Making the Grade: Orange Beach’s Sunliner Diner

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PHOTOS BY MIKE WALLACE / FOR THE OBSERVER

BY STACEY PATTON WALLACE

As I’ve mentioned before in this column, my husband Mike’s and my favorite place in the world is our home in Auburn, at least while we await Heaven. As Dorothy Gale said in “The Wizard of Oz,” “There’s no place like home.” Also, Laura Ingalls Wilder once said on “Little House on the Prairie,” “Home is the nicest word there is.” Mike and I agree with those statements 100%.

However, like Tom Patton, my sweet Daddy, we love to travel. Daddy always told us, “Go whenever you can.” When Mama’s and his health began to decline, they could only travel when someone could take them, which we and our family were glad to do.

Daddy was so eager to go to Orange Beach/Gulf Shores and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, every year. When Mike and I traveled with Mama and Daddy, he would ask us to pack our belongings in his Honda Odyssey van the night before the trip. We respectfully declined, telling him that we needed certain items in order to get ready in the morning.

Also, Daddy wanted to leave for the beach at 5 a.m. We talked him out of that as well, since back then, Mike and I still taught and lived in LaGrange. We had to get up on Monday through Friday at 4:02 Central Time. (Psychologically, that sounded better than 4 a.m.) Therefore, leaving for our trip at 7 a.m. sounded a lot better to us.

Now, of course, Sweet Home Alabama has the most beautiful beach in the world. Also, Orange Beach/Gulf Shores is our second favorite place on earth.

That being the case, on Aug. 14, we packed up the car and headed to Orange Beach. As usual, we packed for every contingency, so it looked as though we were moving there. I really admire people who can pack everything they need in one suitcase. However, we are not those people.

During this particular trip, we were happy to visit some of our sweet cousins: Foy, her adorable baby Steele and her sister-in-law Cat, the newest member of the family on Mama’s side. Cat is from New Zealand; she has the coolest accent in our family. I told her I hope she never loses it.

Another highlight of our trip was going on a dolphin cruise. Mike and I love dolphins and had a blast watching those beautiful, sleek creatures frolic behind our boat.

Also during our trip, we decided to try the Sunliner Diner at 100 E. Second Ave. in Gulf Shores. Man, was that a great decision.

Going to the Sunliner Diner is like stepping back in time to the 1950s. Mike and I loved the vintage cars with the fins and white wall tires, which were in the restaurant’s parking lot. Also, a beautiful red car was inside the diner; customers may sit at a table in the car to dine.

Now, since I was born in 1962, I barely missed the ‘50s, but according to what I’ve seen at the movies and on “Happy Days,” the Sunliner Diner certainly captured the decade with its attractive décor. 

Also, Mike and I loved the music playing: “Johnny B. Goode,” “My Boy Friend’s Back” and “See You Later, Alligator,” to name a few. I particularly enjoyed “Johnny B. Goode” because back in the day, Daddy could hop backwards on his leg like Chuck Berry. Mike and I prefer music you can listen to in front of your preacher and grandma.

Keith, the front end manager, and Fisher, our server, were so warm, welcoming and helpful.

Mike and I loved the Sunliner Diner’s menu. Its format was like a newspaper from the 1950s; it told about the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area. Also, it included ‘50s slang, trivia, sports and more.

The Sunliner Diner serves breakfast all day, as well as lunch and dinner, starting at 11 a.m. That night, Mike and I were in the mood for breakfast. Therefore, Mike ordered the BeeGees breakfast combo, which included “two farm fresh eggs made to order, choice of bacon, sausage or smoked ham (Mike chose ham) and a Sunliner biscuit covered with sausage gravy. Served with your choice of hash browns or grits.” (Mike chose hash browns.)

I selected the banana nut French toast, which included “Texas toast soaked in homemade sweet custard, topped with fresh bananas, candied pecans, two layers of candied bacon and drizzled with caramel sauce.” Fisher also brought me some syrup. Oh, my three times. “Delicious” doesn’t even come close to describing how amazing our meals tasted.

However, I didn’t eat my third piece of banana nut French toast because I didn’t want Mike to have to call 911 because I’d have gone into a diabetic coma. Mike, who always has my back, ate part of it for me, after having consumed all of his meal. Lynn (my diabetic specialist), I promise I won’t eat a meal like that for a very long time.

Besides our FABULOUS breakfast choices, the Sunliner Diner also offers diners: Eggs Benedict, pancakes, waffles, omelets and a multitude of other dishes, even some that are light and healthy.

For lunch and dinner (supper), the Sunliner also has a large selection of tempting salads, sandwiches, burgers and Sunliner specialties, some of which include: chicken & waffles, meatloaf, country fried steak, country fried chicken and a New York strip steak dinner.

And desserts? The Sunliner Diner has old-fashioned sodas, floats, milkshakes “made with premium ice cream and handcrafted the old-fashioned way”, splits and sundaes. Just seeing some of these luscious works of art made my blood sugar rise. Run and do not walk to the Sunliner Diner. Mike and I have found a permanent restaurant destination in Gulf Shores. Mama and Daddy, this review was for you. As our dear friend Dottie Meacham says, “I love you to the moon and back.”

The Sunliner Diner is open Sunday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The Sunliner Diner makes the grade with an A+ from this retired English teacher. Remember, “Pooh-sized” people NEVER lie about food. Enjoy!

Stacey Patton Wallace, who retired from teaching language arts for 30 years, is a professional diner. Her column, “Making the Grade,” will appear each week in The Observer. Stacey may be reached at retiredlangartsteacher2020@gmail.com.

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