Two things happened last week that made me stop and take a minute to think. First, was the announcement that 31-year old locally owned restaurant Coach-n-Four was closing its doors. Second, my daughter came to visit and we arrived at her favorite local sushi restaurant, Sakura, only to find that they, too, had closed. It was saddening to see great locally-owned restaurants closing their doors amidst exponential growth in the marketplace and the ongoing arrival of large chain restaurants to the Destin area.
Don’t get me wrong, chain restaurants can be great…but in this once quaint little fishing village, it is the locally-owned restaurants that give the area its unique favor. If you are visiting Destin or Fort Walton Beach and want to truly experience the unique culture and cuisine of the Emerald Coast, you need to experience the locally-owned restaurants that helped put the area on the map in the first place.
After 33 years in the restaurant business here at Fudpucker’s, we know how difficult it is to be a locally-owned restaurant trying to make your mark in a town where restaurant chains are popping up on every corner. I think it is our unique offerings, our commitment to service, and our reputation for quality food that have kept us in business. I’d like to invite you to check out Fudpucker’s, a locally-owned restaurant featuring casual fare that you won’t find in any other corner of the world, and to some of my other favorite locally owned Destin area restaurants for an experience unlike one you can find in any other city in America. Eat Local. Shop Local. LIVE like a local.
Here are a few of my favorite locally-owned Destin restaurants, besides Fudpucker’s of course! Give them a try, and tell them Father Fud sent you!
Dewey Destin’s – Simply prepared fresh seafood in a very casual atmosphere with a view that can’t be beat. Try the Smoked Tuna Dip, the Grouper Sandwich or a Fried Shrimp Basket. Yum!
Pandora’s in Fort Walton Beach – BEST steaks and fresh seafood on the coast. Everything is cooked to order over an oak wood fire. My favorites are the Porterhouse Steak and Grilled Grouper with Crabmeat. I also LOVE their Brandy Alexanders.
Harbor Docks in Destin – Fresh gulf to table cuisine and sushi that will knock your socks off.
Jasmine Thai in Destin – Same great food as always but in a new location – try any of the many curry dishes, but my absolute favorites are the Duck Curry and the Panang Curry. I am also a BIG fan of the Pad Thai.
Clemenza’s in Fort Walton Beach and Destin– Clemeza’s in Fort Walton Beach offers GREAT service and GREAT Italian food in a very comfortable “Uptown” atmosphere. Everything is homemade and my favorites include the Eggplant Parmesan, Osso Buco and the Italian Steak. Also, you must try the Panna Cotta – a rich custard like Italian dessert that is simply to die for. Also check out Mama Clemenza’s European Breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. My favorites are the Eggs Benedict, Lemon Crepes and the Shrimp with Gouda Grits. WOW! (FYI – Mama’s will be opening next to Fat Clemenza’s in Destin this Spring.)
McGuire’s Irish Pub in Destin– Fun atmosphere, serving great burgers, steaks, and Irish-inspired fare like lamb stew and shepherd’s pie. As a different take to the graffiti you’ll find on the walls here at Fudpucker’s, McGuire’s invites you to add your mark to the restaurant by hanging a personalized dollar bill on the ceiling, walls, etc.
Boshamps in Destin -Boshamps itself is fairly new to the Destin restaurant scene, but the Phillips family has been part of the industry for decades. Boshamps offers upscale coastal fare in a beautiful restaurant with a gorgeous view of the Destin Harbor. Their crab cakes are the best in town.