Best of the Emerald Coast Hall of Fame
Among Best of the Emerald Coast award winners are some whose customers have been singing their praises for decades. In baseball terms, they are pitchers with 300 wins or hitters with 500 homeruns. They are Hall of Famers. We profile here the six most prolific winners in the history of our reader’s poll, knowing that they inspire others to greatness.
By bringing a AAA 4-Diamond, New York-style steakhouse experience to the Sandestin shore, Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood, with its fresh Gulf catches, 100% USDA-prime steaks and lamp chops and signature cocktails, has earned accolades in over 14 different Best of the Emerald Coast categories over the past 19 years. Whether you’re seeking a fine-dining ambiance for a private, romantic evening over steak Diane, flambéed bananas foster and award-winning lemondrop martinis, or sharing three-tiered seafood towers while sampling the expansive wine list with friends, Seagar’s continues to be a must for both locals and visitors.
It’s one thing for a restaurant’s artisanal wood-fired pizzas, rich pasta and authentic, crumbly cannoli to be deemed best Italian food in the area, but Clemenza’s and Fat Clemenza’s, located in Fort Walton Beach and Miramar Beach, have repeatedly been voted the best overall restaurants in Okaloosa and Walton counties in the past decade. Maybe it’s that first bite of marinara and béchamel-sauced lasagna that tastes like the Nonna’s we never had, or the vintage photographs and family-style dining that transports us straight to Old World Italy, but we just can’t get enough.
Bonefish Bang Bang Shrimp, with its crispy coating swimming in that bath of sweet, spicy chili sauce, has been voted best appetizer for the past 16 years. But that’s not all that accounts for Bonefish Grill’s status as a perennial Best of the Emerald Coast award winner. The casual-meets-upscale dining experience at Bonefish has also been recognized for its exceptional service, decadent desserts and seasonal selection of surf n’ turf delicacies. Martinis, a must for any happy hour, feature something for both the traditionalist and adventurous, with flavors such as fresh pineapple, raspberry, pomegranate and strawberry rosé.
AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar
Ask anyone the best place to party like a local, and they’ll likely point you toward AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar on the Destin Harbor. With live music every evening, stunning views of the setting sun, annual holiday celebrations and, of course, plenty of ice cold brews, po’ boys and oysters to go ’round, AJ’s has netted multiple awards in 13 different categories for the last two decades. Voted best place to dance in 2020, AJ’s Bimini stage grooves to the local tunes of Black Eyed Blond, DJ Serpent, Horseshoe Kitty and more.
When Jim and Kim Dettle established Today’s Boutique in 1981, they made it their mission to help the Emerald Coast woman find her own brand of style. It seems they may have accomplished their goal. Today’s has been voted the best spot in Destin to find women’s apparel, accessories and upscale design for the past 20 years. Staffed by trained fashion advisors, Today’s showcases designers including Joseph Ribkoff, Planet, Clara Sunwoo, Lyssé and Dear John Jeans. Whether you’re shopping the sales rack or attending a seasonal trunk show to snatch rare finds from across the globe, treasures are to be had.
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort
Dominating over six categories since 2001, Hilton Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, this year’s recipient for best tennis facility, continues to prove they aren’t just another tourist destination. The property is the largest full-service beachfront resort on Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast. Here, you can hit the gym, test your golfing mettle at four courses that have hosted numerous NCAA National Championships, or plan for a girls’ day at Serenity by the sea spa followed by a feast at Hidashi sushi. Complete with a supervised kid’s club, beach amenities and wedding and event venues, there’s a little something for everyone.