. There are a number of vegan options, including the impossible burger, which could fool many a meat lover. Hawaiian poke, salmon veggie bowls and award-winning fries round out the offerings. And it can all be packaged in neat, family-sized recyclable cardboard to-go boxes, ready to travel straight from kitchen to sand.
As we pack up our stuff and prepare to leave Picnic Beach, a group of trendy teenage girls lean against one another while they wait in line, excitedly perusing the menu. Restaurant manager Shea Tingle says their customer base tends to be young adults and savvy families looking for trendy options while on vacation. As Picnic Beach gears up for spring break, and the summer months soon to follow, it’s easy to see where our next beach eats are going to come from.
On the Menu
Fresh-squeezed orange, pineapple and apple juices blend to make the Picnic Beach “Detox Juice.” It’s bright and citrusy, like a day at the beach.
Tuna Poke Bowl
Organic tricolor quinoa, tender sushi-grade tuna and crisp veggies are topped with seaweed, sesame seeds, Asian herbs and ponzu sauce. It’s pure Hawaii in a bowl.
The Impossible Burger
A meat-alternative patty, vegan American cheese, Sriracha mayo and all the fixings will have you scratching your head. It’s impossibly good.
Big slices of flavorful brisket that easily shred with a fork are topped with a sweet and smoky sauce. Crispy red cabbage slaw and tangy potato salad finish the perfect picnic meal.
Beach Berry Bowl
A thirst-quenching snack that packs a punch of vitamins, it’s the right refresher after a day in the hot sun. It’s made with organic acai, blueberries, strawberries, banana, granola, coconut flakes and honey.
Picnic Beach • 128 East 1st Ave., Gulf Shores. picnicbeach.com