Guide to Area Restaurants



How to tell the difference, Southern Style ….

Matching furniture, taped or live piano/light jazz, printed menus. Accepts credit cards. Member of the Chamber of Commerce.

Screen door, jukebox, beer, chalkboard menu. The cook is nicknamed Bubba. Cash or checks. Member of AAA.

Torn screen door, beer, whiskey, stray cats, cash only. No menu. The cook’s real name is Bubba and she sports prison tattos and binge-watches “Sons of Anarchy” and “Road House”. You don’t tell your mama you go there.

Okay, seriously, the restaurants on the Emerald Coast range from classic elegance to barefoot casual, although none require a jacket or tie. But with hundreds of restaurants to choose from, visitors to the Emerald Coast never go home hungry!

To follow is a list of area restaurants that (for the most part) we like personally.  Since we are not professional food critics, no one pays us or gives us free food for endorsements (we wish).

Reviews and Pricing Guide

$ = under $10      $$ = $11 – $20      $$$ = $25 +


Acme Oyster House  –  Baytowne Village, Sandestin Resort (850)622-0200
Since 1910, Acme has been serving has been serving great seafood in New Orleans. Now in Destin, serving delicious po-boys, crawfish, jambalaya, red beans & rice, fresh oysters and plenty of ice cold beer. If you are felling brave, try the “15 Dozen Oyster Challenge” made famous by Adam Richman on Man vs. Food. If successful, you get your name on the Wall of Fame! FYI, I (Ed, not Terri) did it in 32 minutes!  Lunch & Dinner $$

AJ’S Seafood & Oyster Bar 116 Harbor Blvd., Destin, FL 32541 (850)837-1913
AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar has come along way since its humble beginnings in 1984. AJ’s serves a wide variety of food including burgers, seafood sandwiches, boiled shrimp, boiled mud bugs (when in season), steaks, pastas, salads, finger foods and of course, great fresh shucked oysters.  The outdoor Jumbotron is a great way to enjoy your favorite games on Saturdays and Sundays. You just can’t visit Destin without a trip to AJ’s!! Opens at 11:00 am 7 days per week and closes whenever …

Angler’s Beachside – 1030 Miracle Strip Pkwy, Okaloosa Island (850)796-0260
Really fun place for the entire family and smack dab on the beach at the Okaloosa County Fishing Pier. Seafood is served basket style. Angler’s features a beachside playground for the kids. Parents can dine above while  watching the kids below. Popular sports bar upstairs as well.  Lunch $ Dinner $$

Another Broker Egg Cafe – 104 Hwy 98 East, Destin (850)650-0499 and Baytowne Village, Sandestin Resort (850)622-2050
You will love the breakfast/brunch/lunch menu selections! Unique omelettes and sandwich selections certain to please any appetite.  Even the coffee is exceptional! For some bizarre reason, they will not seat you unless your entire party is present, even if there are no other guests in the entire restaurant!! Oh well, policies are policies, right? Breakfast and Lunch $$

Bay Café – 233 SE Alconese, Ft. Walton Bch., (850)244-3550
Ooo-la-la, our favorite area French restaurant. Bay Cafe has been here for 25 or more years. Casual, quaint, cozy.  Indoor/outdoor dining directly on Santa Rosa Sound. Food and service are always great. Dinner $$$

Boathouse Oyster Bar – At East Pass Marina, Destin (850)837-3645
A rather unique place, we love the Boathouse for lunch. It is not just waterfront, it is actually over the water! This place has been significantly expanded over the past few years. Has fantastic gumbo and great cheese burgers. Tuna steak sandwich is also great. Temperamental oyster shucker though. DO NOT complain if your oysters don’t come out right away! Food served indoors or out. Right on/over the Destin Harbor. Entertainment nightly. Go by boat and tie up at the dock! Lunch & Dinner $

Boshamps – 414 Harbor Blvd., Destin, FL 32541 (850)424-7406
Info coming soon!


Bric a Brac – 824 Gulf Shore Drive, Destin (850)424-6369
Another restaurant owned by the “Red Bar” family. The restaurant actually faces Gulf Shore Drive near Highway 98 (Harbor Blvd).  This location features the same basic menu items, yet the decor does not quite congeal as well as do the other family ventures. Still, the food is great and the service very good. Tuna dip appetizer is highly recommended, as is the bread pudding. Prices are good, great value. Open for lunch and dinner with happy hour daily and music most evenings. Lunch and Dinner $$

Brotula’s –  210 Harbor Blvd, Destin, FL 32541 (850)460-8900
Info coming soon!

Bubba Gump Shrimp Company  –  14059 Emerald Coast Parkway, Destin (850)650-1881
Okay, this one we’ve not personally tried. An employee at this establishment claims that she has never seen a local person eating there. It is said to be a popular chain and a fun place to visit though.  Stays very busy during tourist season. Lunch $ Dinner $$

Bud and Alleys  – 2236 East County Road 30-A Seaside, Florida (850)231-5900
Great food and fun overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at Seaside. Indoor seating downstairs and open air seating on the roof deck bar. No reservations here. A very creative menu. Something for everyone. Lunch and Dinner $$

Café 30-A  – Scenic Highway 30-A, Seagrove (850)231-2166
Dinner only, and reservations are recommended. The best description we’ve heard is “contemporary eclectic cuisine”. Very popular spot with open air dining upstairs. $$$

Camille’s at Crystal Beach – 2931 Scenic Hwy 98, Destin, FL 32541 (850)337-8860
Small place, some might even say cozy 🙂   Situated at the corner of Old Highway 98 and crystal Beach Drive. Eclectic menu ranging from shrimp and grits to sushi. Salads, pizza, smoothies, grilled grouper and much more. Everything is very good, creatively prepared and the seafood is ALWAYS fresh. $$

Cantina Laredo585 Grand Boulevard, Mirimar Beach   (850)654-5649
A little hard to find, Cantina Laredo is nestled back in Grand Boulevard, an upscale shopping, dining complex. Regardless, the fish, chicken and steak options are all great, but you cannot eat here without the fabulous made-tableside guacamole!! The combo dinner is truly exceptional. And while we do not drink margaritas, we have it on good authority that they are superb! We have found all the food here to be great!! Lunch $$ Dinner $$$

Carrabba’s Italian Grill  – 10562 Emerald Coast Pkwy at Silver Sands Outlet (850)837-2861
We can’t say enough good about Carrabba’s … Definitely one of our favorites. Usually a wait to get in so go early! The mixed grill is one their very best menu selections. The small pizzas are also great and are fairly cheap. Happy hour features beer and wine specials. Dinner Only $$$

Callahan’s Deli  –  791 Harbor Blvd., Destin (850)837-7171
The prices are WAY too cheap at Callahan’s, but please don’t let the owners know! Great sandwiches, salads, steaks, and home cooking … Huge portions. Nightly featured specials and luch menu is served all night as well. Dine in and carry-out. Beer, wine, cocktails. At Callahan’s, the owner is ALWAYS in the kitchen! Lunch $ Dinner $$

Cheeseburger in Paradise  –  Highway 98 West at Silver Sands Outlet (850)837-0197
Yes, the burgers really ARE great at Cheeseburger in Paradise! Actually better than the original “Paradise Burgers” down in the Caribbean at St. Bart’s! You don’t have to be a Jimmy Buffett fan to love this place. Lunch & Dinner $$

Coach-n-Four  –  1313 Lewis Turner Blvd., Ft. Walton Bch. (850)863-3443  ** CLOSED **
The décor may be a little on the rustic side, but we have never heard a complaint on the steaks. Several seafood items are featured as well.  The family prices will impress you! Dinner Only  $$

Crab Island Cantina – 2 Harbor Blvd #100, Destin, FL 32541 (850)424-7417
Info coming soon!


Cuvee Bistro  – 36120 Emerald Coast Pkwy, Destin, FL 32541 (850)650-8900
Cuvée Bistro is a semi-casual, fine dining restaurant with a great wine cellar. Owned by award winning chef Tim Creehan, Cuvee’s creative menu features seafood, steak, lamb, and Ed’s personal favorite, duck!  Dinner only $$$

Dewey Destin’s  – 9 Calhoun Drive, Destin, FL 32541 (850)837-7575
A local’s favorite, Dewey’s original location across from Crab Island can be a little tricky to find. Just north of the Destin Bridge on Calhoun Avenue, directly on Choctaw Bay . Order and pay at the cash register inside, then listen for your name outside and someone will deliver the order to your table. Great local-caught seafood, served in baskets, not on plates! Beer and wine available. Great for families and couples alike. The orientation is west so the sunsets are fabulous from the deck!  Lunch $  Dinner $$

Dewey Destin’s Harborside – 202 Harbor Blvd., Destin, FL 32541 (850)837-7525
Another local’s favorite, this is Dewey’s newer and upscale version of the original situated directly on Destin Harbor. Same great local-caught seafood, served fresh off the boats! You actually get real plates and cloth napkins, although the restaurant retains a local, very laid-back, casual atmosphere. American Express?  You can leave home without it. Dewey’s only accepts MasterCard and Visa.  Lunch $  Dinner $$

Donut Hole – 635 Highway 98 East, Destin (850)837-8824  and 6745 US Highway 98 W, Santa Rosa Beach (850)267-3239
Everything is great, breakfast lunch and dinner. Omelets are top notch as are the most fabulous baked goods including cakes, pies, gourmet doughnuts and more. The sandwiches are wonderful, especially the patty melt and club sandwich. Chef salad is really great, especially with the homemade Ranch dressing.  One big problem. There is most often a wait to be seated. If you are so inclined, you can usually slide up to the counter for faster service.  Breakfast Lunch Dinner $$

El Jalisco4304 Legendary Dr Destin FL, 32541 US (850) 460-8355
This is one fabulous Mexican restaurant! Actually, one of nine in the El Jalisco family. This chain began in Panama City and now has locations as far east as Tallahassee. Lots of combo options and the food is simply great TexMex. Open for lunch and dinner. $$

El Jalisco Destin

Fish Out of Water  – WaterColor Inn, Seagrove Beach (850)534-5050
Local seafood and steaks with a sushi bar and private wine room overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Very impressive wine list and outstanding service. Always a pleasure to dine at Fish Out Of Water. Dinner only $$$

Fleming’s Steak House –  600 Grande Blvd,  just west of Sandestin Resort (850)269-0830
Famous for their great steaks and upscale wine list by the glass, Fleming’s has grown rapidly since its inception in 1998!
Dinner Only $$$

French Quarter Grill  – 714 Howell Road, Niceville (850)678-2604
Great New Orleans cuisine. Creole and Cajun inspired menu in a relaxed, intimate atmosphere. The Jerk Chicken Satay, Crawfish Etouffe and Jambalaya Pasta are our favorites! Dinner only $$

Graffiti’s  –  707 Hwy 98 East – Chateau Plaza, Destin (850)654-2764 and Baytowne Sandestin (850)424-6650
 Wonderful selection of pasta and seafood entrees. The specialty pizzas are also great and the décor will keep you amused while you dine. The angel hair bolognese is especially impressive! The pizzas are extraordinary as well. The Greek Pizza with added pepperoni and sausage is an awesome choice!  Dinner only $$  and

Great Southern Cafe – Seaside Town Square, (850) 231-7327
Indoor and outdoor seating featuring a truly creative menu. Soul Rolls are a must. The raw oysters are always fabulous, as if they had all been hand picked. If Chef Jim Shirley is not on a celebrity tour, you will find him in the kitchen! Breakfast $ Lunch$$ and Dinner $$$

Harbor Docks  –  538 Hwy 98 East, Destin (850)837-2506
Fresh local seafood, very well prepared. Sushi/oyster bar. Indoor/outdoor dining. Great views overlooking the Destin Harbor. Grouper Parmadine is fabulous, as is the Amazon Roll.  Lunch and Dinner $$$

Hard Rock Café  – Destin Commons, Emerald Coast Pkwy., Destin  (850)654-3310
This restaurant chain features rock era memorabilia and food. Lunch and Dinner $

Harry T’s Lighthouse – 46 Harbor Blvd, Destin, FL 32541 (850)654-4800
Harry T’s is situated in HarborWalk Village at at the mouth of the Destin Harbor. Just about every seat in the house has a great view of the Harbor, Pass or Gulf. The menu here is extensive. It ranges from steamed seafood to burgers and from crab claws to tacos! Sandwiches are definitely great, but if you can visit on Saturday and Sunday between 10:00 am and 2:00 you can enjoy one of the best brunches on the Gulf Coast! One more thing … Harry T’s offers a a Monte Cristo (best sandwich on planet earth) on a limited basis during most week days.

High Tide  – 1203 Miracle Strip Pkwy., Ft. Walton Beach (850)244-2624
Really great,  local caught fresh seafood. About as fresh as you will find anywhere. Specialty oysters, seafood fried or grilled, served in a basket. Not a fancy place, more like middle of the road nautical decor. Just friendly employees and great food. They don’t even have a website! Locally owned and operated since 1975! Grab a table or just slide in and eat at the oyster bar.  Lunch $ Dinner $$

Jim ‘n Nicks Bar-B-Q  – Scenic Highway 98 Destin (850) 351-1991
Really great barbeque in a fabulous setting. Slow hickory cooked beef, ribs, pork, chicken and burgers. The smoked turkey is world class.  Salads are always incredibly fresh as well. Homemade sides, desserts and plenty of sweet iced tea.
Lunch $ Dinner $$

Joe’s Crab Shack – 14055 Emerald Coast Pkwy, Destin, FL 32541 (850)650-1882
Info coming soon

Johnny Rocket’s  – Destin Commons, Destin (850)837-0005
A unique “diner” with a 50’s theme, featuring a soda fountain and an impressive list of specialty burgers. They even have soy burgers! No beer, wine, etc. Lunch and Dinner $

La Paz – 950 Gulfshore Drive, Destin (850)837-2247 
Fantastic Mexican and seafood items. From fajitas to red snapper, it’s all well prepared. Featuring unique nightly specials. The Fish Tacos and Grouper Fajitas are awesome! Entertainment on Friday nights. Lunch and Dinner $$

Louie Louie’s35 Musset Bayou Road ~ Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459 (850)267-1500
Owned by the “Red Bar” family, Louie Louie’s features a great yet simple menu with many of the same items as found in the Red Bar. Crab cakes are super delicious! Happy hour every Thursday, Friday & Saturday from 10-Midnight. Late night bar food until midnight. Leave the credit card at home because like it’s Grayton Beach and Holiday Isle counterparts, this place is cash only! Dinner only  $$

Louisiana Laignaippe
 –  Sandpiper Cove, 775 Gulfshore Dr., Destin (850)837-0881
You couldn’t find better gourmet Cajun food if you were in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Indoor and outdoor dining at the east end of the Destin Harbor. If they are featuring the “scamp baked in parchment” when you visit, it is definitely worth ordering! Other personal favorites … Grouper Ponchatrain and Grouper Cocodrie. Dinner only $$$

Magnolia Grill  – 157 Brooks Street, Ft. Walton Beach (850)302-0266
Situated near the original site of the infamous gambling spot The Magnolia Bar, this restaurant features décor and area memorabilia from the 50’s. Several of the most popular menu items are recycled favorites from local landmark restaurants from the past. Lunch and Dinner $$

Margaritaville  – Located in HarborWalk, 76 Harbor Blvd.,  Destin (850) 460-7700
Just opened in February 2014 and located directly on the Destin Harbor. This particular Margaritaville features a new menu that is unique to the franchise.  The fish and chips (at Margaritaville??) is said to be knock-your-socks-off fabulous. Great views all around. Lunch $$ Dinner $$ 

Marina Café  – 404 Hwy 98 East, Destin (850)837-7960
Unique entrées and appetizers created by its chef, Marina Cafe features seafood, steaks and pastas with Cajun flair. Premium cigar selections. Early bird specials. You can’t order appetizers first for some reason, they must be ordered at the same time as entrees??  Dinner only $$$

Marlin Grill  – Baytowne Village, Sandestin (850) 351-1990
Casual, upscale fine dining specializing in the freshest Florida seafood. The seared tuna is incredible, as is the blue cheese stuffed ribeye. Incredible dry aged prime beef. Try a martini with blue cheese stuffed olives. Two level outside terrace seating available. Service is fabulous as well. Dinner only $$$

McGuire’s Irish Pub 33 Hwy 98 East-HarborWalk, Destin (850)650-0000
One of Destin’s most famous restaurants. Award winning burgers, steaks and Irish fare. Brewery sausage plate is huge, as are most entrees. Beautiful steaks and prime rib, although the prime rib is heavily smoked and may be a little strong for some palates. Also the home of McGuire’s micro-brewery featuring special Irish beverages. Nightly Irish entertainment. Besides the great food, you will not soon forget McGuire’s “expensive” décor and confusing bathrooms! Lunch and Dinner $$

Miller’s Ale House  –  34906 Emerald Coast Parkway,  Destin (850)837-0694    Rather extensive menu featuring ribs, lobster, prime rib, sandwiches, fajitas and more. The place  featuries 50 or more TV’s throughout. Prices seem competitive. Food and service have been a little hit and miss so far, but a fun place to visit. Wine, cocktails and 75 different beers.  Lunch$ Dinner $$

Mimmos Italian Restaurant –  979 US Hwy 98 East, Destin (850)460-7353
One of our favorites. Mimmos has really fabulous pastas, seafood, salad and pizza. Very comfortable (cozy) decor as well. Only a few booths, the rest are open tables, although you can eat at the bar or by the wood fired pizza station. Call for reservations during tourist season and always on weekends. Lunch $$ Dinner$$$

O’Quigley’s Seafood Steamer – 34940 Emerald Coast Pkwy Ste #101 (850)837-1015
Info coming soon


Original Crab Shack  – 104 SW Miracle Strip Pkwy, Ft. Walton Bch 664-0110
Crab, seafood, shrimp and more! Dine inside or out (we prefer out), directly on Santa Rosa Sound. Go by car or by boat.
Lunch $ Dinner $$

Osaka – 34845 Emerald Coast Pkwy, Destin (850)650-4688
Lots of fun at the hibachi grill. Also featuring sashimi, sushi and saki.  Lunch and Dinner $$

Pandora’s – 1120 Santa Rosa Blvd, West Destin (Okaloosa Island) (850) 244-8669
You will find fantastic steaks, prime rib and seafood at Pandora’s. The yellow fin tuna and the prime rib are two of our favorites. Great nightly, seasonal specials as well. The lounge features entertainment most nights. Their new location is 2 blocks from the original and looks virtually the same inside. Same owner for probably 30 years. Why mess with perfection? One suggestion – On occasion the jerk sauce that accompanies the grilled tuna is TEN ALARM HOT, and this is coming from a guy who loves raw jalapenos at breakfast! The jerk sauce flavor is excellent so try ordering a side of mayo to dilute it down some. Dinner only $$$

P. F. Chang’s  –  640 Grand Blvd, just west of Sandestin Resort (850)269-1806
A Chinese bistro with Southeast Asia influence? Everyone seems to love P.F. Changs! Located at Grand Blvd near Sandestin and Silver Sands Outlet  Mall. Lunch & Dinner $$

Seagar’s – 4000 Sandestin Blvd., in the Hilton at Sandestin Resort. 622-1500
Fabulous service, fabulous steaks. For a real treat, try the porterhouse with bleu cheese/hickory glaze! Very impressive wine and cordial selections. Seagars will absolutely impress your guests. Dinner only $$$

790 Cafe on the Gulf   –  Inn at Crystal Beach, 2996 Scenic Hwy 98, Destin (850) 650-4853
Situated downstairs at the Inn at Crystal Beach directly on the Gulf of Mexico. This is the second location for “790”, the original being situated at 790 North Beal Parkway in Ft. Walton Beach. Great waterfront bar, fresh seafood and comfort food.  Lunch $$ Dinner $$$

Sonny’s BBQ – 925 N Beal Pkwy, Ft. Walton Bch. (850)314-0717
If you like real smoked BBQ (not the “drowned in sauce” variety), you should like Sonny’s. Also featuring award winning baked beans and all-u-can eat salad bar. Lunch and Dinner $½

Staff’s – 24 Miracle Strip Pkwy Ft. Walton Beach (850)243-3482 – “CLOSED FOR NOW”
Staff’s has been serving seafood here since 1913. Boasts of having served the first seafood platter in Florida. Known for their homemade desserts and dressings, many of the foods that are served there today are made from family recipes handed down over several generations. The seafood skillet is awesome, and (if you like it fried instead) their seafood dinner for two would probably feed four! Dinner $$$

Stinky’s Fish Camp – 5960 West County Road 30A, Santa Rosa Beach (850)267-3053
One of our favorites!! Lots of really great fried options, but the pasta, crab legs, shrimp and grits and crawfish pie are really hard to beat. Large portions, perfectly prepared, every time. Service is always great as well. No resrvations and there will most always be a wait to be seated. Go early if possible. Lunch $$ Dinner $$$

The Back Porch – 1740 Scenic Hwy 98 Destin, FL — 32541 (850)837-2022
Info coming soon


The Melting Pot – 11394 US Highway 98 W, Destin, FL 32550 (850)269-2227
Info coming soon

The Red Bar  –  70 Hotz Ave., Grayton Beach,  (850)231-1008  
No reservations, no credit cards, closed Monday and Tuesday and a limited menu. You will love it. Anytime they have crab cakes on the chalkboard menu, order them! Food and prices are fantastic. Very ecclectic, some would say funky. Beer, wine, cocktails. Lunch $ Dinner $$

The Shed Barbeque and Blues Joint –  100 Harbor Blvd, Destin (850)460-2271
The Shed boasts “100% Old School, Sweet Southern, Down-home BBQ”. Whatever that means, it does equate to some very good Q. Ribs and pulled pork are fabulous. There are five locations from Mississippi to Florida. Blues entertainment most Fridays.  Lunch $ Dinner $$

Tuscany Italian Grill  –  36178 Emerald Coast Parkway, Destin (850)650-2451 
The newest addition to the small, yet successful group of Gugliemo Ianni affiliated restaurants. The linguine alle vongole and the linguine alla pescatore are especially fabulous! Entertainment most nights. The lounge has developed into quite the little night spot! Dinner $$

Zöes Kitchen – Destin Commons, Destin (850)650-6525 
Pronounced zō’-ēz , Featuring really great sandwiches and award winning cole slaw. Emphasis on their unique close-to-the-garden philosophy. Lunch and Dinner $

And….We would love to hear from you! What’s your favorite area restaurant? If you tried one of the listed restaurants, please let us know how you liked it! If one of your favorites isn’t listed, give us the name and we’ll gladly review it for this list.

Bon Appetite!

Ed and Terri Smith
RE/MAX Coastal Properties
725 Harbor Blvd
Destin, Florida 32541

Some restaurants come, some go and they all change from time to time.  All information contained herein is believed to be accurate but cannot be guaranteed.

Copyright © Ed and Terri Smith 1998-2016

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