Chapel Hill to Jacksonville, then West across FL. Where should we stop?
We're going to Florida panhandle and need great places to stop for lunch and dinner. Any recommendations? We might be able to make Savannah for lunch if we leave early enough. Then overnight in/around Jacksonville. Dinner and breakfast suggestions? Then a stop for lunch somewhere in North Florida. Final destination will be around Destin/Sandestin.
Looking for good food and nice places (in that order). No BBQ joints. Thanks for suggestions.
Thanks to all posts, especially Mikah and all the links. We are on our way and will report when we get back. We are planning Chapel Hill to Ponte Vedra Beach to Apalachicola to Sandestin and depending on what we find, either return via Atlanta or maybe back to Apalachicola and then wandering back with a stop for lunch at Liam's in Thomasville, GA.
Thanks to fellow Hounds, we had great trip and lots of good food. Also found some real Hound places I'd like to pass along.
Lunch in Savannah first day was fabulous. Used GPS to find Toucan Cafe which is well off the beaten path and behind another building so it's not easy to find. But food was wonderful - we had samon cakes and moroccan salmon which was lunch special. Service was quick and professional, room was bright and cheery and we were off I-95, well fed and back on I-95 within about an hour. A good stop.
Overnight in Jacksonville and in the morning, we headed West. Got lucky in Apalachicola when we found Avenue Sea was open for Sunday brunch. It was wonderfull and we would have and should have returned for dinner later on in the week except the drive was much longer than we anticipated. It is a serious restaurant that merits time and attention. It is very, very good. After day spent exploring Apalachicola, we stopped at The Owl Cafe for early dinner before heading to Destin. Oysters and crab cakes were both great.
In Destin area, we loved New Orleans food at Royal B, had soup and appetizers which left room for desert. Onion Soup made with roux was quite interesting and very tasty. BBQ shrimp were different from Emerils but equally delish. Also enjoyed scallops and Oysters Vieux Carre, and Chocolate Cake. Recommend them all. Bistro Bijoux was also good for dinner in Sandestin. Again had appetizers for dinner and enjoyed them immensely. Someone we met suggested we not miss Dewey Destin for the freshest seafood. It is a shack on a dirt street just before the bridge going west in Destin. Our concierge talked us out of it and sent us to Capt. Dave's on the Gulf. When will we ever learn? Go for the dive. Which we did as we made our way to Ponte Vedra Beach. Lulu's Waterfront Grille is a much nicer dive on the water. Oysters were fresh and burger was done rare as ordered. Only glitch was being charged $4.50 for two iced teas which we didn't order and didn't receive. I honestly believe this was not a mistake because when we questioned waiter about it, he immediately pointed out he hadn't charged us for the one beer we had. So my advice is enjoy the food and the setting but check your tab.
Thanks again, everyone, for helpful advice. It was great trip that introduced us to part of FL we hadn't seen before. We loved Sandestin and watching the sun rise and set over the water every day. We'll be back and hopefully hit all the places we missed.
Thanks for great responses. I had something tucked away in my let's go there someday file on Apalachicola. Thanks for reminding me, Mikeh. We'll be there and maybe add a day to the trip so we can have dinner at The Gibson Inn. We're now good to go in Jacksonville thanks to Frankel. However I'm still stumped for somewhere to stop for lunch between here and Jax. I though the days of grilling Gruyere and Onion sandwiches on the engine were over. I still hope we can do better.
We are planning to come back through Atlanta. The food bar at Emeril's is always a treat.
I agree with all the above posts about Jax. Chew and Bistro Aix are my favs. Biscottis does a good brunch (not sure about breakfast). I make the trip from NC to jax several times a year, and unfortunately you may do best with packing a lunch. I have yet to find anything worthwhile for great lunch.
If you search th florida board, there's a number of recs for the Jacksonville are for breakfast( Mimi's, Metro diner, Bistro Biscotti) and dinner ( Bistor Aix, Crush, Chews ) and a recent thread on BBQ if you care to compare versus that in the Triangle.
Coming West, going I-10 to Live Oak and then cutting down to 27/98 is a scenic way to go. And Apalachicola would be a good stopping point, thus Avenue of the Sea would a good lunch stop as you have about 100 miles or so to go to Destin. If you want to see country and have the time, go this route.
If you like driving faster, go the 1-10 to 231. You'll be hitting Tallahassee about 2.5 hours after leaving JAX and still have 2.5 + hours trip and there's nothing on the interstate except fast food joints. Of the recs mikeh noted, Sage is the closest to I-10. Mozaik on Market is also in the same area and if you just want sandwiches, Hopkins Eatery,across market from Mozaik, is relatively easy to get to and get back on to I-10.
Take bbqme's "mother-in-law" route home and the complete triangle.
My mother-in-law lived in Destin and when we went to visit her from Chapel Hill, we always took I75-I85-331 down. I'd say I95-I10 route is like the two sides of a triangle whereas the other route is the hypotenuse. Also, Atlana served as a great half-way point and we ate at lots of great ethnic joints, espeically Indian food.
I would recommend eating at the beach if you had more time.
But since it is just overnight I would suggest staying in the Southside area which doesn't take you to far off of I-95. Tons of restaurants from fast food to sitdown dinner places and nightlife if you feel like going out. There is a Candlewood and Holiday Inn in the area. Kaki Japanese restaurant and Copelands are two restaurants in that area.
If you do want to do something a little more upscale then venture over to San Marco (close to downtown). Excellent food can be found at BiBi's, Bistro Aix and Mathew's. These are a bit pricier.
Honestly, there are so many good restaurants it's hard to choose.
You have two possible routes west across N. Florida
Route 1: I-10 through Tallahassee
Kool Beanz Cafe - http://www.koolbeanz-cafe.com/
Sage Restaurant - http://www.sagetallahassee.com/
Cypress Restaurant - http://www.cypressrestaurant.com/ (dinner only
Food Glorious Food - http://www.foodgloriousfood.com/
Route 2: Hwy 98 along the coast
Spring Creek, FL - Spring Creek Restaurant (best casual seafood I've had anywhere) - http://www.florida-secrets.com/Restaurants/ENW/Spring.htm
Panacea, FL - Angelo and Son's Seafood (something of a local legend) - http://www.angeloandsonsseafoodrestaurant.com/
Eastpoint, FL - That Place on 98 - funky seafood restaurant on the water - http://www.thatplaceon98.net/
Avenue Sea (perhaps the best restaurant in all of N. Florida - chef formally worked with Thomas Keller at French Laundry, arguably the best restaurant in the United States) - http://www.gibsoninn.com/pages/restaurant.htm (dinner only
Owl Cafe - http://www.owlcafeflorida.com/owl_cafe_home/owl_cafe_home.htm
Tamara's Cafe Floridita - http://www.tamarascafe.com/
Chef Eddie's Magnolia Grill (the dolphin pontchatrain is one of the best single seafood dishes I've ever had) - http://www.chefeddiesmagnoliagrill.com/ (dinner only
Seaside, FL - Bud and Alley's - great place for a drink with an ocean view and fresh seafood, and great sashimi-grade tuna steaks - http://www.budandalleys.com/
Watercolor, FL - http://www.watercolorinn.com/pdfs/foow_menu_2005.pdf
Seaside, FL - Cafe Thirty-A - http://www.cafethirtya.com/ (dinner only
All of the restaurants I've listed are worth a visit (in other words, up to Triangle standards, and beyond in some cases, but offering a different flavor than what you can get around these parts) - you won't be disappointed.