Any good food in Destin?
With a little work, you can find good local and semi-local fish and seafood, though a lot of the shrimp is imported, so ask about origins. Most of everything else is trucked in since the local agriculture scene is largely cotton, forest products, and missiles. (look at the map and note the size of Eglin AFB)
The local Thai food scene is excellent to above average depending on where you're coming from. (We like Jasmine Thai over by Destin Publix) There are some decent sushi options, though a purist would probably cringe at some rolls. (I like Red Ginger north of the toll bridge in Bluewater Bay and Sushimoto over by the outlet mall) We generally don't get fish in Destin these days because Dockside in Niceville cheaper/closer and more consistent in terms of food for us, but I'm not sure if you'd find it worth the drive from Destin. (Though if you're at VPS airport around meal time, I'd call them a good option.) For an old school fish camp experience, try Nick's in Basin Bayou and try not to it the owner's chickens in the parking lot. Their sides are ordinary, but when everything is clicking, they've got an excellent touch with fish. Though in the off season, call ahead for hours since they tend to have some closed days this time of year. I've also heard a lot of good buzz about Marie's Bistro in an unassuming strip mall in Blue Mountain Beach.
Dewey Destin's is good about sourcing their seafood, but how well it's prepared can be a little inconsistent. And someone linked there recommended Pompano Joe's, which has some seriously non-local fish sourcing issues. I'll say that the Red Bar is fun and good about turning out a consistently reliable product, but their fries and onion rings are a little on the greasy side for me.
I am not a big fan of Pampano Joe's, other than the location. I do frequent the Red Bar but always go on the weekend for the crab cakes. Crab cakes there are excellent and only served Fri. Sat. and Sun. The Red Bar is an experience in and of itself! I have only been to Cafe Tango once but my husband and I agreed it was good but not worth the $$$. Stinky's is amazing!
Please note that the Red Bar is in Grayton Beach and Stinky's is in Blue Mountain Beach-both east of Destin.
Lots of info about the area and restaurants here: http://sowal.com/ The forum is made up primarily of locals.
Definitely seek our Marie's - everything we sampled there last winter was perfection and pricing is incredibly reasonable. MARIE’S BISTRO & CATERING 2260 W 30-a, Santa Rosa Beach, Fl. 32459 – our best and favorite find in 2011! (850) 837-7538. http://catering-destin.com/Bistro_Menu.html. Mediterranean cuisine and sushi, with additional features, space and a liquor license having been added since our February 2011 visit.
I am also partial to Shoo Mama's on 98 where we enjoyed a nice meal. I'd steer clear of Dewey's on 98 (the original shack on the pier off Calhoun Street can be good for lunch).
Callahans Restaurant & Deli (850) 837-6328 791 Harbor Blvd, Destin, FL 32541 features a Pick-your-own beef meat case, some fresh fish selections, and homemade sides. Crowded at peak times, fair prices.
If you enjoy wine, you might like (Vin' tij) Wine Boutique, (850) 650-9820. Rt 98 in Miramar Beach. Eclectic menu and optional wine flights with meals, full retail wine market with decent pricing and nice food.
I actually prefer Louis Louis to Red Bar. West end of 98, 1.5 miles east of 30A/98 intersection (Gas Station with Subway) – is similar to The Red Bar and owned by the same family. Eclectic décor, excellent food and service (they also do the famous crab cakes on Friday nights). Save room for dessert! No credit cards, personal checks accepted, ATM on premises.
I am hoping to try Fire in its new location this year closer to Destin - Gulf Place, 7 Town Center Loop, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459 (Just off the intersection of HWY 393 and 30A).
Brunch: Sunday: 11:00am - 2:00pm
Dinner: Monday - Saturday: 5:30pm - 10:00pm
Lunch: Tuesday- Friday: 11:00am - 2:30pm
http://www.restaurantfire.com/. Fire recently promoted Chris Mongogna to Executive Chef – I’m very excited by the menu and his commitment to local products. Priced commiserate to quality – neither cheap nor excessive, and said to be the best Sunday brunch in the area.
In the same Gulf Place plaza is Smiling Fish Cafe, 850-622-3071, Gulf Place, Corner Hwy. 30-A and 393. Wen they’re on, they’re fabulous. We had a terrific dinner in 2011. Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m., Dinner: Tues-Sat 5:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. Al Fresco Gulf-View Dining. http://www.smilingfishcafe.com/
Finally, there is a new game in town: – Tightlines has taken the old Lucky Snapper space at 76 Harbor Blvd Destin FL and is getting good reviews from the locals. www.tightlinesdestin.com They claim to serve local fish and seafood, and the Apalachicola Oysters have gotten raves from at least one local food person I correspond with, though I haven't yet been there myself.
Thanks to all of you for your input. In that this was a work trip, I had somewhat limited time to seek out interesting dining, but here is my report. The first night we went to Jasmine and were very well treated (thanks beachmouse!) Paul (the owner) took our order... I asked him what to eat and he first steered me to the "most popular" dish. I pushed back a little and said I wanted something authentic and didn't care about popular, and he then said "how hot can you take it?" whereupon he suggested a dish called "Crying Tiger" he's been working on that is not on the menu and we took it. Beef marinated for 5 days or so in something secret and served VERY spicy hot even ordered "medium" - but complex and delicious, served with rice and lettuce. Really good. Followed by a sweet rice with a coconut sauce and ice cream, just the ticket to cool our palates. The second day we worked 11 hours and I hadn't had time to figure out another restaurant so we returned to Jasmine...this time 2 good appetizers and a $22 fish soup that served 2 nicely. Each dinner for 2 came to just over $50 with 2 beers each, a fine deal. The third night we also worked late and were well east of Destin in Watercolor, so we went to the aptly named Red Bar, a perfect Florida beach bar experience. The wine was lousy, but I guess you don't really order wine at a place like this, and the food was really pretty good and the service and environment most entertaining. Blackened grouper with some kind of fried cheesy grit cake and greens, followed by key lime pie and bread pudding. No complaints. The last night we wanted to get on the road back to KY so we grabbed something on the way but didn't get to try any of your other recommendations. I am hoping we get back at least once next year for that. Thanks again for your suggestions.