Lucy ‘LuLu’ Buffett has done it again.
The sister of country crooner Jimmy has packed up her beach bags and taken her successful restaurant to the sunny shores of Destin, Florida – adding to her original operation in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Buffett says she always intuitively leaned toward Destin for a second location. After all, it had all the elements of the LuLu’s story: there was a bridge, it was off the beaten path, and it looked out over a beautiful bay.
But you could call this place more than a restaurant – it’s an adventure, home of the ‘best backyard’ in Destin. LuLu’s sits on prime real estate, at the edge of the Choctawhatchee Bay, just past the popular shopping mecca Destin Commons. Diners have views of the water, where boaters and paddle boarders can float right up and grab a seat.
“The mission remains the same as when it was a tiny dive with nine employees and 40 seats,” she says. “A vehicle to share my love of cooking the recipes of my childhood growing up on the Gulf Coast.”
The ‘Crazy Sista’ was determined that the food she served, while not fancy, would be the absolute best quality it could be. She and her team consciously planned an atmosphere “where families could relax and escape from the rigors of their every day lives – even on vacation!”
Other ingredients in LuLu’s recipe include daily live music, a sandy beach for kids, the Mountain of Youth rope climbing course, the Fun Arcade and a gift shop selling T-shirts, hats, cookbooks and souvenirs.
“We are always making it up as we go, so no telling what we will add in Destin,” she says.
You can grab a seat in the brightly colored Adirondack chairs or at picnic tables with umbrellas. But your kids don’t have to sit still! Beach toys are provided in large plastic chests. Epic sandcastles are strongly encouraged. It’s a smart business owner who can make a beach bar and restaurant so entirely kid-friendly. Parents can (responsibly) enjoy a cold one, while their little ones run amok in a safe and fun atmosphere.
All seating is covered in some way, whether you choose to dine indoors, on the covered patio or under an umbrella. There are pull-down doors if whether becomes inclement, and fans blowing full-blast to help beat the heat in summer months.
The restaurant is huge, with the capacity to serve 3,000 people daily. (Our clever server told us that during the ‘season,’ staff wear pedometers, easily clocking 10-plus miles a day!)
As for the food?
“I’m a Gulf Coast gal and the food I serve is classic Gulf Coast cuisine that highlights the wonderful bountiful seafood from the warm salt waters,” Buffett says. “Food is a major part of our unique coastal lifestyle coupled with recreation on the bays, rivers, and beaches along the Gulf Coast.”
Many of the menu highlights, including LuLu’s signature gumbo, were handed down from her grandmother through a long line of sailors and shipyard workers. We sampled a shrimp basket, a jerk chicken sandwich and the Crazy Sista’s Crab Toast. (Which really deserves its own toast. Like, hold up your drinks.)
The music leans toward the ‘feel good’ genre, with Jimmy Buffett cycling about every fourth song. There’s a small stage inside for live musical acts, who can look out over the water while singing. (Not a bad gig.)
As for whether Lucy’s brother may show up for an impromptu performance?
Well, you never know when he might drop in for a bowl of gumbo.