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Mar 21, 1999 01:52 PM

Sandestin(Panhandle)Florida-where to eat seafood

  • i

We are spending a week in the Sandestin,Seaside,Grayton
Beach,Ft. Walton Beach area.Hear that there is great,
fresh seafood. Would like to know best,non touristy
restaurants in the area. Also, any other ideas of
things to do in this part of Florida.Trip planned for
end of April. Help!!!!!

IL Davis

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  1. Yup, there is a lot of touristy food around the Destin
    area -- the ubiquitous fried seafood -- I have heard
    that there are some good places popping up now but will
    have to ask around. If you get over to Pensacola I
    have heard that Hopkins Boardinghouse is highly
    recommended. They serve family style, and have one
    main dish per day, I believe. You could call to find
    out what they're serving. The beaches are so
    unbelievably beautiful that even if you have mediocre
    food you will have a good vacation.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Sarah

      Boy, are you in for a treat if you dine at Criolla's
      in Grayton beach (next door to Seaside). We have been
      vacationing in that area for many years and were in
      fact, married at Seaside.Owner/Chef Johnny Earles
      presides at Criolla's, incredible food with a definite
      Cajun-Caribbean feel with some Southwestern accents.
      This is NOT your disappointing mish-mosh of poorly
      concieved fusion, though. Flavors are harmonious and
      mercifully each dish is generally unified to a
      particular cuisine.
      Memorable meal:App: Conch seviche with a masa and
      queso fresco turnover. Entree; Lamb Barbacoa, sliced
      thin over an addicting dried posole,cream,cheese
      ragout,(think, maybe the most incredble mac 'n cheese
      and elevate it a thousand times),with a perfect
      counterpoint of chilied salsa fresca.Sheer swooning
      material. Dessert: a tropical trio that included
      housemade ice cream, and was all delicious ,but what
      stood out was a banana cheesecake so incredibly light
      that it nearly levitated off the plate. I asked for
      the recipe and was graciously given a copy. The menu
      changes daily, so you can eat there a week straight
      and not duplicate a meal. In fact, we will also be
      going next week and just made our dinner rezzies, so I
      have the number handy:(850)267-1267.Service is
      knowledgable and friendly; good wine list. I'm
      surprised Criolla's doesn't get more deserving
      national attention, although Johnny was featured in
      issues of Bon Appetit and Cooks Illustrated in the
      past. There are other restaurants in the area that we
      do frequent with the kids(lots of fried seafood), and
      some aren't awful, but Criolla's is the real "jewel"
      on the Emerald Coast.

      1. re: Heidi

        P.S. ALL destinations here are touristy, though a
        local turned us on to a Thai-Vietnamese reataurant in
        Ft. Walton-just so-so. I'll Second Sarah's post: You
        come here for the beaches. And Criolla's.

        1. re: Heidi

          I kmow this is months after the latest posting regarding where to eat in the Sandestin area of Florida, but you are all missing the boat. There are plenty of wonderful places, and I'm not talking about the chains that are sprouting up all over. As the previous poster mentioned, Criolla's is great, but there are lots of others in the area between Destin and Panama City. Try the Lake Place on 30-A, Bud and Alley's in Seaside, The Red Bar in Grayton Beach, Cafe 30-A in Seagrove, Basmati's on 30-A, and Cafe Tango on 30=A.

          1. re: Margie

            I HAVE eaten at most of those mentioned except Cafe Tango and 30-A (which I understand to be very good), although some haven't been for 5 yrs. or so. I recall most being in the good-not-great category. The last time I ate at The Lake Place was 6 yrs. ago which I've heard is under different ownership.
            Just ate at Criolla's again which was sadly hit or miss. Some selections were just unecessarilly heavy, more like lots of filler for small portions of more costly ingredients. Spoke with Chef/owner Johnny Earles who said he will be opening something new geared for more mass appeal in Destin.
            I am just so thrilled with Old Bay Steamer in Destin with it's platters of Royal Red shrimp.

    2. I have heard that the Crab Trap in Fort Walton Beach
      (Chris Leach is the chef) is supposed to be good.
      Haven't been there myself, but you might ask around
      about it or check out the menu when you get there.
      Apparently the family also has a restaurant called the
      Crab Trap in Destin, but don't know if the menu is the
      same or similar.

      1. I go to Sandestin once or Twice a year and I
        usually eat at the same palces . Either b/c they are
        good I keep going back for more or just simply b/c I
        don't have a clue where else to go. Usually we arive
        around dinner time, and eat at Fudpukers , noon is
        almost the perfect time to eat there. I also like the
        back porch ,but I love Pompanoe Joes , they had the
        best. Chan's Market and Cafe is also very good , they
        are famous for thier gumbo . There is a great veiw of a
        pretty lake. I don't suggest eating a t Joes Crabshack
        if you don't like spicy food. Also across from the
        Back Porch is the candymaker he makes the best
        saltwater taffy! The fuge is wonderful and try the

        1. I have finally found a good reason to eat in Destin!!!! Took the kiddies snorkeling and one of the boys on the dock told me if I wanted great steamed seafood to try Old Bay Steamer on 98 in Destin across from the Boardwalk. He added it was "Da bomb". It was. In a no-frills atmosphere we were served some of the best steamed seafood I've ever had. An oasis in a desert of fried everything. Plastic beach buckets on the tables for shell waste and family style salad to begin. We then segued with a gumbo full of chunks of crab and small shrimp.Also addictive marinated and steamed blue crab claws. Just one tiny bite per, but we were given a huge pile of them and the spicy, steamy broth was good mopping and dipping. I had Royal Red shrimp for the first time. Oh My God!!! Head on and super, super sweet. You can even eat the the thin, crispy shell. I had a generous portion of these served with drawn butter, corn and redskins. I really was in heaven. My friend commented that she's never seen me chow like that before. I knew this was something special and won't have an opportunity to have shrimp this fresh for a long time. Apparently they have been open for four years. I'm just so grateful for the discovery.