The so-called Redneck Riviera might not be the first place you'd think of looking for great foodunless you've been there. This slice of the Gulf Coast, stretching from the Florida Panhandle across Alabama and Mississippi, was long the province of locals and vacationers from neighboring states, who kept its blue waters and pristine beaches to themselves. But now the word is out, and the region is undergoing a development boom. On a recent drive, I found that the juxtaposition of beachfront seafood shacks, classic fried-chicken places and ambitious new restaurants is making the Redneck Riviera one of the most exciting places to eat in North America.
Le Cordon Bleu on the Beach
I began my east-to-west drive across the region in Seagrove Beach, Florida. At Sandor's (pronounced "SHON-doors") European Cuisine, the food is French-cum-Eastern Europeanbut that's not the whole story. The chef and owner, Sandor Zombori, served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam, where he acquired a taste for the flavors of Southeast Asia. "When the other guys were out at the girlie bars," he told me, "I was in restaurants begging to learn."