Best of the Emerald Coast 2011
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You have spoken, the votes have been tallied and the results are here. In this annual Best of the Emerald Coast issue, we recognize the fabulous work your favorite restaurants, shops and service providers do for you.
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.
Are your favorites among the winners? We hope so. Celebrate with them at the annual Best of the Emerald Coast Awards ceremony Saturday, Oct. 15, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Grand Boulevard. 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 winners.
Tickets are $25 in advance or $35 at the door; proceeds benefit the Junior League of the Emerald Coast. To purchase tickets, visit jlec.org for a list of ticket locations.
We congratulate the 2011 winners of The Best of the Emerald Coast and thank them for making our region the best destination ever.
Food and Beverage
Best Appetizer | Bonefish Grill
Again this year, Bonefish tops the list of favorite appetizers with its famous Bang Bang Shrimp tossed in a creamy spicy sauce. Also, try the Wagyu Beef and Ginger Dumplings, handmade with American-style Kobe and pan-seared with crispy shallots, Thai peppers and soy sauce. Destin and Pensacola.
Best Bagel Shop | Not Just Bagels
With two dozen flavors of fresh gourmet bagels, breads and pastries, as well as a variety of cream cheeses, Not Just Bagels will have you in comfort-food heaven. All toppings and fillings are also made fresh every day. And as the name implies, Not Just Bagels serves sandwiches too. Try the delicious chicken salad on a savory Swiss bagel. Destin.
Best Bakery | Panera Bread
Panera’s cozy cafes are everyday gathering places for casual work meetings, quiet chats with friends or some alone time to enjoy free Wi-Fi with a morning pastry. You can’t go wrong with the fresh Pecan Braid, a pastry dough twisted and braided with buttery ground pecans and sugar syrup, but other yummy possibilities include the Sesame Semolina and Three Cheese artisan breads. Destin and Fort Walton Beach.
Best Barbecue | Jim ’n Nick’s Bar-B-Q
It’s official. Jim ‘n Nick’s is the boss of the sauce. The restaurant refuses to cut corners, instead smoking meats for 14 hours in hickory. The result? Dishes such as slow-smoked baby back and spareribs, hand-pulled pork and sliced Angus beef brisket are definitely vote getters. Destin.
Best Bloody Mary | 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. Grayton Beach.
Best Breakfast | Another Broken Egg Café
Earning Best Breakfast for the 11th year in a row, Another Broken Egg Café boasts the most coveted breakfast in town. The café offers more than 130 delicious, home-cooked breakfast, brunch and lunch foods in a warm and inviting atmosphere. Destin, Miramar Beach and Grayton Beach.
Best Brunch | Regatta Bay Golf and Country Club
Overlooking tranquil Lake Regatta and surrounded by rolling greens and sprawling trees warmly lit in an emerald hue, Regatta Bay’s talented culinary team create a balance of flavors and textures that is matched only by the artistry of its presentation, making every meal as special as a weekend brunch. Destin.
Best Buffet | Golden Corral Family Steak House
With selections of meat, pasta, pizza, fresh vegetables, a salad bar and a meat-carving station, this family-style chain restaurant offers the biggest and best buffet in town. 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 Famous Wings
At Buffalo’s Reef, they don’t start cooking until you order, so relax and have a beer. Savor something sweet with the honey barbecue sauce or something zesty with the garlic Parmesan wings. Like it spicy? The hot ‘n’ spicy wings are for you. But if you order them super hot, you’d better be prepared. Fort Walton Beach.
Best Cajun | Louisiana Lagniappe
As the name suggests, this New Orleans dining experience serves up “a little something extra.” Louisiana Lagniappe (Lan-yap) features authentic Creole cuisine such as lobster tail, shrimp étouffée and Cajun seafood gumbo, as well as steak entrees. Enjoying a beautiful sunset while you dine makes for a memorable occasion every time. Destin.
Best Catering | Sarah K’s Gourmet
Sarah K’s Gourmet earned recognition as one of the Top Five Destinations for Crab Cakes in Taste of Home magazine. Sarah’s gourmet shrimp dip was featured in Woman’s World magazine. And her chef-crafted ready-to-heat cuisine has earned her the Best of the Emerald Coast award six years running. Destin.
Best Chef | Clovis Da Silva, Fat Clemenza’s
He’s been in American kitchens for 19 years, and Clovis Da Silva brought his Italian “chops” to Fat Clemenza’s three years ago. Though all his dishes are delicious, the executive chef’s fish and steak dishes are especially popular, as is the lamb with porcini mushroom sauce. Save room for Da Silva’s dessert. Try the popular orange chocolate carrot cake or decadent pineapple cheese cobbler. Miramar Beach and Fort Walton Beach.
Best Chinese | P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
From its famous Ginger Chicken Stir-fry Romaine Wraps to the Shanghai Noodles with Grilled Rib Eye and Broccoli, P.F. Chang’s strives to create great craveable foods you can’t get anywhere else. Each dish on this restaurant’s extensive menu is prepared to order using only the freshest and highest-quality ingredients. Miramar Beach.
Best Coffee | Starbucks Coffee
Starbucks figures that putting people before products makes good sense. Its relationship with farmers yields the highest-quality coffees, and the connections it makes in communities creates a loyal following. Serving the finest coffees in the world with friendly service, Starbucks Coffee is a local favorite. Destin, Grayton Beach, Miramar Beach and Fort Walton Beach.
Best Dessert | The Melting Pot
For a truly memorable meal experience, save room for dessert and dip strawberries, cake and marshmallows into the warm heavenly chocolate delight at The Melting Pot, renowned for its chocolate fondue portion of the four-course meal and earning it Best Dessert yet again. Miramar Beach.
Best Fine Dining | Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood
A five-star dining restaurant specializing in the finest prime beef and freshest seafood available, Seagar’s offers the most elegant table on the Emerald Coast. With private dining facilities and a wine list featuring more than 800 labels, Seagar’s continues to be extolled by critics as one of the best restaurants around. Miramar Beach.
Best French Restaurant | Bistro Bijoux
Located in The Village of Baytowne Wharf at Sandestin, this romantic French bistro serves perfectly seasoned dishes made from the freshest ingredients and presented like a work of art. Try the pan-seared diver scallops nestled in a saffron cream with crispy rice cakes and curried peanuts. Miramar Beach.
Best Gourmet/Food Shop | The Fresh Market
Need inspiration for dinner tonight? With fresh food, seasonal selections and an abundance of hard-to-find gourmet items, The Fresh Market makes shopping a convenient and delicious shopping experience. Destin.
Best Grocery Store | Publix
From the butchers to the bakers, and from the clerks to the baggers and stockers, the staff at Publix puts on a friendly face every day, making shopping for everyday items a bit more pleasant and keeping customers coming back again and again. Destin and Fort Walton Beach.
Best Hamburger | McGuire’s Irish Pub
An award-winning steakhouse with traditional Irish food and in-house brewery, McGuire’s offers 25 different trimmings for its giant, custom-ground steak burgers. Try the Big Daddy burger with bacon, cheddar and jalapeno or the Terrible Garbage Burger, which piles on some of everything. Destin and Pensacola.
Best Happy Hour | Tommy Bahama’s Restaurant & Bar
Raising a glass with family and friends is easy at island-inspired Tommy Bahama’s in Grand Boulevard, where people can sip, mix and mingle. Try the Tommy Bahama Kentucky Mai Tai, featured this fall. The combination of bourbon and Southern Comfort with the orange and lime juices gives it quite a kick. Miramar Beach.
Best Hibachi | Osaka Japanese Hibachi Steakhouse and Sushi Bar
For an enjoyable and memorable dining experience where dishes are prepared at your table, Osaka is your place. The Japanese steak house offers an amazing and entertaining show as your meal is prepared right in front of you. Destin.
Best Ice Cream Shop | Cold Stone Creamery
Cold Stone Creamery’s unique ice cream creations, smoothies, cakes and shakes win again thanks to the creativity that goes into each dessert. 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 | Fat Clemenza’s Brick-Oven Pizzeria
In its fifth season, Fat Clemenza’s maintains the same quality and consistency as the first day owner Dominic Damiano opened its doors. The checkered tablecloths and old family photos on the wall create an atmosphere of a throwback to an Italian neighborhood restaurant in any big city. Miramar Beach and Fort Walton Beach.
Best Locally Owned Restaurant | Callahan’s Restaurant and Deli
A multi-year Best of award winner, Callahan’s aims to please with its custom-cut meats and generous portions of delicious food. In addition to the fresh sandwiches, pastas and salads, the restaurant offers nightly dinner specials. Try the New York Strip — and save room for Key Lime cheesecake for dessert. Destin.
Best Margarita | Cantina Laredo
This authentic Mexican restaurant’s margaritas are made from freshly squeezed lime juice, as well as an impressive line of tequilas that include triple-distilled and aged brands that, once again, make the margaritas fabuloso. Miramar Beach.
Best Martini | Bonefish Grill
Just like the delicious food, the Bonefish Martini, made with Stoli vodka, cranberry and sparkling Prosecco, is a good reason to stop at Bonefish. And the Fresh Watermelon, 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. Destin and Pensacola.
Best Mexican/Latin American Restaurant | Pepito’s Mexican Restaurant
This authentic Mexican restaurant once again earns a spot on our “Best of” list because the restaurant’s delicious and healthy Mexican dishes are made with only the freshest ingredients. Destin and Niceville.
Best Outdoor Bar | Poppy’s Crazy Lobster Bar & Grill
Serving drinks called the Crazy Lobster Cooler (made with vodka, raspberry liqueur, pineapple juice and cranberry juice) and the Harbor Sunset (with Bacardi Rock Coco, citrus vodka, melon liquor and pineapple juice), Poppy’s Crazy Lobster earned top outdoor bar for serving drinks inspired by the Emerald Coast. Destin.
Best Outdoor Dining | Harry T’s
The circus memorabilia on display at Harry T’s adds to the fun atmosphere at the restaurant, but the boathouse is a favorite place for feasting on fresh seafood, burgers and steaks while enjoying fantastic views and a coastal breeze as well. Destin.
Best Pizza | Fat Clemenza’s Brick-Oven Pizzeria
Once again, this quaint pizzeria wins Best Pizza for its pizza made with homemade dough and pizza sauce. Each pizza is hand-tossed and wood-fired to perfection. Miramar Beach and Fort Walton Beach.
Best Romantic Restaurant | The Melting Pot
Celebrate your love as you indulge with your significant other in the Melting Pot’s signature fondue cheese appetizers and entrées. Then top off your romantic rendezvous by dipping strawberries, cake or marshmallows in warm chocolate fondue and you’ll see why this casual do-it-yourself restaurant wins Best Romantic Restaurant again this year. Miramar Beach.
Best Sandwich Shop | Lenny’s Sub Shop
At Lenny’s you really get it your way as you build your hot or cold deli sandwich or salad. The menu features fresh Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, garden toppings and Lenny’s signature pepper relish, as well as fresh baked bread. Destin, Mary Esther, Fort Walton Beach, Niceville, Crestview.
Best Seafood Market | Destin Ice Seafood Market & Deli
Destin Ice Seafood Market & Deli offers the freshest selection of what the Gulf has to offer. Pick up some ready-to-eat or cook-at-home fish, Buckhead meats, decadent desserts and a bottle of wine. Destin.
Best Seafood Restaurant | Dewey Destin Seafood
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 fresh seafood as you sit at rustic tables along a dock overlooking the bay. Taste more than 100 years of Destin history as you bite into a delicious grouper sandwich or dig into the famous smoked tuna dip. Destin.
Best Service (Food and Beverage) | Seagar’s Prime Steaks and Seafood
The meals are exquisite. The atmosphere is elegant. The wine list is extensive. And the service is exceptional. At Seagar’s, guests enjoy an intimate five-star dining experience that spoils it for other venues. Miramar Beach.
Best Sports Bar | Johnny O’Quigley’s Ale House
There’s not a bad seat in the house at neighborhood-style Johnny O’Quigley’s. The 48-inch big screen televisions lining the walls offer some of the best sports viewing in town, along with plenty of good food, wine and beer. Touchdown! Destin.
Best Steakhouse | Fleming’s Prime Steak House & Wine Bar
Sandestin’s neighborhood steakhouse comes to life with a celebration of great food, wine and memorable times. Fleming’s serves the finest in USDA Prime beef — corn-fed, aged up to four weeks for flavor and texture, then hand-cut daily and broiled at 1600 degrees to seal in all the juices and flavor. Miramar Beach.
Best Sushi | Harbor Docks
Though Harbor Docks is a seafood restaurant, the eatery features a large sushi and sashimi selection made fresh daily by master sushi chefs. Inspired by Asian influences, Harbor Docks also serves fresh seafood served fried, sautéed or boiled. Destin.
Best Thai | Royal Orchid
Sink into silk pillows around a traditional sunken Thai table or dine American style at a table or booth as you feast on delicious dishes like crispy duck, pad-thai, moo-yang and all sorts of curries. The family-operated business offers exceptional service and a just-right touch of Asian ambiance. Miramar Beach.
Best Wine List | Vin’tij Wine Boutique
Its remarkable list of some of the finest wines from the most respected vineyards in the world made Vin’tij Wine Boutique the top choice of the Emerald Coast’s wine lovers. The vibrant restaurant, filled with local art, also serves lunch and dinner with impeccable wine pairings from its extensive collection. Miramar Beach.