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Destin/Ft. Walton Restaurants: Recs & Reviews


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Thanks guys!  I haven't been since 1991, so I'm sure I'm in for a surprise.  warm water--I won't need to pack my wetsuit.

be ready for the traffic, the growth, and lots of new restaurants. Have fun.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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  • 7 months later...

I am planning my annual pilgrimage to Destin - so any updates/recommendations would be appreciated. Anyone know if Donut Hole or Pandora's re-opened? If they did - are they any good?

Edited by NancyH (log)

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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  • 1 month later...

I am going to post my report on our recent trip to Destin, but I'm going to start a new thread for it, since this one has kind of languished for a while.

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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  • 3 months later...

We're planning our family vacation in Destin this year. First time with kids (first time in 6 years.) Looking for good food. Reasonably priced but good for most meals, but at least one knock your socks off meal. I'm also looking for the best place for dessert or pastries. Any dessert cafe's or good bakeries? Even for the best restaurant dessert or seafood. I'm from Biloxi, MS, so only looking for not-so-average or run-of-the meal seafood. Also, are there any fresh markets or places to find quality ingredients, whole foods markets or anything like that? Any restaurant/baking supply stores? Any other recommendations would be appreciated as well. Thanks in advance

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Sexton's

A little piece, sadly one of the last little pieces, of old Destin that's left. It's a great place. Really great. Fresh seafood of all kinds.

Also, you might want to head down to the docks and see what you can find in the late afternoon. A quick chat with a deckhand cleaning fish can sometimes yield some real bargains. Beer helps to sweeten the deal.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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I'll direct you to a couple of the most recent topics on Destin, but won't refer you back too far because present day Destin might be different than the pre-2004 and pre-2005 (hurricane seasons) Destin.

This topic includes some feedback from a trip by a member in April of this year.

This topic is from 2005.

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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Thank you, Susan, for linking to my earlier post!

Shaloop - since February, I've been advised that the Donut Hole has reopened - it always was great for breakfast with family, and I assume it still is, as is the Harbor Docks Silver Sands breakfast. I've been told to avoid the Destin Diner, so we've never tried it.

For family dining, Harbor Docks again rates (especially good value at lunch), as does Staff's in Fort Walton Beach, Pandora's, McGuire's, Smiling Fish Cafe, Cafe 331, and Seagrove Village Marketcafe - you may look around a bit to find that last one now, but they promised they'd be there somewhere!

Our "knock your socks off" meal was at Cafe Tango, but it really isn't kid friendly (perhaps you could go earlier to accommodate the family aspect). Beachwalk Cafe certainly had "knocking" potential, but I wasn't feeling well and we only had lunch there - again, I'm not sure how the kids would do there.

Enjoy your trip and do report back to us!

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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Thank you, Susan, for linking to my earlier post!

I have already read your post and bookmarked it as well as a few others I found here (on egullet.) I enjoyed reading your highlights (and lowlights.) How does Louisians Lagniappe rate? We ate there several years ago and the food was good. Anyone eaten there? Any thoughts? Thanks again for everyone's help and if anyone else has any other suggestions I'd love to hear them. Planning trip for end of July/1st of August. Thanks again.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Thank you, Susan, for linking to my earlier post!

I have already read your post and bookmarked it as well as a few others I found here (on egullet.) I enjoyed reading your highlights (and lowlights.) How does Louisians Lagniappe rate? We ate there several years ago and the food was good. Anyone eaten there? Any thoughts? Thanks again for everyone's help and if anyone else has any other suggestions I'd love to hear them. Planning trip for end of July/1st of August. Thanks again.

We've never eaten there and we've heard mixed reviews. I gave the most credibility to the friend who lived in NOLA and was not impressed with the food or the prices.

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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shrimp sammiches at pompano joe's and the back porch are good, and both places are wallet and kid-friendly.

Our experience at both of these places is that they are both kind of touristy, and therefore very hit and miss. I think we had a good lunch at P. Joes. We had a so-so dinner and a very good lunch at Back Porch. Even going to Back Porch just for drinks has been inconsistent - they are pricey - one bartender gives good pour for the $$, another barely any. They do have lovely views and atmosphere, though.

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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  • 6 months later...

Time to bump this topic up, since we are planning our annual pilgrimage to Destin that will occur shortly.

So - locals - what's new and exciting? What's closed since last winter? I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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  • 4 weeks later...

My husband Bob and I just returned to the Cleveland cold from an 11 night vacation in that paradise we know as Destin. We started visiting Destin four years ago, when the local Mensa chapter started holding a Regional Gathering at the Holiday Inn on the beach in February. We stayed in a full gulf view room for a couple of extra days and got hooked!

We arrived on a Friday and enjoyed the hospitality at our gathering, including Mabel's incredible jambalaya. Regrettably, I did not get a picture of it. They fed us for most of the weekend, but we went out Saturday night anyway, so we could get our first meal at one of our favorite places, Harbor Docks. Harbor Docks

We started with a crab au gratin appetizer - I only wish I had taken another photo after we dug in, to show off the mounds of fluffy fresh crab under the cheese!

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I had the spicy fried amberjack special.

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Bob had the Sauteed (fried, actually) Snapper w/Shrimp and Cheesy Sauce. Both entrees were fresh and delicious. Though I wish Harbor Docks would get more imaginative with the side dishes, I can't complain about the fish and seafood, and they are coming up with some very creative sauces.

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Our weekend event concluded Sunday morning. Though we were unable to find any lunch companions, one couple that was staying over to Monday agreed to meet us for dinner later.

Bob and I set out to try a new place we'd heard about - Dewey Destin's. We trundled down Calhoun Street, right before the Destin bridge to Okaloosa Island, then turned left down a narrow driveway - to find this shack sitting on the water with a cooking trailer behind it.

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But what a wonderful shack it is - if you shop carefully. The modest menu includes Appetizers, Sandwiches (plattered with fries and slaw), fried or steamed baskets and steamed seafood by the pound. The fish specials for the day were tuna, mahi and grouper. I asked if the fish was local, and only the grouper was (the rest came from Alabama). The grouper was indeed very fresh (caught that morning):

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So, we ordered our lunches, received our beverages, and wandered out to the right of the two table-covered docks to select a table. We thought their use of brightly colored terra cotta flower pots to keep the acoutrements on the tables on the windy docks was most clever:

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After a brief wait, a server brought our order to us. Bob hadn't asked about origins, he just ordered a fried oyster sandwich. I had a bite and they were scrumptious!

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My grilled grouper sandwich was as yummy as the raw guy looked:

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After lunch, we drove around and located most of the places we intended to try later in the trip - much easier to find things during the day then at night!

Later, we joined up with the other couple, who wanted simple but exquisitely fresh fish. Twist my arm, we were at Harbor Docks again! Our table started with two appetizers. First, Shrimp Almondine:

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Next - stuffed mushrooms. Though I abhor mushrooms, I did enjoy a scoop of the seafood stuffing and cheeses oozing through this dish:

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Three of the four diners opted for the Cobia Special - Grilled and topped with Shrimp and Basil Cream Sauce.

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I had to be different - and got the Sauteed Red Snapper Topped With Scallops and Jalapeño Alfredo Sauce. Though the fish was more fried than sauteed - the dish worked wonderfully.

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We headed back to the Holiday Inn too stuffed to consider dessert.

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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By Monday morning, all of our had friends departed, and we headed for our favorite local breakfast. While it is located in the Harbor Docks premises, it is actually a concession called "Silver Sand" and they make a marvelous breakfast. I met the elderly gentleman who makes the biscuits (who did not want his picture taken) - they are they best biscuits in the world!

Bob opted for the ham steak, plain grits, and egg (which is served with 2 biscuits, not pictured):

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I had my "usual" - large bowl of cheese grits and biscuits with gravy:

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This Monday turned out to be a beautiful, warm day - finally, after three years, a day appropriate to take a "see the dolphins" cruise! It was fantastic, and we did get up close and a little personal with the adorable mammals. But we didn't reach land until after 3pm. I learned on this trip that most places don't serve straight through lunch to dinner. It appeared that Kenny Ds, on old 98, would be serving, so we headed there.

Kenny D's serves New Orleans inspired cuisine and is located in an old chrome diner that has been re-decorated to fit the theme, while retaining some old diner charm. Unfortunately, there was only one other table (of snowbirds) eating Happy Hour raw oysters when we arrived. The server seemed a little bedraggled, and explained that she had just come on and things had not been prepared for her (like iced tea).

Our food was a mixed bag. Bob's Red Beans and Rice looked positively mouth watering:

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But it was ice cold. We sent it back, and it returned warm - but the rice was old and hard. Too bad, because there some nice flavors in there.

My fish tacos, in contast, came to the table blazing hot:

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But they were a little skimpy in the fish department - perhaps because I asked for the local fish (grouper) instead of the "imported" mahi they were going to use. The plate came with an incongruous basket of french fries. All in all - it was not a great experience, though the fish tacos did taste very good.

Monday night, we were determined to get to the Red Bar (we had intended to go there last year, but I got sick at the end of the trip and wasn't up to the drive). We found the place and wandered up, but were not made to feel invited by the crowd of smokers on the patio, so we walked back around to the main entrance, then through to the bar. We sat at the bar for a drink, taking in the eclectic atmosphere and clientele. But there was no warmth or welcome from anyone and the bartender actually forgot to pour our drinks after taking our order.

After our drink, we switched to the dining room to order dinner, expecting live music. But the local Beachcomber paper was wrong - no music tonight. No problem - there were plenty of interesting decorations to look at while we waited for our server. Even though there were only a couple of other tables occupied (and they were being served by other servers), our man was pretty slow on the uptake. Red Bar, and its cousin Cafe 331, have a limited menu that is presented on a chalkboard. This evening, there was only one fish dish, plus one shrimp dish.

Bob and I both ordered the fish, which I believe was grouper:

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The fish was excellent as was the garlic mashed potatoes and salad (with a house made tomato-something vinagrette). The roll was stale.

Overall, I'd probably go to Cafe 331 before I'd return to Red Bar, but it was a Monday, so it probably deserves another chance.

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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We started Tuesday with breakfast at the Holiday Inn (Priority Club freebies) - nothing picture worthy there, though not a bad way to start the day. Then, it was time to check out of the hotel and check into a nearby condo that we had rented.

We had lunch at the Camille's at Crystal Beach, which had been recommended very highly. We didn't realize that they were affiliated with Harbor Docks until later in the week. Camille's. I was craving sushi and was told this was a great place to get it - but alas, we learned that there would be no sushi before 5pm. So, we ordered lunch.

I had their gumbo, which was loaded with seafood and very good:

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My only complaint was that the two jumbo shrimp topping the dish didn't taste fresh.

Bob had a grouper sandwich, which was good but which he felt had too much breading:

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That evening, Bob agreed to let me satisfy my sushi craving. We started at a new local restaurant, Sai-Kyo (which is short for "Saigon-Kyoto" and which serves Vietnamese and Japanese food). We ordered a Tuna Roll and Hawalian Roll (BBQ Eel, tuna, yellowtail, cream cheese, and asparagus, wrapped in soy paper).

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Our first mistake was not sitting at the sushi bar itself, though sitting in the restaurant gave us a vantgae point that assured us that the Vietnamese soups were wonderful, based on other tables' orders. The sushi chef, who was Vietnamese, kept the same food service gloves on his hands before and after he made our sushi (he was sitting at a table reading the newspaper when we came in). The sushi itself wasn't bad - but it lacked profundity. We decided to push on.

We drove out to Cafe 331 - only to find it closed! Ouch! So - down to Basmati, which we had heard about but never tried. We found a friendly proprietor and server, and a lovely environment. The dishes on the menu looked mouth-watering (if a little expensive in the over $30/plate range) but we stuck with sushi. We ordered a crab roll, tuna nigiri and inari, which was presented on a lovely stone:

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The inari was the best I've ever had - stuffed not only with tasty sushi rice, but with diced fresh salmon - exquisite!

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Unfortunately, the crab was not as tasty as it looked - not bad, just not exquisitely fresh. The tuna and inari, and the happy sounds other diners were making, would probably bring me back next year.

Even though we had been to Camille's for lunch earlier in the day, I still felt like my craving for awesome sushi had not yet been satisfied, so we headed over there. And the sushi taste off winner was - Camille's!

We started with a tuna roll and a spicy crab roll:

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Even though the crab turned out to be surimi, this sushi was so well prepared that we sighed with pleasure as we ate it. Danny and Mike made us feel right at home, and we trusted their recommendations. After a little taste of escolar, Danny suggested we try the Uni, which had just come in. Bob and I had never had Uni before, so we went for it:

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While I think it is a bit of an acquired taste - we did enjoy it. Next up - Toro, another delicacy we had never tried before:

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Yummm! Finally, Danny suggested Hamachi, which had likewise just arrived. I hesitated a bit, because I've never tasted a piece of yellowtail that I liked - it's never fresh enough. But we said ok, and we were not disappointed:

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It was perfect - and my sushi craving satisfied. Danny suggested that we try the sushi/habachi side of Harbor Docks, which in all our visits we had ignored. He said he'd be working there on Sunday and we told him we'd consider dropping by. But Sunday was a long way away.

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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Next up - Valentine's Day!

We started at Fabrice in Santa Rosa Beach. This little cafe is owned by the former pastry chef at Criolla's and his wife. They were very busy when we rolled up around 11:30am. We had to walk past the case of obscenely decadent looking pastries to get to an open table.

Though I was tempted by the "Croque Madame" - a baked sandwich with Sunny Side Up Egg on Top - Slices of White Bread filled w/Bechamel Sauce, Warm Gruyere Cheese & Parisian Ham - I still needed to eat fish. So I ordered the Fresh Tuna Burger and was not disappointed!

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This heavenly sandwich consisted of small chunks of rarely seared fresh tuna on freshly made bread, topped with fresh basil and aioli and plated with mixed greens, fresh sundried tomatoes and an Asian Spicy Dressing.

Bob opted for the "P'tite Baguette Jambon de Paris Gruyere", described as "Parisian Ham & Gruyere Cheese on a Buttered Homemade Fresh Baguette", and which was also served with greens, those amazing tomatoes, and dressing:

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Though Bob was initially a little disappointed that the ham wasn't different than other good quality hams he's had - it was a masterful sandwich on perfectly fresh made bread, and he did enjoy it. And - did I mention the sundried tomatoes?

Then - we had to face the pastry case again when it was time to pay! Since it was Valentine's Day, we decided to get a pastry to eat later (one of our Destin traditions is to watch the sunset from our room terrace while sipping bubbles). We selected a chocolate, chocolate covered cake topped with fresh raspberries - which I did not get a photo of, because we didn't actually eat it until the second leg of our flight home the following Tuesday! Even after a week in the fridge, though, it was fabulous! Very high marks for Fabrice - which is now open seven days a week; call for hours. (850) 267-0619.

We returned to the condo to sit on the terrace and do laundry. By the time the laundry was done - it was almost 4pm. We decided to hit the Destn Taqueria (208 Main Street) for a light bite, since our dinner reservation wasn't until 8:30pm. This place is a little local gem and is frequented mostly by local Hispanic construction workers. A table of them were enjoying raw oysters on the half shell and shrimps with Modela Especiala when we sat down.

Our server, who knew little English, but did not let that get in the way of great hospitality, brought out English menus and the following:

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The guacamole tasted freshly made and had a nice little kick. The green chili sauce was also wonderful, and would top our tacos shortly.

Bob and I each ordered two items - we both got the pork taco with chili and pineapple, he got a steak taco (the picture of which seems to have gone missing) and I got a cheese and jalapeno tamale. The tortillas were so fresh and the fillings fantastic!

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Finally, we thought we were ordering alcoholic sangria, since this item was right below the beer and above the wine on the beverage list, but it was actually more like soda pop- and darn tasty with the spicy food, too.

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We hurried back to watch the sunset and drink some bubbles. When the dinner hour was approaching, we headed to one of our favorite places - Cafe Tango on 30A. Chef Walter Sanchez and his wife Paja have a delightful 8 table restaurant serving only the freshest food with a truly unique flair. Even though we were in the last reservation spot at 8:30pm, our table was ready with no waiting when we arrived a few minutes early. We ordered some wine and decided to order off of the regular menu, rather than the Valentine's Day menu - mostly because I needed to have Tuna Mojama again. This item was a special appetizer last year, but is on the menu now: Air dried, Salt Cured Bluefin Tuna, marinated in Olive Oil and served with Greens and Crostinis.

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This Spanish specialty item reminds me of "Tuna Salumi" and has taste and texture worthy of Armandino Batali!

We each ordered an entree, to be preceded by a salad. I only photograph dinner salads when there is something special:

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The best part of this salad is the housemade dressing - Habanero Honey Mustard (you read that right) and it is addictive! And - the fresh cracked Tellicherry Peppercorns only complement the dressing's heat and flavor.

I ordered the chef's "signature dish", Pistachio Crusted Grouper, topped with Jumbo Gulf Shrimp and drizzled with Amaretto Buerre Blanc:

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Wow! The cripy pistachio's and the nutty flavor of the Amaretto - this really works! Also - the combination of Asian vegetables and goat cheese seemed odd, but also really worked well. Even the mashed potatoes had unique flavors.

Bob went for the Chef's choice, which I believe was Red Snapper, Baked with Lemon Caper Butter and topped with Jumbo Gulf Shrimp.

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Though we seldon get dessert, the occasion and the choices demanded it - bread pudding with fresh caramel, pecans and ice cream:

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A sweet ending to a happy Valentine's Day.

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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On Thursday, we planned to drive to Pensacola to visit the National Museum of Naval Aviation - a trip well worth your while BTW.

We started with a hearty breakfast at the newly restored Donut Hole:

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Bob didn't think any of the ham, grits or biscuit (not pictured) were even close to Silver Sands's versions.

I opted for the Sweet Potato Pancakes, which are served with a side of a Pecan-enhanced syrup:

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It was a huge portion and very tasty.

We didn't eat again until we returned from Pensacola, and therein lies a short tale. We didn't make it back to Destin until a little after 4pm. For some reason, I thought that Vin 'taj was open straight through lunch to dinner. We walked in about 4:30pm, and the place was empty (though the "open" sign was illuminated) and a gentleman came out and said that lunch had ended at 3pm, they were preparing for dinner, and they had only a limited bar menu available until 5pm (pizzas and a couple of appetizers). Now, had he invited us to sit and have some wine and a snack and made us feel welcome, we would probably have sit and waited the half hour for dinner service. But he put us off so badly that we left, which turned out to be a very good thing.

We had heard great things about the new incarnation of D&K, which recently recreated itself as a fully enclosed New Orleans style cafe. Though it was still a few minutes before 5pm (their official opening time), we were cheefully seated and offered dinner menus. The dinner we ate rivaled Cafe Tango for best of trip!

First - bread, hot and fresh from the oven. We were so hungry at this point that we each ordered a starter (normally we share one), and we were glad we did!

Bob's cup of gumbo had everything that our previous two flirts with New Orleans style cuisine had missed: hot, loaded with fresh fresh seafood and rice, spicy and delicious:

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I tried the Three Cheese Seafood Dip with Garlic Bread - oh my goodness good!

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We each then ordered an entree, to be preceded by a salad that was photo worthy for a couple of reasons:

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Note first the large spears of fresh Yellow Zucchini. Normally, I wouldn't be crazy about raw zucchini in a salad, but this was so fresh, and so good when dipped in the second worthy item - the chef's "2000 Island" dressing - creamy, spicy and perfect, but counterpointed by the slightly sweet warm fresh muffin also on the salad plate.

Bob had the Grilled Grouper topped w/Shrimp Creole. Those grilled shrimps were amazingly good! There's also a scoop of great tasting rice hiding under all that fish.

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I had a huge honking heap of sauteed Snapper loaded with breadcrumb stuffing, seafood (crabmeat, shrimps and scallops) and topped with cream sauce. I could only eat about half of it.

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We were both so stuffed - we thought we couldn't eat another bite! But our gracious host Kat insisted that we try some desserts, so we did:

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The next morning, we utilized our lovely kitchen to warm leftovers for our breakfast. For lunch, we trundled up 30A to Seagrove Village Market, which has lost the luster of the fabulous food we enjoyed there last year.

Bob's Oyster Po Boy tasted ok, but was more breading than oyster:

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But the cardinal sin was serving me a piece of grilled grouper that looked and tasted like a frozen filet:

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Moreover, the hushpuppies, which had the best taste of any we sampled this trip, were cold. Even the iced tea didn't taste as good as last year. Oh well.

A bit later, we met some of our local friends for a happy hour at a place called Okinawa, in Fort Walton Beach. We did not care for the sights or smells sufficiently to want to eat there, so we decided to head for Nick's on Rt 20, overlooking the Choctawhatchee Bay. We had been told not to miss this place, as much for the people as the food.

We rolled in there around 7:30. The place was packed and there was a long waitng list. Nevertheless, we perched ourselves at the Formica bar, ordered a couple of 32 oz Amber Bocks (the only dark beer they had) and just watched. We remained at the bar until about 8:30, then moved to a table by the window. The poor staff was totally in the weeds - someone had forgotten to put a reservation for 18 where the evening's staff would find it - though they accomodated the party, it screwed everything else up. By the time we ordered, they were out of baked potatoes and I can't imagine that happens often!

Anyway, we each ordered a grilled platter - mine was Triggerfish, Bob's Amberjack. I'm guessing my portion was kinda skimpy because they were running out of that, too (one of the 3 pieces was mostly skin and a couple of bones):

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Bob's amberjack was ample and delicious:

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The grits were cold, so I asked the server to either bring another or reheat what we had - she said she couldn't bring new, but would happily re-heat ours. We then heard a server tell the next table that there was only one order of grits left! Once reheated, the grits were quite good, and we both enjoyed our dinners and thanked (and tipped) the poor servers, who looked about ready to collapse. We'll definitely be back to Nick's next year (I'm told we need to try the fried crabs) - but not on Friday night!

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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Bob still had some leftovers on Saturday morning, but I did not. So, I trundled out to the Destin Fish and Ice Market seeking Smoked Tuna Dip. I've always wanted to go into this place, but without a kitchen, there never seemed to be a point to it. I was impressed with the cleanliness of the place and people seemed nice. Sadly, though, their Smoked Tuna Dip had a preservative and artificial color added, so I passed on it. Instead, I picked up some Crab Dip, Capresse Salad and a fresh loaf of whole grain bread.

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It was all very good.

Lunch that day was another favorite from last year, the Smiling Fish Cafe. Again, I suffered a disappointment, but this one was partly my own fault. Last year, I had enjoyed the Fish Taco, which was loaded with huge chunks of fresh fried grouper, fresh slaw, chipolte sour cream, cilantro, and guacamole, and served with black beans and yellow rice - a feast! I ordered the same this time, without looking very closely at the menu description. Gone were the beans and rice (replaced by the orzo salad they now serve with their wrap sandwiches). More important though - the item I was served looked like a skimpy "wrap sandwich" instead of a taco, and the "slaw" was just a bunch of bagged salad.

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I couldn't detect any guacamole or chipolte flavors in it, and flagged a server to ask about the gauc. She brought me a plate with a blob of green goo that didn't taste any better than it looked. I debated bringing it back - I really hate to do that, and had just done that with the grits the night before. So I ate a little more than half of the sandwich before determining that I was absolutely not enjoying it.

Bob, in the meantime, had ordered a winner - a perfectly grilled Grouper sandwich dressed with herb mayo and freshly made fries.

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After tasting his and thinking about it some more, I brought my plate up to the register and told them why I was returning it. Without taking a breath to allow for argument or discussion, I told them I would like a grilled grouper sandwich and that I would pay for it. I had to repeat that I would pay for it (the cashier asked "where's the other half" of my wrap even after I said I would pay for the new meal). No one apologized for the lousy first plate, but the cashier did not charge my husband for the second can of pop he got while we were waiting for my new lunch. My grouper was as good as Bob's had been - so lesson for travelers - read the menu and don't assume you're getting the same thing you had last year even if it has the same name!

We met 2 friends for dinner at Cafe 331. I love that place! From the many lamps hanging all over to the funky decor - I just love it. I learned upon arrival that they don't have sushi anymore. But they did have a couple of fantastic fish specials, served with a smile.

The bread was fresh and hot - this photo is their fabulous Olive Bread:

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Next - John ordered the Gumbo, which was quite good:

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Then came the entrees:

Mine was grouper over dirty rice that had the most wonderful sausage in it, with salad and house made dressing:

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Bob had the other fish special (I think it was Amberjack, but I could be wrong) - plated over a unique and wonderful Grit Cake and Spinach:

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John had the shrimp with pasta:

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The landlubber of the group had a very tasty pork chop:

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We left happy!

Our first thought Sunday was to have brunch/lunch on the beach at the Beachwalk Cafe. While dinner there is very pricey, lunch is more reasonable and we had a wonderful lunch there last year, at a table on the beach. We stopped by and learned that it was too cold for beachfront dining, so we decided to try a place I had read about on the internet (a one-sentence entry) on 30A. The info warned that you had to call first, but the phone number in the info was connected only to a fax machine. I tried calling information, but they had no listing for the name we had. However, we had driven past it a couple of times, and there was a sign outside that said "Sunday Brunch" - so I figured, what the heck, lets try it? It turned out to be one of those fabulous "traveler not tourist" experiences.

We walked in to a small room that holds up to 24 customers that smelled of wonderful cookery. There were two tables totalling about 12 customers. The lady in front of the house said we really needed to call first and she wasn't sure if they could accomodate us. The gentleman manning the kitchen boomed out that if we could be patient, they could serve us but that it would take a while. We said "no hurries, no worries" and were offerred a momosa that never went dry during the two-plus hours we sat there.

Now, the reason I'm not telling you the name of this place is because it is located in the home of the chef/owner, and they deliberately do not advertise (hence, the phone listing is in his name, not the restaurant). Julie asked that we respect their desire to remain a mostly word of mouth business, and we agreed.

It was an amazing morning. After a while, Julie and Eric were treating us like old friends as Eric whipped up beautiful food on his electric cooktop. He was meticulous about everything - and started working even slower after a stack of metal bowls descended from the top of the refrigerator and onto his wrist. But my the food looked good - open faced ham and eggs on toast with melted cheeses and arugula from their front-of-the-lawn garden, omlettes with fresh scallops or ham or lobster, plated with beautiful, perfectly ripe and delicious fruit. Once the Tropicana ran out, Julie started juicing oranges from the tree in front of the porch. She also gave us a taste of their fresh calamondon fruit, also on a tree in front of the porch.

When another local couple called to say they'd be dropping in, Eric had to go out for supplies - they only order enough to cover their reservations, so everything is absolutely fresh (that is why they didn't have enough scallops for me - I had to settle for lobster in my omelet). Before he left, realizing how long we'd been there, he whipped up an appetizer of smoked salmon they had left from the previous night's dinner, on toast with cream cheese, onions, capers and hunks of those incredible pink-fleshed oranges.

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When we were finally served (while enjoying our time with Julie and the newly arrived local couple) - it was a meal well worth waiting over two hours for. My omelete was Lobster Newburg - with sauteed bananas, pecans, roasted red bell pepper, sherry, almond flavor and two melted cheeses, plated with perfect fruit (how did he get peaches this good in February?).

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Bob's came last - a massive Chesapeake Omelet with smoked ham, hot peppers, onion, garden arugula and two melted cheeses:

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We literally had to tear ourselves away from the party - it must have been 3:30 in the afternoon!

After this wonderful experience, we experienced the first culinary let-down we've had in 4 years of going to Harbor Docks. We decided to take Danny up on his suggestion and stop by the hibachi/sushi side for dinner. Danny was working the sushi bar, but we were going to hibachi. First, they were out of cucumber salad and steamed rice. Ok, it was the Sunday before Presidents' day. Then, the bartender and servers were very slow, even though it wasn't crowded. But most important was the food we did eat: the shrimp ("appetizer" for all, side dish for Bob) did not taste fresh; heck, it didn't look or taste anything like the shrimp they serve on the other side of the restaurant. Ditto for the scallops (which I had been craving since I almost got some at brunch, but there weren't quite enough of them).

Bob's Steak w/side of Shrimp:

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My Grouper with side of Scallops (the Grouper, BTW, was fresh and fabulous - so the meal was not a total loss, especially since they offer "buy-1-get-1-half-price" for hibachi Sun-Weds):

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Our trip was now coming down to the wire - less than two days to go!

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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Monday was Presidents' Day and we started a little late. We decided to go to Blue Orleans, which serves breakfast and lunch food all day. Gator and his crew treated us like family and served up a wonderful meal.

Bob had the "Blue Plate Special" - Beans and Rice with two sides (he chose Collard Greens and Tomato):

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Though I wanted breakfast, I could not resist the description of the Seared Scallop Salad with fresh Pecans, Cheeses and raspberry dressing:

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It tasted even better than it sounded - the scallops are skewered on a sprig of Rosemary, so the flavor infused the mollusks. Also - the slices of mandarin orange were absolutely fresh and sweet - I've never had fresh mandarin (and despise what comes in the cans) - it was simply fabulous. We'll be back for dinner and music at Blue Orleans next year!

For our last evening in paradise, we decided to hit the happy hour at the Marina Cafe (Early Dinner Special 5:00 pm – 6:00 p.m. Buy one entree get the second entrée of equal or lesser value free. Happy Hour – Nightly 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

½ price sushi, 1/2 price gourmet pizza, 1/2 price drinks). We had enjoyed a high quality (and expensive) meal there two years ago, so we thought this would be fun.

The restaurant was having some issues between the hostess/manager and the bartender, who snapped at us that we'd have to wait 30 minutes for sushi when we ordered, then proceeded to literally throw two glasses of wine on the bar in front of me. We had our drinks and waited for the sushi, which, it turned out was not worth waiting for; it looked pretty but tasted stale and pale:

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Fortunately, we had already planned our last dinner at Trattoria Borago after hearing great things from a couple we chatted with at Blue Orleans. Borago.

We started with some of the best calamari I've ever had:

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I wanted to stick with fish or seafood, but they didn't have a lot of choices. I toyed with getting appetizers instead of an entree, when the server said I really needed to try their signature dish, the Grouper Nicoise. Hmmm - Grouper with artichokes, olives, haricot verts, baked tomato and lemon white wine butter over whipped potatoes. But I was really "potatoed out" by that time, and their pasta looked so good (through the open kitchen, I saw them handling fresh pasta that reminded me of that served at Cleveland's own beloved Carrie Cerinos). So I asked if I could have pasta and they said "sure"! And oh my was it great:

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Bob opted for Penne w/hot Italian Sausage (house made), carmelized onion, portobello mushrooms, and herbed goat cheese. It was also a winner:

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Bravisimo! We'll be back to Borago!

So - Tuesday was our last day and we had to check out of the condo by 10am. We made it, and elected to have one last Silver Sand Breakfast. I repeated my earlier selection of Cheese Grits and Biscuits with Gravy, but Bob decided to try Egg, Sausage and Hash Browns:

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I usually don't care for breakfast sausage, but this was very good (especially when dipped in gravy). So sad to leave it - but the plan was to lounge by the beach until about 1:30pm, then have our last meal - Harbor Docks lunch. It never disappoints - Grilled Amberjack, fresh slaw, average hushpuppies, and cheese grits (can't get enough of those when I'm in the South).

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Bob ended our fish odyssey with a hamburger plate - but at least he waited until the end of our trip to order one!

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So there it is - Destin 2007 is over. But is it? I just learned that Sandor has returned to the Emerald Coast, and is cooking at Cafe Provence (which was actually on my "go to" list, but we just couldn't fit it in). Hmmm - we may take a detour to Florida after our trip to Alabama this summer.

Also of note - Nim's, the adorable multi-Asian cuisine restuarant in Destin Commons, has closed; I understand the owners plan to reopen in the Publix strip mall on 395. Shame - we never got to try them.

If you would like to see even a few more pictures (and a more organized slide show than EG let me do) please check out my albums on Shutterfly.

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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your report makes me so homesick. I used to love going to Silver Sands when it was its on place on the beach on the east side of Destin with each table having its own toaster on the table. Another place I used to love for breakfast was June's Dunes, but it has been replaced by a highrise. sighhhhhhhhhhh, the old days in Destin. I would recommend that for next year, check out Gravel Road for lunch, I had an excellent grouper sandwich there when I was down between Christmas and New Years.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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your report makes me so homesick.  I used to love going to Silver Sands when it was its on place on the beach on the east side of Destin with each table having its own toaster on the table.  Another place I used to love for breakfast was June's Dunes, but it has been replaced by a highrise.  sighhhhhhhhhhh, the old days in Destin.  I would recommend that for next year, check out Gravel Road for lunch, I had an excellent grouper sandwich there when I was down between Christmas and New Years.

Gravel Road was on our list of choices, but we couldn't fit it in. We were still tossing up between GR and Borago when we ate at Blue Orleans, but our chat with the couple there tilted the choice to Borago.

Edited by NancyH (log)

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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