I thought, at first, that I'd just grab a burger somewhere along the drive. It was ten-thirty, and I was expecting a five hour trip to Destin. But once I turned onto Hwy 331 in Montgomery, I started to relax and enjoy the beautiful day. It's been several years since I've been able to take one of my long driving trips, and I won't get another chance until the summer of '06. And I remembered my driving rules -- avoid the interstate at all cost; never eat in a chain restaurant; and when you see a sign pointing in a different direction that looks interesting, go there. That, plus the fact that I had a copy of the Oxford American's Southern Foods issue in the car with me made the thought of a fast food burger seem pretty sacriligeous.
There were a couple of interesting barbecue joints in Luverne, but since I was headed to the Gulf, I decided to hold out for seafood. I ended up at Pompano Joe's, down the beach road from my hotel. I know there was a time when a beachside seafood shack didn't have seating for 200, t-shirts for sale at the door, and half a dozen TVs in the bar, but those days are over. At least, they are on the redneck riviera (oh, sorry -- they call it the "emerald coast" now). But it was suitably rustic, and I had a little table right next to the brightly painted windows that looked out over the beach. It was windy, but the sky was clear and brilliantly blue. The sand looked almost silver and the water was ribbons of white and half a dozen hues of blue.
I was slightly disappointed to see that the oysters were Ameripure, but I'd been craving oysters for the last couple of hours so I went ahead. This was the third or fourth time I've had them, and maybe it's my imagination, but they just don't taste quite as good as I'd expect oysters down here to taste. Ever so slightly mushy, and a little too mild. I think maybe I'll stay away from them in the future. The fried shrimp sandwich, on the other hand, was quite good. Small shrimp, breaded & fried and heaped on a soft hamburger bun. Impossible to pick up and eat, so I went at it with knife and fork.
It's been a long time since Miss Lynn first introduced me to the joys of simple gulf food in a dive looking out over the water. Pompano Joe's wasn't one of the great such experiences, but it'll do.