Best of the Emerald Coast New Categories for 2020

The Best of the Emerald Coast reader’s poll does not include a category for candlestick makers. But one day it might. Each year, we add categories in response to reader suggestions and the constantly evolving marketplace.    

Asian Fusion

Can’t decide between Chinese, Thai or sushi? For fresh, local ingredients with a Far East twist, look no further than Basmati’s in Blue Mountain Beach, winner in the Best of the Emerald Coast’s Asian Fusion cuisine category, introduced this year. Juicy Gulf shrimp are wok-seared with Thai spices and dunked in creamy coconut red curry, or rolled up in a spicy, crunchy tempura sushi roll. Fresh catches come battered, fried and drizzled with your favorite Chinese-inspired sweet and sour sauce. For the ultimate synthesis of flavors, try the Maryland-style crab cake, where local crab, pan-fried to crispy perfection, packs a punch with a kaffir lime vinaigrette and wasabi aioli accouterment.

Gluten Friendly

Keto Kreations 91 Ccsz

Photo courtesy Keto Kreations

If you grow weary from scouting out treats that honor your current diet or nutritional restrictions, Keto Kreations has your back. Founded by Keto chemist and longtime baker Ashley Ping, the gluten-friendly, Grayton Beach-based bakery offers low-carb breads, cakes, muffins and confections in-house that can be shipped all along the coast. Try their gluten-free pizza crust, hamburger buns or chewy jalapeno cheddar biscuits to enhance your own meal, but don’t skimp on deserts. Customer favorites, such as the unicorn pound cake, berry cheesecake, triple chocolate chip muffins and iced jumbo cinnamon rolls, are only a click away.

Outdoor Service Provider

Img 4974 Cc

Photo courtesy Adept Pressure Washing & Paver Sealing

They say curb appeal sells a home, so it’s about time we recognize outstanding commitment to outdoor service. Adept Pressure Washing & Paver Sealing founder Mike Tully likes to say he’s been “putting the hurt on dirt since 2004,” ridding Walton and Okaloosa counties’ driveways, sidewalks, decks and fences of rust and mildew for a polished, refined new look. Paver sealing services include UV protection and color enhancement and control of weeds, mold, mildew and algae. It makes good sense to invest in the revitalization and preservation of your home for the years to come.


With two locations in Fort Walton Beach and Destin, Burrito Del Sol may specialize in their namesake, but the tacos are bar none. Opt for grilled ground beef, slow-cooked sirloin or chicken, blackened or grilled shrimp, fish or vegetarian tempeh. Dress up your tacos Baja, BBQ, Southwestern or chipotle-style, and you’ve got the handheld delight of your dreams. That is, unless you go the taco salad route. Served in a crispy tortilla shell bowl and featuring a bed of seasoned rice and black beans, queso and all the fixings, this option lets you take your taco to the next level.

Teacher of the Year

A former competitive gymnast and dancer, Ronda Pridgen began her career in education in 2010 leading Destin Middle School’s physical education and tumbling programs. Today, she applies her degree in computer science from the University of West Florida in her digital information technology and design classes at Niceville High School, where she’s taught for the past two years. For Pridgen, the best aspect of her job is connecting with students and teaching them essential software, such as Microsoft Office products, and helping them narrow down career choices. “They have brought me such joy with their humor and teaching me how to relate to them in a world of so much technology,” said Pridgen. “They bless me and I hope in some way that I have helped them in their life journey.”

Waterfront Restaurant

Img 1771 Ccsz

Photo by Chase Yakaboski

There’s nothing quite like dinner with a view. Located on the Destin Harbor, Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House offers a front-row seat to fishing vessels hauling in the very ingredients utilized in their Gulf-to-table menu. Upon entering Boshamps, peer through the windows of their very own Lucky Dog Seafood Company and witness your grouper, snapper, swordfish and shrimp being prepared for the kitchen. Whether you order your catch pan-roasted, deep-fried or blackened on the grill, you can kick back to some live music, watch the sunset and savor some of the freshest, finest menu items in the area.

Categories: Best of the EC Results