Doing It On the Border
It isn’t that folks at the Flora-Bama aren’t proud to call themselves “redneck,” it’s just that doing so might make the place seem too uppity, like they’re showing off or something.
Officially known as the Flora-Bama Package and Oyster Bar – and unofficially but more commonly as “Flo-Bam” – the place, one of the last of the classic beachfront roadhouses, is located along U.S. Highway 98 at Perdido Key. It is technically in Florida, but if you’re on the lam from the Florida law, take heart; it’s only six feet away from the Alabama border. A sign at the front expresses the essence of the place: “Do It With Us On The Line.”
This is a place for beer drinking, dancing, singing country music, eating oysters, hollering and just general stomping. During my first visit, there were women wearing plastic derrieres for a big butt contest.
That isn’t what gives the place its class though, neither is it the room with brassieres hanging from the ceiling. What puts the Flora-Bama on the map, albeit a map with beer stains on it, is its annual interstate mullet tossing contest in which participants fling the dead fish from Florida to Alabama. To get to do so, they pay an entry fee, the proceeds of which go to charities. If only the mullets could appreciate that they weren’t tossed in vain.
Life there hasn’t always been beer and oysters. Hurricane Ivan hit the Flora-Bama hard in 2004. Recovery has been slow, but with the help of tenting, trailers and tarps the place has survived while construction workers have been building a bigger and more wind-resistant place.
Louisianians should be advised that the Flo-Bam is subject to visits by patrons who wear “Crimson Tide” T-shirts and are inexplicably proud of it. That, however, is why God gave the world beer. One summer evening with the setting sun in the foreground and Jimmy Buffett’s songs throughout, and memories of faded glory can be wiped away like wind smoothing the sand.
This is why we write beach travel issues: Because there are places where not just seagulls fly, but mullets as well.
Recently we’ve written about “Poor Boy” being the proper term for the local sandwich rather than the popularly bastardized “po-boy.” We have wanted to identify restaurants that, bucking the trend, still use the proper name. Good news is that one of the great places for the sandwich, Parkway Bakery, now advertises using the proper term. Evangeline, a new restaurant on Decatur Street in the French Quarter does. A reader wrote to remind us that Scott Boswell’s Stanley near Jackson Square does, too. That is three. Thanks for preserving the culture y’all.