South Walton is made up of 26 miles of beach neighbourhoods on the Gulf Coast such as Santa Rosa, Alys Beach, Seagrove, Grayton Beach and Water Color. Renowned for these superb coastal stretches, South Walton is packed with top-quality restaurants and is relatively undisturbed as most visitors to the state head to Miami, Florida Keys, or Orlando. Here are 10 of the very best restaurants to try in South Walton.
Courtesy of Bistro Bijoux
Fish Out Of Water
Bistro, Restaurant, Seafood, $$$
FOOW- Fish Out of Water Restaurant, Santa Rosa Beach | Courtesy of Cuvee Bistro
The award-winning Fish Out Of Water lies in Santa Rosa Beach and is part of the WaterColor Inn and Resort. The view from the restaurant is of the Gulf of Mexico and the menu, as the restaurant name suggests, is heavily focused on fresh seafood caught out on the Gulf. There are dishes such as roasted black grouper, shrimp and scallop paella, as well as red snapper served with wild rice and shallot agrodolce sauce. There is also an excellent wine list features vintages from MacMurray Ranch, Maso Canali, and Clarendelle.
For a truly delightful, romantic, fine-dining experience, the restaurant to go to is, without doubt, Bistro Bijoux. Situated amongst the market shops at Sandestin near to spectacular scenic views of the picturesque Horseshoe Lake, this bistro is a must-visit for the couple looking to wine and dine. With its plentiful seafood, succulent steaks and award winning wine lists, the restaurant boasts a mouth-watering menu. Start with the fresh Gulf oysters, watercress, fontina cheese and garlic breadcrumbs, and then delve into the Gulf Red, pan-roasted Snapper, served with a smoked bacon, black-eyed pea succotash, and spiced tomato-saffron nage. Diners are expected to wear formal attire, and the restaurant is open seven evenings a week.
The Vin’tij Wine Boutique and Bistro is based in Miramar Beach in Destin just off of Highway 98. Operated by manager Todd Reber and Chef John Jacob, Vin’tij brings together their experience working in restaurants across the USA. The wine list is particularly well-regarded by diners, there are vintages from the Napa Valley and Santa Lucia Highlands in California, Burgundy and the Rhone Valley in France, and Hawkes Bay in New Zealand. The food menu is built on seasonal ingredients and fish from Harbor Docks in Destin. Seafood entrées on offer include yellowfish, tuna, and catch of the day.
The Grayton Bar and Grill offers a classic beach bar atmosphere. The owners Johnny and Debbie Earles aim to extend nostalgia into the food with familiar flavors, though with a few surprises thrown in to keep things interesting. On the menu are oysters from the Gulf, barbecue shrimp, crab cakes, grilled and basted grouper, fish of the day and Andouille gumbo amongst others. The Bar and Grill is located just in from the Gulf Coast next to the Grayton Beach State Park and the Point Washington State Forest.
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George’s At Alys Beach was set up with the aim of serving up fresh, seasonal food that takes advantage of the brilliant produce available in Florida. The innovative menu is split into sections entitled ‘Behave’ and ‘Misbehave’, the former features organic dishes such as lamb osso bucco, chef’s vegetarian plate and bronzed sea scallops, whilst the ‘Misbehave’ section features classic beach fare such as fish tacos and seafood platters with hushpuppies and french fries.
Bar, Restaurant, Pizzeria, Mexican, American, Fast Food, $$$
Bud and Alley’s takes its name from the dog of the town founder of Seaside and the cat of the restaurant owner Dave Rauschkolb. The restaurant was set up by a couple of surfers back in 1986 as a relaxed eating-house overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Bud and Alley’s now consists of the main restaurant, the roof deck bar and a pizza bar and taco bar also in Seaside. The cuisine is classic American fare made with fresh local ingredients, Gulf oysters, catch of the day, sautéed redfish, grilled red snapper, barbecued shrimp and organic chicken.
Cowgirl Kitchen has two locations in South Walton, at Seagrove and on Rosemary Beach. The restaurants offer a casual, relaxed atmosphere. The Rosemary Beach location is a restaurant and bar whilst in Seagrove, there is a combined market and café serving breakfast and lunch with a menu that includes pulled pork tacos and Angus beef burgers. At Rosemary Beach, the extensive restaurant menu includes specialties such as blackened shrimp quesadilla, turkey avocado BLT and grouper sandwich.
Roux 30A lies in Grayton Beach and aims to foster strong links running from local producers such as farmers and fishermen, through the kitchen all the way to the table so that diners have a real sense of location on their plate. The Chef Nikhil Abuvala offers culinary masterclasses to interested diners and there is a Chef’s Table available so that diners can observe the preparation of the food. The ambitious menu includes tomato and watermelon gazpacho, handmade mushroom ravioli, smoked octopus carpaccio with kalamata olives and shaved fennel, pan-seared branzini with rosemary vinaigrette and grilled tenderloin of beef with potato gnocchi.
The Great Southern Café is owned by Chef Jim Shirley and specialises in carefully crafted food that takes inspiration from classic Southern mixed with international influence, using only the best local produce from land and sea. The Café boasts a superb location on the Central Square in Santa Rosa Beach. Chef Jim Shirley is well-known in Florida and has featured on television cookery shows and written culinary newspaper columns. He describes his food as Modern Southern, with new international flavors infused throughout. On the Café menu are dishes such as grits and grillades, slow-roasted beef in a Shiraz stew served with cheese grits, and bacon-wrapped filet mignon.
V Seagrove is the highly regarded restaurant at Hotel Viridian at Seagrove Beach. The atmosphere is relaxed and diners can sit inside or out and look out over the Gulf of Mexico. Naturally there is an emphasis on fresh seafood. The Executive Chef David Cunningham incorporates traditional and contemporary American influences, Cajun flavors and some Creole inspiration. On the menu are Gulf oysters served on the shell or with Thai spices and Manchego butter, bacon wrapped pork chop with foraged mushroom blue crab pork demi-glace, basil coconut steamed mussels, and Black Angus beef carpaccio.