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Jul 9, 2006 10:27 PM

Need Pensacola/Destin/Ft. Walton Beach/Santa Rosa suggestions, please

Will be staying overnight in Pensacola near airport for one night on our way to Destin/Ft.Walton Beach, need dinner rec. Looking for suggestions in budget to medium high end price range (up to $20 pp). We have one celebration dinner we are looking for something "very special" ($30-$40 pp). Need to accommodate mother in 70's, husband, and 2 teenagers. We eat wide variety of cuisine (not too spicy). Planning to eat b/l in condo and either bring in or go out to dinner. Any comments on Cafe Provence in Santa Rosa, Cafe 331, Beachwalk Cafe, Pompano Joe's, Destin Chops, Cafe Tango, Criolla's? Looking for budget pizza/Italian recs too. We're willing to drive 30-45 minutes, TIA.

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  1. The area near Pensacola airport and the mall is pretty much all chains. Bonefish Grill is probably the best of that lot. If you're driving US 98 toward Destin, the food at McGuire's is good, and the Irish themed decor is either a love or a hate thing.

    For pizza/Italian, Ciao Bella runs about $15 a pizza, and they do a pretty tasty thin crust pizza. Cheaper than that, Merlin's always has a buy one-get one free deal, and I like them a lot better than the national chains.

    Pompano Joe's is on our avoid list. They cruise by on the view, and I'm not impressed by the quality of the fish they serve.

    Beachwalk, Criolla's, and Cafe Tango all seem to have a lot of fans. I'd throw Basmati's into the mix if you're into Asian themed food.

    1. Lucky you! I could not agree more with the previous post - they know their chow! Ciao Bella Pizza is my personal favorite. Just next door is McGuire's Irish Pub. It's a loud and raunchy place - but they make a primo prime rib and I know that the place would appeal to the teenagers. Both the pizza place and McGuire's are located on 98 East at the Destin Pass Bridge (which takes you into Ft. Walton).

      Another favorite of mine that is really cheap is the Rib Shack - 605 E 98 8508379314. They make some of the very best BBQ in North Florida. It's divine.

      My most favorite place to eat is Guglielmo's. They are not to be missed. Owned by a family, they have been in the area a very long time. They own Ciao Bella Pizza, but also have LA Dolce Vita, 4942 HWY 98 West in Santa Rosa (8506221119) and La Fiamma 529 East HWY 98 in Destin (8506549880). They are somewhat fancy but not too much so. Entrees start at around 15.00 and go up to 31.00. If you like escargot then you must try theirs - it's great. It's a special place that serves delicious northern Italian. They have an ample menu and I think anyone could find something tasty. They also have an Italian market where you can get some of their entrees to heat up at home.

      Destin Chops is fine but not my personal favorite. It's a little too stuffy. There is also Seagar's which is just as good if not better (located at the Hilton Sandestin)

      Marina Café has won numerous awards - it's located at Destin Harbor 8508377960 and runs on the expensive side.

      Flamingo Café (DestIn Harbor)and the Elephant Walk (Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort) are also very good places for special occasions.

      Captain Daves is very popular seafood place that is right on the beach. Menu items start at around 16.95 a plate and go up to 35.00 It's located at 3796 Old Highway 98 in Destin - 8508372627

      Eat at the Donut Hole if you get a chance to get a seat. It's a very popular place for breakfast. It's open for lunch too and maybe for dinner?

      Above all have a great time!!

      1. Sue, I sent out a request for you on the Fodor's site as well. Ever heard of Sandor's European Cuisine in Seagrove? Know anything about it?

        1. There are two different McGuire's, both on US 98. The downtown Pensacola one by the Civic Center is the original one, and the Destin one by East Pass followed a couple years later. IIRC, Crabs! on Pensacola Beach also has the same ownership.

          Flamingo Cafe is no more. The owners retired a couple years back, and Destin Chops moved from their old location at the Yacht Club to the Flamingo Cafe building.

          Elephant Walk got renamed Finz about 2-3 years ago, and recently got trashed by the NWF Daily News' food critic for really letting the old Elephant Walk quality go, and turning into an overpriced tourist trap.

          Sandor's was closed, last I heard. Rumor has it that Sandor got sick of dealing with tourists that got snippy to him, and he headed to friendlier places.

          One new mid-price lunch place with potential is Fabrice's on US 98 in South Walton. Reasonable prices by that area's standard, and the owner used to be the pastry chef at Criolla's.

          1. Beachmouse, I am really sorry to hear that Sandor's closed. Given my Hungarian background, I was really looking forward to going there. Ever eaten at Trattoria Borago? I read some good reviews and we love Italian food.