Best of the Emerald Coast 2010
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2010 Best of the Emerald CoastPlay favorites with us at the 2010 Best Of the Emerald Coast AwardsBy Zandra Wolfgram
After a decade, the Best Of the Emerald Coast Awards is still one of the most popular events of the season. After all, it showcases the best food and beverages, shopping, entertainment and services available along the Emerald Coast.
We all play favorites at one time or another. Whether it’s splurging on fine dining, sipping a martini, indulging in a spa treatment or finding the perfect gift for a friend, we are happy to share our best local secrets with anyone who asks. When we find someone reliable to care for our landscaping, handle our taxes or realize our interior design dreams, we are that much closer to being the best we can be.
Are your favorites among the winners? We hope so. Celebrate with them at the annual Best Of the Emerald Coast Awards ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 16, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Destin Commons. The event, which is open to the public, promises an evening of food, fun, fashion and entertainment. Enjoy complimentary food and beverages and sample products and services from many of the “Best Of” category winners.
Tickets are $25 in advance or $35 at the door; proceeds benefit the Junior League of the Emerald Coast. To purchase tickets, visit jrleague.com for a list of ticket locations.
And now, on with the show. The readers of Emerald Coast Magazine cast their votes, and the ballots have been counted. We congratulate the 2010 winners of the Best Of the Emerald Coast and thank them for making our region the best destination ever.
Food & Beverage
Best Appetizer | Bonefish Grill
Bonefish Grill tops the list of favorite appetizers with its Bang Bang Shrimp and Bacon Wrapped Atlantic Sea Scallops — perfect as a first course, or order several and share them with the table. Destin.
Best Bagel Shop | Not Just Bagels
With 22 straight-from-the oven gourmet bagels, breads and pastries, Not Just Bagels will have you in comfort-food heaven. All toppings and fillings are also made fresh every day. For lunch, enjoy the decadent sandwiches on freshly baked rye, focaccia, sourdough, sun-dried tomato or whole wheat bread. Destin.
Best Bakery | Donut Hole
The Donut Hole offers Southern comfort food around the clock and is famous for its homemade key lime pie. Fashioned from an old house, the renovated building has booth and counter seating. Waiting is fun on the swinging deck chair. Destin.
Best Barbecue | Jim ’n Nick’s Bar-B-Q
A 25-year tradition of “patience, passion and pride” makes Jim ’n Nick’s stand out among the crowd. The restaurant refuses to cut corners, instead smoking meats for 14 hours in hickory. The result? Dishes such as slow-smoked baby back and spare ribs, hand-pulled pork and sliced Angus beef brisket are the best. Destin.
Best Bloody Mary | The Red Bar
A favorite among locals, visitors and celebrities, The Red Bar is a must-visit when in Grayton Beach. Come for lunch or dinner (or a little later) to kick back on the funky furniture and listen to live music while enjoying great food and cocktails — especially the award-winning bloody mary. Cheers. Grayton Beach.
Best Breakfast | Another Broken Egg Café
What do you get when you combine a wide variety of delicious breakfast and brunch foods, affordable prices and a warm and inviting atmosphere? An egg-ceptional breakfast experience that earns Another Broken Egg Café its 10th year in the Best Breakfast spot. Destin, Grayton Beach and Miramar Beach.
Best Brunch | Fire
With New Orleans natives in the kitchen, it’s no surprise that this casual fine-dining restaurant is hot. Situated in a small house washed in warm, rich colors, Fire’s menu says its flavors range from adventurous to familiar comfort. Brunch is easily a romantic affair with creative choices such as strawberry, white chocolate and cream cheese pancakes, Eggplant Benedict and Louisiana crawfish frittata. Grayton Beach.
Best Buffet | Golden Corral
This family-style chain restaurant offers the biggest and best buffet in town, with selections of meat, pasta, pizza, fresh vegetables, a salad bar and a meat-carving station. Be sure to save room for the large selection of baked goods and desserts, made fresh every day by the staff. Destin.
Best Buffalo Wings | Buffalo’s Reef
An experiment on a cold, windy night in 1964 led to the creation of Buffalo wings. Several regulars at the Anchors Bar in Buffalo, N.Y., were drinking beer and getting hungry. The barkeep’s mother improvised a snack of deep-fried chicken wings basted in hot sauce and served with celery sticks and bleu cheese. The snack was a hit — eventually spreading to other restaurants in the area and all the way down to the Emerald Coast. You may never make it to that bar in New York, but the wings at Buffalo’s Reef are prepared the same way — and you just saved yourself a 20-hour drive. Destin and Fort Walton Beach.
Best Cajun | Louisiana Lagniappe
Just as the name suggests, you can expect to find “a little something extra” here. If the long list of Cajun favorites, such as lobster tail, shrimp étouffée and Cajun seafood gumbo, doesn’t grab your attention, the stunning sunsets over Destin Harbor surely will. There’s no masking it: Louisiana Lagniappe does New Orleans proud. Destin.
Best Casual Dining | Zoës Kitchen
At Zoë’s, using simple, close-to-the-garden ingredients is the foundation of all the recipes at this casual establishment. Whether you choose the grilled turkey and Swiss “Gruben” or the ever-popular Greek chicken marinara, you will always feel at home at Zoës. Destin.
Best Catering | Sarah K’s Gourmet
Ever since this takeout gourmet shop opened, it has received honors on the “Best Of” list. And it’s no surprise. Owner Sarah K. Schreifer makes gourmet easy with a nice selection of chef-crafted, ready-to-heat cuisine — including her world-famous lump crab cakes — made from only the finest ingredients. Destin.
Best Chef | Clovis Da Silva, Fat Clemenza’s Brick Oven Pizzeria
Though Brazilian, Da Silva has been in American kitchens for 18 years. He brought his Italian “chops” to Fat Clemenza’s two years ago. His homemade soups are popular, but this executive chef’s favorite dish is pan-seared grouper with champagne sauce served over angel hair pasta. If you’re lucky, you’ll find it on the blackboard as a weekly special. Miramar Beach.
Best Chinese | PF Chang’s China Bistro
Each dish on their extensive menu is prepared to order using only the freshest and highest-quality ingredients. Is it any wonder that PF Chang’s China Bistro is once again a local top pick? Miramar Beach.
Best Coffee | Starbucks Coffee
Starbucks figures that putting people before products makes good sense. Its relationships with farmers yields the highest-quality coffees, and the connections it makes in communities create a loyal following. Serving the finest coffees in the world with friendly service, Starbucks Coffee is a local favorite. Multiple locations.
Best Dessert | The Melting Pot, a Fondue Restaurant
If you simply melt over delicious desserts, The Melting Pot is for you. The chocolate fondue portion of the four-course meal truly becomes a memorable experience when you dip strawberries, cake and marshmallows into the heavenly, warm dip. Miramar Beach.
Best Fine Dining | Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood
Located on the lower level of Hilton Sandestin’s Emerald Tower, Seagar’s offers the most elegant table on the Emerald Coast. Modeled after the most renowned city restaurants in America, Seagar’s continues to be extolled by critics as one of the best restaurants around. Miramar Beach.
Best French Restaurant | Bistro Bijoux Restaurant and Spirits
Located in The Village of Baytowne Wharf at Sandestin, this French bistro features coastal cuisine and a bit of New Orleans flair in a relaxed, romantic atmosphere. Chef Jack McGuckin favors simple dishes with local, seasonal ingredients. Miramar Beach.
Best Gourmet/Food Shop | The Fresh Market
The name says it all. Fresh food, seasonal selections and an abundance of hard-to-find gourmet items makes a stop at Fresh Market a convenient and delicious shopping experience. Destin.
Best Grocery Store | Publix Super Markets
Perhaps it’s the friendly service, or maybe it’s the abundance of fresh fruits and organic products, that keeps people coming back to Publix. After 80 years, more than 900 locations and another year on the “Best Of” list, the chain is obviously doing something right. Destin.
Best Hamburger | McGuire’s Irish Pub
A longtime local favorite, McGuire’s offers 25 different trimmings for its giant, custom-ground steak burger. While enjoying your burger at this turn-of-the-century style New York Irish saloon, be sure to whet your whistle with some of McGuire’s own brew. Destin.
Best Happy Hour | Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
With 100 wines to choose from, raising a glass with family and friends is easy at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Grand Boulevard. Pair your wine with the finest prime steak, aged to perfection. Hear, hear. Miramar Beach.
Best Hot Dog | Dave’s Dogs
Hot diggity dog. Dave’s Dogs has served more than a million delicious hot dogs to locals and visitors to the Destin area. What’s the secret for serving up the best dog in town? As Dave says, “It’s all in the bun.” Destin.
Best Ice Cream Shop | Cold Stone Creamery
Cold Stone Creamery has made ice cream a deliciously creative experience. Choose your favorite topping and watch the staff hand-mix your treat on a frozen slab of granite. It’s the ultimate ice cream experience. Destin.
Best Italian Restaurant | Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Carrabba’s blends warm Italian hospitality with family recipes that have been handed down for four generations. One taste and you’ll know why this chain is the top choice for Best Italian Restaurant. Destin.
Best Locally Owned Restaurant | Callahan’s Restaurant and Deli
From burgers to prime rib, Callahan’s aims to please with generous portions of delicious food. In addition to the fresh sandwiches, pastas and salads, the restaurant offers nightly dinner specials. Try the fried grouper tacos — and save room for cheesecake for dessert. Destin.
Best Margarita | Cantina Laredo
This authentic Mexican restaurant pours the best margaritas in town. Cantina Laredo offers an impressive line, such as tequilas from triple-distilled and aged brands that, once again, make the margaritas la fabulosa. Miramar Beach.
Best Martini | Bonefish Grill
The Ocean Trust, Lemongrass, Espresso and Chocolate are just a few of the martinis that draw locals and visitors alike to this hopping restaurant and bar. Enjoy award-winning appetizers and delicious seafood selections. Destin.
Best Mexican/Latin American Restaurant | Pepito’s Mexican Restaurant
Pepito’s serves up delicious and healthy Mexican dishes made with only the freshest ingredients. This attention to detail has earned this authentic Mexican restaurant a longtime spot on our “Best Of” list. Destin.
Best Mojito | Tommy Bahama’s Tropical Café
Raise a toast to living the beach life at this elegant, tropical-themed restaurant with the Million Dollar Mojito and follow with a fine meal of delicious fresh seafood. Be sure to save room for dessert — the Piña Colada Cake is a slice of heaven. Miramar Beach.
Best Outdoor Bar | AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar
Relics of Destin’s past hover overhead and photographs of yesteryear adorn the wooden walls at this famous bar, which overlooks the bustling Destin Harbor. Teeming plates of steamed seafood, juicy steaks, salads, sandwiches and amazing pasta and chicken dishes are on the menu. The Oyster Bar is a hopping place for the entire family, couples or a group of old friends. After drinks or dinner, stroll the Tiki Village and admire the beautiful boats along the boardwalk. Destin.
Best Outdoor Dining | Harry T’s
With a history as long as the neck of Stretch, the stuffed-and-mounted giraffe in the back room of the restaurant, Harry T’s has sailed its way into the hearts of many. The boathouse is a favorite place for sipping suds in the coastal breeze. Destin.
Best Pizza | Fat Clemenza’s Brick-Oven Pizzeria
The menu at this quaint pizzeria is pure Neapolitan, handmade by pizza master Alfonzo D. Bonito. All pizzas are made with homemade dough and pizza sauce, and each pizza is hand-tossed and wood-fired to perfection. Miramar Beach.
Best Romantic Restaurant | The Melting Pot, a Fondue Restaurant
At the Melting Pot, fondue truly becomes a memorable four-course dining experience. Dip into something different and discover all the ingredients for a unique dining experience, including a relaxed atmosphere, private tables, attentive service, fine wines, and signature fondue dinners and desserts. Miramar Beach.
Best Sandwich Shop | Lenny’s Sub Shop
After being greeted with a warm welcome, place your order at the deli bar. Choose from hot or cold deli sandwiches or salads. You build your sandwich or salad the way you like it. The menu features fresh Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, garden toppings and Lenny’s signature pepper relish. Top your lunch with your choice of bagged chips and a freshly baked cookie. Destin and Fort Walton Beach.
Best Seafood Market | Destin Ice Seafood Market & Deli
Everything you need for a cook-at-home meal is at Destin Ice Seafood Market & Deli, which earns it top honors in the Seafood Market category. The market offers a wide selection of fresh fish and seafood, Buckhead meats, desserts, wines, cheese, spices, sauces and seasonings. Entertaining? Try one of the gourmet-to-go selections. Destin.
Best Seafood Restaurant | Dewey Destin Seafood
Taste more than 100 years of Destin history as you bite into a delicious grouper sandwich or dig into the famous smoked tuna dip. A local icon, Dewey Destin specializes in fresh seafood in a relaxed atmosphere. Situated in an old beach house overlooking the romantic Destin Harbor, Dewey’s is a great place for family dining or a romantic date. At the original location, you can enjoy the same great seafood as you sit at rustic tables along a dock overlooking the bay. Destin.
Best Service (Food and Beverage) | Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood
This intimate restaurant offers a total fine-dining experience, including captain service, tableside preparation of select menu items and a cozy lounge with live piano entertainment. The five-star establishment boasts a wine list with more than 800 labels, garnering raves from critics throughout the region. Miramar Beach.
Best Sports Bar | Johnny O’Quigley’s Irish Pub & Grille
Johnny O’Quigley’s hits a home run with sports enthusiasts. Not only is the food a winner, but the 48 television sets covering the walls and tableside TVs, showing almost any sport, scores big with sports fans. Destin.
Best Steakhouse | Ruth’s Chris Steak House
When you dine at Ruth’s Chris, you soon understand that this is no ordinary restaurant. From the U.S. Prime steaks, broiled to perfection at 1,800 degrees, to the expertly executed seafood, New Orleans-inspired appetizers, unforgettable desserts and award-winning wine list, this is a steakhouse to which others aspire. Celebrate a special occasion in the private glass room at a table for two, or bring a large party for a holiday event. Destin.
Best Sushi | Harbor Docks
Since 1979, this weather-worn cottage overlooking Destin’s scenic harbor has served up the best sushi in town. There are six sushi bars that feature a large sushi and sashimi selection made fresh daily by master sushi chefs. The menu also features fresh seafood served fried, sautéed or boiled. Look for weekly specials and enjoy live music on the deck. Destin.
Best Thai | Royal Orchid Thai Cuisine
Escape to Thailand at this authentic Thai restaurant. Sink into a traditional sunken Thai table surrounded by pillows or dine American style at a table or booth. The cabbage salad topped with peanut sauce, flavorful soups, fresh spring rolls and hearty rich or noodle dishes are all delicious. The family-operated business offers exceptional service and a just-right touch of Asian ambiance. Destin.
Best Wine List | Vin’tij Wine Boutique
Vin’tij Wine Boutique pours some of the finest wines from the most respected vineyards in the world. This vibrant restaurant, filled with local art, also serves lunch and dinner with impeccable wine pairings from its extensive collection. If you loved your wine, you can purchase it at the wine store. Learn more about wine by taking a wine class or attending tasting events. Destin.
Best Wine Shop | Chan’s Wine World
With an impressive selection of more than 1,000 wines and a casual atmosphere in which to browse, Chan’s Wine World has become a favorite of many. Chan Cox is the go-to wine guru on the Gulf Coast. Chan’s Wine World features weekly wine tastings, annual events and education classes. Destin.