Winds of change are blowing. In comes a new season, literally and figuratively. My kids have ditched the short britches and tees for long pants and light sweaters. At my nine-to-five we are doing massive renovations. Add to this the more important issue, the Check-In/Check-out shrimp po-boy has pleased its final taste bud. This has me on the quest for a new favorite, and I’ll not stop until I deliver you the best replacement I can find.

What I’m looking for is a sandwich with light French bread that has a good crunch to it. It can’t be a Hoagie roll or anything chewy. The shrimp should have a batter that grabs you, a little salty, not overcooked, and they ought to explode in your mouth with that telltale flavor only our warm Gulf waters can provide. Light mayo, shredded lettuce, fresh-but-sturdy tomatoes and three pickles would make it even better.
Oh, and it has to be truly overstuffed. Am I asking for much? Am I too picky? This is my dream, not yours, so get on board or get out of the way.

Just the other day we were doing some light construction at the shop, tearing down walls, moving out furniture and fixtures. The kitchen/break room was in shambles and there was no good place to eat, save the front porch. I had the bright idea I would head to Daphne and pay Market by the Bay a visit in an attempt to raise our nearly broken, dusty spirits.

MarketbytheBay

Market by the Bay has a pair of locations, one in Fairhope at 365 S. Greeno Road, but the Daphne location is just off of I-10 on the frontage road, not far from the Compleat Angler. The small, unassuming building has two doors. I chose poorly by taking the door number one on the left side of the building. A nice woman explained that this was the side for diners. The other side was where you placed your order.

I apologized for my ignorance and she said, “Tell the girls to give you a sample of our gumbo. It’s the best anywhere around here.” She was short of stature but tall on words. I assured her I would put that bold statement to the test.

A few seconds later I had a taster cup of gumbo in my hand and a menu of mostly fried seafood in front of my eyes. It should be noted that there were a few grilled options and landlubber items like hamburgers and chicken strips, but fried is how they make their money. Of course I would be leaving with a shrimp po-boy and then some. I ordered enough food for three people and headed back to work.

Back on the porch we sliced everything into thirds and dined al fresco on what I considered a good cross section of what Market by the Bay has to offer. Here is the breakdown of our meal.

The daily special ($4.99) was probably the best value on the Eastern Shore. Consider it Daphne’s fish and chips. A large, sturdy piece of fish, something white, was well-battered and served with fries.

The oyster po-boy ($12.99) is not to be ignored. I am actually not fond of this type of batter and would prefer a little more cornmeal to give it some grit, but this one works. The bread certainly meets my po-boy criteria. As for being overstuffed, the oysters were billowing out of the bread. Fries and yellow cornmeal hushpuppies accompanied this sandwich.

So now for the drama of the shrimp po-boy ($11.49). Of course it has the same bread as the oyster po-boy, and there are so many shrimp you almost can’t see the bread. At first bite you know without a shadow of doubt that this sandwich is the real deal. My only complaint is there was no option of having it dressed. The sandwich was so good I almost didn’t miss it. A little cocktail sauce made up for whatever might have been lacking. I got this with baked beans and my favorite cole slaw that beats anything on the Causeway.

Remember the gumbo I sampled? Well that sample paid off. I couldn’t resist ordering gumbo by the pint ($10.99) that day. It is bold to say you have the best around in a greater metro area known for all things roux. You’ve never heard me say whose gumbo was the best. I never wanted to put myself in anyone’s corner. Well — deep breath — Market by the Bay may have the best gumbo I have ever eaten. There. I said it, I hope you gumbo snobs challenge me enough to find a better version. This one has claw meat, nice shrimp, and a beautiful dark roux that doesn’t taste the least bit burnt. In to-go orders the rice comes separately and was also good enough to deserve a mention. I’m not sure what variety, but the rice was fluffy and fine as frog’s hair.

I can’t say something is the “best in the world.” I can tell you, dear reader from my perspective what I consider the best around here. At Market by the Bay we have multiple items that approach that status all in my favorite format of restaurants: the walk up lunch counter. My beloved Check-In/ Check-Out may be gone, but this is certainly as close to a replacement as I have found. I’ll work on them about adding the lettuce, tomato and three pickles, and I’ll pay whatever upcharge they want.

The winds of change brought me a new favorite. Some fear change. Don’t fear this one.

Market by the Bay Take-out
29145 US Highway 98
Daphne, AL
(251) 621-9664