Good Eats in Santa Rosa Beach
We are visiting SRB in mid April, and wondering what sort of restaurants are recommended? I've never really been to or eaten in Fla. How does the food compare to Louisiana - any good cajun or creole? What is considered good panhandle cuisine? Any particular specialties we shouldn't miss? Anything we should definitely miss?
For a good local restaurant board with a whole bunch of opinions, check out http://www.sowal.com/bb/
The cuisine of the central panhandle is one of those Florida mishmashes where the people who migrated here brough different things to the area. The cajun/creole influence is relatively new, probably the past 25 years or so as the Louisiana crowd started to vacation here and over time a certain number of them decided to stay for good.
The Emerald Grande condo complex on the far west side of Destin seems to be trying to recreate New Orleans. They've even got outposts of Commander's Palace and Pat O'Brien's there. (Just north of Emerald Grande is McGuire's, which is good for steak and seafood if you don't mind something of a Irish theme park experience)
Closer to SRB, I like the gumbo at both the Red Bar (Grayton Beach) and Kenny D's (Miramar Beach), though the non-gumbo at Kenny D's can be rather hit or miss. I've heard very good things about D&K's in Grayton Beach for cajun/creole, but haven't been there since they rennovated.
Ft. Walton Beach has a sizeable Thai community, and the Thai restaurants keep creeping eastward toward SRB. Our current fave is Jasmine Thai in the Destin Publix shopping center. Much better value than the fancier-looking place in Destin Commons across the road.
You'll find seafood just about anywhere. If you're into oysters, Apalachicola oysters are in season and relatively cheap.
Places to skip: Crab Trap, Joe's Crab Shack, Back Porch, Pompano Joe's Fisherman's Wharf. Just not good quality fish compared to what you get at many non-chain restaurants here.
I agree with Beachmouse, pretty much everything s/he said!
For New Orleans inspired food - D&K can't be beat. They are only open for lunch now, though, because Chef Doug has some back issues. But don't let that stop you!
We also like Fire and Stinky's Fish Camp, which both have NO influences. And Hurricane Oyster Bar, in the same complex as Fire, has an awesome happy hour if you like raw oysters.
My absolute favorite restaurant, though is Cafe Tango. Small and cozy - the Chef and his wife are putting out marvelous food in a special environment. Make a reservation no matter what day of the week it is; Tango is usually pretty full up, but no one is ever rushed to turn a table.
You can read my complete photo report on our 2008 trip to Destin here; all of the food is documented (except, sniff, Cafe Tango - I forgot my camera!):
Report back after your trip!