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Destin Florida Restaurants

We are taking our three kids (ages 2 to 9) to Destin for the first time in July and wanted some suggestions for great places to eat - obviously not too chic or fancy since we will have kids. We love seafood (of course), sushi, Thai/Vietnamese, but are generally appreciative of all good ideas - dives, nicer places, etc., as long as they are good food with good atmosphere. Many thanks, chowhounds!

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  1. Save for maybe five places I can think of, most of the restaurants in town are very kid-friendly. A couple to start with that might work well for you:

    Osaka- Japanese/sushi. Nicer atmosphere. They're used to kids of all ages. If anyone starts to get antsy, a lot of kids will enjoy spending a couple of minutes watching the koi ponds outside the restaurant.

    Dewey Destin's- rustic, on the docks/over the water. Very good fish (though average fries) Lots of things to watch- birds, fish in the water, boats on the water, other kids, while you're waiting for food. Turn north at the absolutely last street before you get to the Destin-Okaloosa Island Bridge

    3-Thirty-1- small but good menu. Kids can play along the edge of the bay while you're waiting for food

    Red Bar/Piccolo's- same ownership/similar menu as the 3-Thirty-1

    I used to recommend Royal Orchid west of the outlet mall for good Thai, but they've been a bit hit or miss since the ownership change. Not awful, but just not their former standard of awesomeness.

    2 Replies
    1. re: beachmouse

      I concur on Thai Orchid. I may be wrong but I think Red Bar may be closed temporarily due to a water problem (?)

      I think your other suggestions are great....very hard area to find non-chain, well done food of fair value.

      1. re: FoodisArt

        AFAIK, it's the Sea Bar (same ownership as 3-Thirty-1 and right across the street from it) that's closed for the summer because of water and some kitchen repair issues.

        I don't think it's that hard to find the good stuff, but then we've been here long enough to settle into a routine of regular stops and find the places off the beaten path. (Who would have thought that the little place in the Bluewater Marina complex has one of the best and cheapest grilled grouper sandwiches in the area?)

    2. Pompano Joes is very kid-friendly, casual, and right on the beach. The restaurant is mostly open air so no matter where you sit you have great views of the water. Parents enjoy because they do not have to worry about the kids being too noisy or even running to the hotel to get ready for dinner as lots of the patrons show up still in beach wear. The menu is pretty basic, but good. Fresh shrimp cocktail, coconut shrimp, and the tuna melts are considered the standouts of the menu by my family.

      4 Replies
      1. re: ArikaDawn

        Pompano Joe's has been getting by on location for years. Quality of food there tends to run from average to poor, and we've got our suspicions that the grouper and snapper on the menu is actually Vietnamese catfish (a cheaper fish that some restuarants substitute to try to trim costs)

        I only go there when coerced to do so by out of town family.

        1. re: beachmouse

          That's such a shame. Everyone we know who has been there has been very pleased. Granted I have not personally been in about six years, but I hate to think they've declined in such a way.

          1. re: ArikaDawn

            Part of the problem is that it's a unit of a 'stealth chain' restaurant group that's got about ten different places between the Alabama GC and Panama City, (Also in that group are Back Porch, Grazi, Fisherman's Wharf, and Louisiana Laginappe) and the ownership seems to figure that there will always be a new group of tourists that want to eat while watching the Gulf, so they don't have to worry too much about drawing repeat business.

            1. re: beachmouse

              Didn't know that - La Lagniappe has always been excellent, and definitely knows the value of repeat customers.

      2. The Smiling Fish Cafe (on the beach side.....its a beach community near Destin..Santa Rosa beach) was a lovely place for lunch when I was there last month....you can eat outside and enjoy lovely water views. Great salads, and check out the bread pudding if they have it for desert. Everything was fresh and tasty. I think they are open for dinner too. The beach across the street is great!!...and if the kids get bored someone can run down to the beach with them while you finish your meals......

        3 Replies
        1. re: janetofreno

          I would add Harbour Docks to this list as a very kid-friendly place that serves both sushi and "regular" seafood. The extensive sushi menu is only available at the sushi-bar but they do serve the basic rolls in the restaurant along with everything else. It's been in Destin for years and is on the water........If you're actually staying IN Destin, Red Bar could be a 30 minute drive or so from where you are staying; also note that both 3-Thirty-One and Red Bar are cash only establishments.

          If you want a good fish market rec, definitely go to Skipper's in Destin. They have the best smoked tuna dip. They're located on the other side of the strip mall that has the Bruno's grocery store across the street from the outlet malls.

          If you venture into Seaside, the frozen sangria at Spiaggia is a nice cool adult treat in the summer (they will put it in a to-go cup for you). They also have great pizza and are in the middle of Seaside which is very kid-friendly.

          Enjoy! Can't wait to get back down there myself.

          1. re: jcr05

            One more thing; you've got to take the kids to the Donut Hole. It's a Destin mainstay and has not only terrific donuts, but a great grilled cheese as well. The original location is in Destin and a second is past SanDestin towards Seaside right on the main highway. They serve breakfast/lunch/dinner.

            1. re: jcr05

              Harbor Docks drive a lot of the locals nuts. They use very high quality ingredients, and even supply fish for a bunch of other restaurants in town. But it's one of those places where the quality of people in the kitchen varies so widely at times, and we don't go back there anymore because of one too many times they've destroyed what started out as an absolutely exquisite piece of grouper.

              Grabbing take-out and picnicing at the beach can work out well if you've got a fussy toddler. I've heard good things about Heart & Soul (far west end of 30-A by Butler Elementary) or if you're looking for Destin proper, Fresh Market, Publix, and Zoe's all have decent take-out options.

          2. Wow - Thanks so much chowhounds! A special thanks to Beachmouse who got the reactions from all hounds going. This is a nice list of ideas - and I sincerely appreciate it! Are there any good sandwich/hamburger places in case someone doesn't like/want seafood? Also, to beachmouse - which place is in the Bluewater Marina with the best grilled grouper sandwiches -is that Dewey Destin's or 3 Thirty 1? Or something else altogether. Thanks again - we will be there in 15 days and I can't wait. We're staying at Edgewater Condos so I am hoping that some of these places are nearby...:)

            3 Replies
            1. re: agulledge

              Something else altogether. From FL 20 in Niceville, take Bay Drive south until you get to the marina area. Drive through a parking lot with a lot of youngish live oaks until you get to the building that houses the marina offices. There's a little bar & grill to the right once you get inside called L.J. Schooner's. We've had the occasional clunker there, but overall are running a 90% or so success rate for good.

              It's a hike from Edgewater, but if you're coming or going from Destin, it can be a nice stop for when you aren't dealing with the madnes.

              As for Edgewater, it's not really really close to much besides the outlet mall and Sandestin (which tends to be vastly overpriced for what you get) but not too far of a drive from a bunch more stuff. There's supposed to be good BBQ just east of the outlet mall. I think it's called Pig Alley or something similar.

              For sanwiches, there are a couple of suggestion above, and I'd add Fabrice's on U.S. 98 in Walton County to the list. I haven't eaten red meat in about ten years so can't give a hamburger rec, but I've got a lot of friends that like Tops, and there's one of those in the carwash over by Emerald Bay GC, I think.

              For groceries, skip the place near Edgewater, and hit Publix (locations in Sandestin and near the Mid Bay Bridge) or Fresh Market instead. Fresh Market also has some good prepackaged stuff for when you don't want to fuss.

              1. re: beachmouse

                The BBQ at Pig Alley is good..it's just past the outlet malls across the street from the entrance to Hidden Dunes...if you get to Sandestin you've gone too far. It's in a little shack like building and they have great BBQ and sides....other than maybe a picnic table or 2 it's more of a pickup and go place; it is also right on the highway so would be loud to sit there and eat.

                1. re: jcr05

                  See my post a bit further down for some comments on Pig's Alley. We go there at least once each visit. The chicken is excellent and (IMO) the best thing to get there, though they have cut down on the size of the pieces they serve. Try mixing the white and red sauces together.

            2. Another fun place to take the kids would be to Baytowne Village in Sandestin. It's a fun entertainment/restaurant/retail complex where you can stroll down the streets with a drink in hand while your kids are entertained by street magicians, face painters, etc. They have a barbeque restaurant, a couple of seafood restaurants, a cajun restaurant, a steak house, a sushi restaurant, a casual american eatery and more. It's a great way to spend a fun night. Some nights have free movies on the green, other nights have live music. You can check out the offerings (both for entertainment and for restaurants and menus) at www.sandestin.com. We have enjoyed coming to Sandestin for this reason for many years and my 7 year old daughter and her friends and cousins love it as well.