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On the Road

Shrimp by the Ocean

We joined thousands of other shrimp-loving visitors at Gulf Shores, Alabama's annual “Shrimp Fest.”

By Bryan Roof | June 01, 2018

While conducting research for our recipe for Shrimp Po’ Boys, staff photographer Steve Klise and I traveled to Gulf Shores, Alabama, to attend the Annual National Shrimp Festival.

A LINE OF BOISTEROUS FESTIVAL-GOERS stretches from the shaded window of a steel-clad food truck, where a woman exchanges platters of giant glistening, freshly boiled shrimp for cash. Inside, cooks use an industrial-looking pulley system to lower deep baskets of the shrimp into massive pots of heavily seasoned water, where they cook for just moments before being hauled out in a fog of spice and steam, mixing with the saline aroma of the sea wafting in off the beach.

I’m in Gulf Shores, Alabama, for the Annual National Shrimp Festival, known locally as “Shrimp Fest.” Started in 1971 as a bid to extend the summer tourist season, the festival attracts 250,000 people with a common love of shrimp, live music, and the stunning cotton-white sand beaches of coastal Alabama.

Amid a constant chant of “Roll Tide!” from the innumerable University of Alabama fans in attendance, bright food stalls and trucks sell everything from paella to Cajun Pistols: deep-fried rolls filled with a cheesy shrimp and crawfish étouffée. And, of course, overstuffed shrimp po’ boys, best paired with cold beer and sandy toes.

From the Ocean to Your Kitchen

Shrimp Po' Boys

This street-food sandwich has been a workday favorite in Louisiana for generations. We wanted it at home.

Read about some of our other trips around the country, in the name of recipe research:

What's your favorite regional specialty? Let us know in the comments and we might add it to our list of research destinations.

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