34+ Best US Gulf Coast Restaurants and Chefs

The absolute best US Gulf Coast Restaurants and Chefs include the highest awarded and best places to eat along the Gulf of Mexico coastline in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.

This article objectively lists the truly BEST US Gulf Coast Restaurants and Chefs. Most, if not all, other “best” lists include subjective favorites. In this attempt at objectivity, I relied mostly on James Beard Foundation (JBF) lists. JBF is the official and preeminent recognized source of culinary excellence in USA.

There are also mentions in this best Gulf Coast Restaurants and Chefs list from Zagat, Top Chef, Beat Bobby Flay, Golden Spoon (Florida’s annual culinary awards), DiRoNa (Distinguished Restaurants of North America), and other sources. Please let me know of other sources that recognize Gulf Coast culinary excellence.

seafood dominates the menus at Best US Gulf Coast Restaurants


Best US Gulf Coast Restaurants and Chefs

The following best restaurants along the Gulf Coast states are sorted by state and listed from east to west—from Key West around the Gulf of Mexico to Brownsville Texas. Please let me know your favorite Gulf Coast restaurants and we will try to visit them on future US Gulf Coast trips.

I intend to frequently update this list so please check back. Also, please let me know of Gulf Coast restaurants and chefs worthy of consideration for the title of BEST.

Any mention below of James Beard Foundation nominee or nomination is for the category of best chef: US south semi-finalist or (for Texas) best chef: US southwest. JBF lists evolve from semi-finalists, then Nominees (I will call them Finalists), then one ultimate winner in each category. I do not include JBF nominees in the hospitality, media, beverage, or service categories.

Best Florida Gulf Coast Restaurants and Chefs

21 Spices, Asif Syed, Naples

Chef Asif Syed was a featured James Beard chef for Innovative Indian cuisine, was victorious on Beat Bobby Flay (Food Network), and competed on Cutthroat Kitchen (Food Network). His restaurant 21 Spices in Naples Florida received the Golden Spoon award for best new restaurant in Florida and a DiRoNa award.

Chicken Tandoori at 21 Spices in Naples FL
Chicken Tandoori at 21 Spices in Naples FL. Photo by 21 Spices.

I met Chef Asif the night before he beat Bobby Flay—see my suggestions at Fun Gulf Coast Restaurants.

For suggestions of best Naples FL restaurants.

The Perfect Caper, Jeanie Roland, Punta Gorda

Chef Jeanie Roland received seven James Beard Foundation nominations, was victorious on Beat Bobby Flay, and appeared on Iron Chef Gauntlet. Her restaurant, The Perfect Caper, has earned nine Golden Spoon awards including Hall of Fame status.

See also our article for Things to Do in Punta Gorda

Beach Bistro, Peter Arpke, Holmes Beach

Chef Peter Arpke received a James Beard Foundation nomination and has been with Beach Bistro for more than 25 years. Beach Bistro earned Golden Spoon awards including Hall of Fame status and was ranked by Zagat as one of USA’s top restaurants.

lobster appetizer
sublime lobster appetizer at Beach Bistro in Anna Maria Island

For suggestions of things to do on Anna Maria Island: Things to Do in Anna Maria Island

More Best Florida Gulf Coast Chefs and Restaurants

The following chefs have at least one James Beard Foundation semi-finalist nomination for best chef.

  • Ferrell Alvarez, Rooster & Till, Tampa
  • Greg Baker, The Refinery, Tampa
  • Ann Kearney, Oak & Ola, Tampa
  • Jeffrey Jew, Stillwater Tavern, St Pete
  • Sylvia Gould, Kool Beanz Cafe, Tallahassee (JBF: Pastry Chef)
  • Andi Bell, Boshamps, Destin (JBF: Rising Star)
  • Irv Miller, Jackson’s Steakhouse, Pensacola

Before visiting the Florida Panhandle, see our Destin Florida Airbnbs

Best Alabama Gulf Coast Restaurants

Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina, Bill Briand, Orange Beach

Chef Bill Briand received James Beard nominations for five straight years. Southern Living has named Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina one of the top US South restaurants five times.

fresh oysters at Fisher's at Orange Beach Marina
fresh oysters at Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina

See also:Orange Beach Restaurants and Things to Do in Gulf Shores

Best Mississippi Gulf Coast Restaurants

Vestige, Alex Perry, Ocean Springs

Chef Alex Perry of Vestige received a James Beard Foundation nomination in 2019 and 2022

colorful heirloom Mississippi tomatoes
fresh local heirloom tomatoes at Vestige in Ocean Springs, Mississippi

White Pillars, Austin Sumrall, Biloxi

Chef Austin Sumrall of White Pillars is a 2020 James Beard Foundation nominee—after working for three other James Beard Foundation nominees. Chef Sumrall beat Food Network star chef Alex Guarnaschelli and two other chefs in the Alex vs Southern Comfort battle.

local French Hermit oysters at White Pillars in Biloxi MS
Mississippi Gulf oysters from French Hermit at White Pillars in Biloxi MS

See also Sensational Mississippi Gulf Coast Restaurants

And suggestions about things to do on Mississippi Gulf Coast: Coastal Mississippi Hidden Gems


Best Louisiana Gulf Coast Restaurants

Del Porto, David and Torre Solazzo, Covington

Chefs David and Torre Solazzo received three James Beard Foundation nominations. Del Porto has been voted best new restaurant by New Orleans magazine, best Italian restaurant in New Orleans area, and ranked as one of New Orleans top 10 restaurants overall.

pasta dish at Del Porto in Covington Louisiana
pasta is a must at Del Porto in Covington Louisiana

LOLA Restaurant, Keith and Nealy Frentz, Covington

Chef Nealy Frentz was runner-up on Chopped (Food Network).

daily specials at Lola in Covington Louisiana
daily specials at Lola in Covington Louisiana

OXLOT 9, Jeffrey Hansell, Covington

Chef Jeffrey Hansell has been selected as Louisiana Restaurateur of the Year (along with his wife Amy, co-owners of OXLOT 9), named one of Top 10 Chefs in Louisiana, nominated as best new chef by Food & Wine, and competed on Beat Bobby Flay.

Oxlot 9 dining room
one of the best restaurants in Covington Louisiana is Oxlot 9

There is something going on north of New Orleans across Lake Pontchartrain. In the same town, Covington Louisiana, three amazing restaurants owned by vibrant chefs. For suggestions of things to do in Covington Louisiana see: Things to Do in Louisiana Northshore

Bread & Circus, Manny Augello, Lafayette

Chef Manny Augello received a James Beard Foundation nomination.

Best New Orleans Restaurants

The only James Beard Foundation 2019 winner along the US Gulf Coast was Kelly Fields of Willa Jean in New Orleans in the Best Pastry Chef category.

James Beard Foundation nominees for 2020 from New Orleans are:

All are semi-finalists in the Best Chef, South category unless otherwise listed.

  • Blake Aguillard and William “Trey” Smith, Saint-Germain
  • Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus, Coquette (also 2019 finalist)
  • Hao Gong, LUVI Restaurant
  • Michael Gulotta, Maypop
  • Mason Hereford, Turkey and the Wolf
  • Isaac Toups, Toups’ Meatery (also 2019 finalist)
  • Ana Castro, Thalia, New Orleans (rising star, also 2019 rising star when at Coquette)
  • Donald Link, Herbsaint (outstanding chef, also 2019 outstanding chef semi-finalist)

JBF 2019 finalists not in 2020:

  • Slade Rushing, Brennan’s (five-time JBF finalist) (McCool Travel note: Slade Rushing recently left Brennan’s)

Best Houston Texas Restaurants

James Beard Foundation nominees for 2020 from Houston are:

All are semi-finalist nomines in the Best Chef, South category unless otherwise listed.

  • Dawn Burrell, Kulture, Houston
  • Manabu Horiuchi, Kata Robata, Houston
  • Anita Jaisinghani, Pondicheri, Houston
  • Trong Nguyen, Crawfish & Noodles, Houston
  • Jason Vaughan, Nancy’s Hustle, Houston
  • Kaitlin Steets, Theodore Rex, Houston (rising star)
  • Justin Yu, Theodore Rex, Houston (outstanding chef)
  • The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation (outstanding restaurant)
  • Tracy Vaught, H Town Restaurant Group, Houston (Hugo’s, Xochi, Caracol, and others) (Outstanding Restaurateur) (Outstanding Hospitality)

Other sources for US Gulf Coast Restaurants and Chefs:

Note that Michelin stars are only awarded within US to chefs in DC, NYC, SF, LA, and Chicago (at this time) and that no US Gulf Coast restaurants have earned Gayot awards.

DiRoNa Hall of Fame includes these US Gulf Coast restaurants:

  • Commander’s Palace, New Orleans (chef Tory McPhail was 2013 JBF winner)
  • Chef John Folse, Gonzalez Louisiana
  • Leruth’s, New Orleans
  • Brennan’s, New Orleans
  • Ruth’s Chris Steak House, New Orleans
  • Dookey Chase, New Orleans

By no means is this a comprehensive list of the best US Gulf Coast Restaurants and Chefs and this #USGulfCoast article will be updated as needed.

See also our Gulf Coast Seafood Trail and Gulf Coast Dessert Trail and Gulf Coast Grouper Trail articles.

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