The city of Destin comes down to meet the Gulf of Mexico along Florida’s Emerald Coast. As you might imagine, proximity to these waters means limitless fresh seafood on the city’s menus. Dining here is as family-friendly as it’s fine; and beyond the expected southern-flavoured, marine-based treats (gumbo, calamari, sushi, oysters) meat is major. Whether you’re into steaks or shrimps, chicken or alligator, these are the best restaurants in Destin, Florida. Dig in!
At Boshamps Seafood & Oyster House your dinner won’t have traveled far; the house-smoked yellowfin tuna, shrimp, and blue crab are caught right in the Gulf waters beneath your harbor-front table. Other palate-pleasers on your plate – white sauce, tomato jam, plum tomatoes, feta – are whipped up Alabama-style. Taste the pleasures of the Gulf lifestyle with the catch of the day, accompanied by creamy Spanish Mahon cheese grits, local okra-tomato dish maque choux, and definitely a Boshamps Margarita, prepared with a special house-made mix.
American wagyu beef sliders, grilled fresh fish, and hearty marinara pasta; that’s just the kids menu at Marina Cafe, Destin’s most-garlanded restaurant. It’s a feast for all the family. Split a bottle of red with your partner and prepare for jumbo-lump crab cakes on panko crusted eggplant medallions – an appetizer even your little ones will love. Top tip: the pan-seared Louisiana redfish is always a winner, with its crust of andouille sausage, alongside a dollop of cajun chive remoulade and hot cayenne butter.
Even the laziest day devoted to sunbathing is best begun with a hearty breakfast at Crackings. Everyone comes for the classic Belgian waffle or sweet cream pancakes, but the fresh Gulf Benedict deserves a mention: it’s absolutely delicious, composed of a red snapper fillet, two poached eggs, and a slick of creole hollandaise, all piled on an English muffin and served with a generous helping of country spuds. You’ll need downtime to digest all this, which means: next stop the beach.
This is one of the best places to introduce your tastebuds to regional flavors, its USP being Florida seafood with a Louisiana twist. Sunday brunch will transport you 250mi (400km) west to the Big Easy: order a New Orleans muffaletta (cheese and ham sandwich), some duck and andouille sausage gumbo, and the spicy hurricane shrimp. You’ll practically hear the jazz bands playing in the distance as you eat.
Courtesy of Fudpucker’s Beachside Bar & Grill | Courtesy of Fudpucker’s Beachside Bar & Grill
Live alligators, kids writing on the walls, and a hunch-punch known as “knock-out juice” – Fudpucker’s Beachside Bar & Grill is peak Floridian fun for the whole family. They’ve got a boatload of tastebud-ticklers, including fried dill pickles, finger lickin’ chicken, and the much-loved Fudburgers, dressed in a sweet and spicy sauce. Let the kids off the leash to feed the alligators while you sip a Fudpuckerita, zingy with passion fruit, strawberry, and mango.
When you’re knackered from a day surfing, Gulf Coast Burger Company delivers the calorific sustenance you need. There are juicy burgers grilled in five different Gulf-state styles. Or try the Mississippi country fried steak, smothered with smooth brown gravy. This is a mild substitute for the Texas chili burger with cayenne-spiked “tobacco” onions, and fried jalapenos. No matter how hulking your order of meat and toppings, you have to try a sugar-loaded Cat 5 milkshake – the cookies and cream version is head-rushingly good.
This place, as its name suggests, has a bad case of the blues – which is a good thing. You can munch on a Memphis Blues grilled shrimp salad or indulge in New Orleans Blues with a plate of wild buffalo meatloaf. Perhaps you’d rather have an order of spicy smoked tuna dip (redolent of the Windy City blues). And if a gourmet Marvin Gaye pizza isn’t enough for you, you’ll find some inner city blues next door, thanks to uplifting live music at the Funky Blues Shack.
They certainly give you the hard shell at this beachside oyster bar – along with emerald aquatic views and a broad menu of the freshest seafood. You might order appetizers of sweet and spicy calamari – juicy Gulf shrimp, too – to tide you over until your plate of sweet and delicate Alaskan bairdi crab lands on the table. The best liquid refreshment for our money is the Crab Trap Long Island Iced Tea, which will lull you into contentment, watching the waves roll by.
Behind the unusual name (and we do like a pun) authentic Thai foods are what keep this place very much afloat. Slurp up a bowl of tom yum or chicken feet soup while the chefs cook you a batch of pad woon sen (chicken thigh and thread noodles) or pad see ew, zingy with tamarind sauce. If you’d rather stick with the standards, there’s pad thai and fish cake also on the menu, and if only vegan will do, try the yellow curry tofu.
Brick-oven baking and generous toppings come as standard whichever pie you order at Landshark’s Pizza Company. The signature serving – loaded with four different veggies and four different meats, kitchen-sink style – has helped to make Landshark’s one of the best of its kind in Destin. And there’s more to the appeal: stop in for a slice, and you’ll definitely be waylaid by the many bourbons, whiskeys, and awesome cigars. Demolish a slice of fiery El Diablo before summoning a Glenfarclas 25 Year scotch and lighting a hefty Nicaraguan number. Now that’s what you call a vacation.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Ania Manczyk.
Looking for more recommendations? Find a hotel perfectly suited to your needs from this list of the best hotels for every traveler or opt for more privacy at one of these vacation rentals. Best of all, you can book your next stay right here on Culture Trip. There’s plenty to do in the day too; discover the top things to do in Destin for a perfect vacation.
These recommendations were updated on July 25, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.