Hot Dining Spots in Old Destin Haunts
Aegean Greek Restaurant. Photo by Scott Holstein
Hot Dining Spots in Old Destin Haunts
Destin’s newest eateries find their roots in family-inspired hospitality By Christy Kearney
A well-known Hindu proverb states, “Food offered without affection is like food offered to the dead.” For the newest group of eateries opened in Destin over the last two years, the carefully prepared cuisine is only enhanced with each restaurant’s sincere passion for the art of dining and joy of hospitality. Six restaurants — Aegean Greek Restaurant, Poppy’s Dancing Iguana Tequila Bar & Grill, Dewey Destin’s Harborside Seafood Restaurant, Fishbar, The Shed Barbeque & Blues Joint and Tuscany Italian Bistro — have transformed old haunts in Destin to create memorable new dining experiences along the Emerald Coast. The familiar stomping grounds along with the seasoned restaurateurs and inspired entrepreneurs who have taken them over together bring history, insight and excitement to Destin’s dining scene. From old city buildings and historic family homes to Destin’s former famed restaurants, each new eatery has set up shop to serve up a new look, feel and taste in a storied space.
Tuscany Italian Bistro. Photo by Jacqueline Ward
Tuscany Italian Bistro36178 Emerald Coast Parkway, 850-650-2451
With its inviting golden hues, dark wood furnishings and pops of colorful artwork, this alluring Italian bistro whisks guests away to a whimsical village café in Northern Italy. The overall bistro ambiance is created by two outdoor courtyards, as well as beautiful indoor dining areas canopied by a painted sky-like ceiling and clay tile villa roofs.
Debut Date: February 2010
Old Haunts: Bianco/Cava Blue, Royal B Restaurant, Breeze Bar and Grill
The Vibe: The energy and passion of owner Guglielmo Ianni and his staff carry over into every aspect of the bistro causing diners to question whether or not they are actually sitting at a corner café in Tuscany.
The Cuisine: Authentic Northern Italian, Tuscany-style specialties. The menu is a true Italian sampling — not just spaghetti and meatballs but lamb, steaks, pastas, pizzas and seafood — made by first-generation Italian chefs.
Signature Dishes: Pesce del Giorrno (whole fish), Agnello al Forno (rack of lamb), Linguine al Pescatore (pasta with clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops and fish) and crispy gourmet pizzas
Hospitality Philosophy: Guests should feel like they are part of the family.
Insider’s Tip: Test your sense of culinary adventure with the four-course family-style dining featuring appetizer, salad and then chef’s choice for pasta and meat courses.
The Entertainment: Live music on select evenings
The Drinks: Full bar with specialty drink menu and wine list
Serving Up: Dinner, Sunday Family-Style Lunch
Bottom Line: If you love the sound of someone speaking Italian as much as you enjoy Mediterranean flavors and would like to take a European vacation over dinner, make a trip to Tuscany Italian Bistro.
Dewey Destin's Harborside. Photo by Jacqueline Ward
Dewey Destin’s Harborside 202 Harbor Boulevard, Destin, 850-837-7525, destinseafood.com
Old Destin is resuscitated in the most charming of ways with this carefree harbor-side eatery. Opened as a way of accommodating large crowds at the much-famed original Dewey Destin Seafood Restaurant & Market on Calhoun Drive, Dewey Destin’s has quickly earned both a local and regional following.
Debut Date: February 2009
Old Haunts: The Marler House, Fishing Docks, the Blue Room
The Vibe: Cool, comfortable laid-back style channeling Destin’s quaint fishing-village heritage. A courtyard right out of New Orleans and an open deck overlooking Destin harbor and its prized fishing fleet just increase the charm of this family-run restaurant.
The Cuisine: Fresh-from-the-sea specialties ranging from seafood gumbo and salads to wild-caught fish, crab, oysters, scallops and shrimp, as well as chicken options and Black Angus USDA Choice steaks.
Food Philosophy: The fresher the seafood the better.
Signature Dish: Fried Shrimp
Hospitality Philosophy: Fine dining without all of the fluff
Insider’s Tip: Asking the server which fish the chef has cleaned that day guarantees the absolute freshest catch.
Chef’s Pick: Fried Shrimp and Blackened Triggerfish (when available)
Best of the Emerald Coast 2010: Best Seafood Restaurant
Serving Up: Lunch, Dinner
Bottom Line: If you are a seafood buff who wants a taste of the past, Dewey Destin’s just might be the best catch in town.
Poppy's Dancing Iguana. Photo courtesy Poppy's Dancing Iguana
Poppy’s Dancing Iguana 2 Harbor Boulevard, Destin, 850-460-2350, danciniguana.com
Perched along one of Destin’s most impressive harbor views at the very western end of HarborWalk Village, Poppy’s Dancing Iguana Tequila Bar & Grill combines the natural beauty of Destin’s waterways with the sizzle of authentic Mexican cuisine and the relaxing sounds of a larger-than-life courtyard fountain for a fun, family-friendly atmosphere.
Debut Date: April 2010 Old Haunt: Pat O’Brien’s
The Vibe: A casual waterfront Mexican cantina and grill with sweeping views of Destin harbor and open-air dining areas. Grab a margarita and your favorite Mexican dish for a breathtaking dining experience.
The Cuisine: Fresh, made-to-order Latin-inspired Mexican fare covering everything from seafood ceviche and chicken tortilla soup to local seafood and specialty steaks, not to mention tacos, enchiladas, burritos and more.
Signature Dishes: Grilled Sirloin Fajita, Iggy’s Seafood Cazuela
The Drinks: Full bar including more than 130 varieties of tequila and creative margarita and mojito lists
Insider’s Tip: The chef will serve up specialties family-style for larger groups or planned events.
The Entertainment: Ask about Latin Night on select Saturdays.
Serving Up: Lunch, Dinner, Late Night
Sister Restaurants: Poppy’s Crazy Lobster, Poppy’s Seafood Factory
Bottom Line: If you’d prefer a flight of tequilas over a flight of wines, and amazing harbor views to boot, you might want to two-step it to the Dancing Iguana.
Aegean photo by Scott Holstein
Aegean11225 US Highway 98, Miramar Beach, 850-460-2728, aegeanfl.com
Inspired by the Parthenon, but with a contemporary twist, the family-owned Aegean Greek Restaurant, donned in navy blue and soft ivory décor, enchants diners with subtle columns, playful Greek music and a large mural of a Mediterranean fishing village — all working to transport guests to the coast of Greece.
Debut Date: October 2010
Old Haunts: Blues Jazz Bar and Restaurant, The Copper Grill
The Vibe: An elegant flashback to the Old Country with family-cultivated service, food and style.
The Cuisine: Traditional home-cooked and hearty Greek village food featuring tzatziki, an assortment of soups and salads, oven-baked meals such as moussaka and roasted chicken, grilled souvlaki options, sandwiches, gyros, steaks, seafood and pastas.
Food Philosophy: Food is a way of Greek life and should be celebrated. Live longer, eat like the Greeks.
Signature Dish: Petite Rack of Lamb.
The Drinks: Full bar, drink of the day special, 14 Greek wine offerings and Mythos (one of the only Greek beers available).
Hospitality Philosophy: Every diner is a guest in their house.
Insider’s Tip: The menu offers a variety of vegetarian-friendly options.
Serving Up: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
Sister Restaurant: Aegean Restaurant in Shalimar.
Bottom Line: If “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” made you smile, Mamma Mia made you want to book a one-way ticket to a Greek island and a Mediterranean cruise beats a Caribbean cruise every time, then Aegean is the place for you.
The Shed Barbeque & Blues Joint. Photo by Jacqueline Ward
The Shed Barbeque & Blues Joint 100 Harbor Boulevard, Destin, 850-460-2271, theshedbbq.com/destin
This no-fuss barbecue joint keeps it down and dirty but delicious and fun. Everything in the joint is mismatched and rustic, and that’s how they like it. With barbecue awards under its belt, a focus on the blues tradition and a prime location in HarborWalk Village, The Shed will surely have the opportunity to share its eclectic charm with locals and tourists alike this year.
Debut Date: April 2010
Old Haunts: Destin City Hall, Capt. Kidd’s Seafood Buffet
The Vibe: A funky, down-to-earth hangout where blues, brews and barbecue reign supreme. Rope lighting, old records and dented license plates establish the “family food drinkery” as a true-blue juke joint.
The Cuisine: Pecan wood-smoked barbecue favorites such as pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken, sausage and ribs in a style the owners like to call “sweet Southern, down-home” barbecue. Diners order at the bar then find a seat to eat.
Signature Dishes: Pulled Pork, Baby Back Ribs
The Drinks: 109 beers with 18 on tap; $1 Mystery Drafts Monday through Friday
Sweet Treat: Nanner Puddin’
Hospitality Philosophy: Not fancy but full of funky charm
Insider’s Tip: For a good laugh, check out the signs throughout the joint for famed Shed Philosophies such as, “ShedHeads put the Fun in Dysfunctional,” and “If you lend somebody $20 and never see them again, it was probably worth it.”
The Entertainment: Live blues music and local bands Serving Up: Lunch, Dinner
Bottom Line: If your idea of dressing up is wearing your “nice” flops, then this is the joint for you — no fuss, no frills, just tasty barbecue in a fun atmosphere.
Fishbar photo by Jacqueline Ward
Fishbar414 Harbor Boulevard, Destin, 850-424-5566, fishbardestin.com
Stunning views and an outdoor dining area showcasing the docks and Destin Harbor take center stage in this fresh family atmosphere.
Debut Date: April 2010
Old Haunts: Flamingo Hotel, Yacht Broker, Flamingo Café, Destin Chops
The Vibe: Casual meets cool at this new harbor-side hot spot showcasing Destin’s picturesque docks with large windows and outdoor seating.
The Cuisine: A simple yet edgy take on American classics and seafood specialties. The diverse menu includes sliders, oysters on the shell, soups, salads, tacos, sandwiches, pasta, fish, seafood, chicken and steaks.
Signature Dish: Grilled Fish Tacos
The Drinks: Full bar with specialty drink menu
Hospitality Philosophy: A neighborhood place where “everybody knows your name.”
Insider’s Tip: Request the private dining area for parties of 15 or more people.
Manager’s Pick: Red Grouper
Special Offers: Happy hour specials from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and regular lunch and dinner specials
Serving Up: Lunch, Dinner, Sunday Brunch
Sister Restaurants: Marina Café, Crush, Destin Chops on 30A
Bottom Line: If you like casual but prefer not to eat off a paper plate, Fishbar provides a nice mix of contemporary and casual, stylish but not stuffy in a comfortable environment.
Taking Happy Hour Out of Its Box
Happy hours and daily lunch specials are mainstays, but many restaurants employ creative ways to attract new customers and keep loyal patrons coming back for more good eats and treats. Check out these special offers and promotions available at eateries throughout the Emerald Coast.
“Beers from the South” Menu – Marlin Grill, Miramar Beach
Hook and Cook – The Lucky Snapper, Destin
Tuesday Family Dinner Night To Go – Joey Tomato’s Café, Niceville
Cooking Classes – One 20 A Modern Bistro, Niceville
Half Price Sushi (Noon–6 p.m. daily) – Crush, 30A
$1.99 Kids Menu (4–6 p.m. daily) – Harry T’s Lighthouse, Destin
Kids Eat Free with Adult Purchase (4–8 p.m. Tuesdays) – Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, Miramar Beach and Niceville
The WiFi’s Have It
- Amavida, Seaside and Rosemary Beach
- Adonna’s Bakery & Café, Fort Walton Beach
- Emerald Coast Coffee & Grille, Niceville
- Mellow Mushroom, Destin
- Not Just Bagels, Destin
Day by Day
- $3 Monday Margarita Madness – Dancing Iguana, Destin
- Taco Tuesday – Jim ‘N Nick’s Barbecue, Destin
- Tuesday and Thursday Wing Ding Night (5–10 p.m.) – Buffalo’s Reef, Fort Walton Beach
- $5 Stoli Wednesdays (7–11 p.m.) – Fishbar, Destin
- Friday and Saturday Half-Price Dessert or Appetizer – Big City American Bistro, Fort Walton Beach
The Brunch Bunch
- Angler’s Beachside Grill, Fort Walton Beach
- Big City American Bistro, Fort Walton Beach
- Harry T’s Lighthouse, Destin
- Rutherfords 465, Destin
- LJ Schooners, Niceville
- Santa Rosa Golf and Beach Club, 30A
- Crush, 30A
- Fire, 30A
Note: Specials are subject to change. Please contact the restaurant for more details and confirmation.
New Restaurants Pepper the Emerald Coast
The less-than-ideal national economy has not scared off entrepreneurs with the vision of opening restaurants along the Emerald Coast. From sweet shops and pizza parlors to organic cafés and fine dining, below are some of the newest eateries to set their tables and open their doors over the last year.
Navarre Helen Back Again / D’won’s Bayou Cafe / Paco’s Grill and Bar / The Slippery Mermaid Sushi Bar
Fort Walton Beach Fish Lipz Bar & Grill / Holly’s on Main / Citrus Organic Café / Five Guys Burgers
Destin/Miramar Beach Fat Daddy’s Pizza / Chef Tim Creehan’s Cuvee Bistro / Twirl Frozen Yogurt / Sago / The Florida House / San Gelato Cafe
Niceville/Valparaiso Compass Rose Restaurant & Bar / Fresh Greece Pizza & Grille / Little Joe’s Street Food
South Walton/30A Louis Louis Restaurant & Bar / Little Italy Ristorante / Crush / Marie’s Bistro / Good Apples / Sweet Jeni’s