There are few pleasures in life as simple and perfect as hitting the beach at 10 am and not leaving. Not leaving to cook, not leaving to wash clothes, not leaving to go out to eat. Not leaving even when the sun goes down.
While hitting all the seafood restaurants is one of the perks of being on vacation, eating ON the beach (thus ensuring you don’t have to miss a wave or sunset or favorite song or some random spontaneous conversation) is a real treat – and one that too many folks overlook.
I have to give credit to Stan for this one. Getting me off the beach is a pretty difficult task. So one day, several years ago, my lovely husband (who loves the beach, but the fisherman in him also loves hitting the docks in the afternoon to see the local catch) took off for an hour or so and headed to the marina. What he brought back started a whole new tradition for us. (more…)
Spinach, Blue Cheese and Tomato Omelet (with added portobella mushrooms) – In the winter, I’m more apt to actually go to breakfast since the ocean tractor beam pulling me down to the beach needs a few extra hours to warm up…..
My husband is a breakfast person. His father is the quintessential breakfast person (so my husband got it honest). Eggs, biscuits and gravy, maybe a pancake and some bacon?
But when I’m at the beach, literally the last thing I really want to do is spend 3 hours in the kitchen cooking breakfast (there are exceptions – if there is someone else that wants to cook with me then it can be a fun way to start the day).
Usually that’s not the case, though.
A typical beach morning goes like this: (more…)
Everyone knows Stan and I love company when we’re at the beach. Even before purchasing the condo we’d head down several times a summer – and invite folks with us every time.
We also were known to crash other people’s vacations. Sure, folks may have just been trying to be polite when saying we were welcome to come (as we stared intently at them upon hearing of their impending beach vacation…hawkish stares perhaps even), but we carefully hid any cognizance of such pomp.
We were the ones that would actually show up. (more…)
Grits à Ya Ya at the Great Southern Cafe
We’ve really been fortunate to have the past year to go out and explore so much of the Panhandle in a more leisurely way. One of my favorite discoveries (although, apparently almost everyone else in the world knew about it but me), was the Great Southern Cafe in Seaside.
Besides being located smack dab center in the midst of all the goodness that is Seaside, the cafe boasts a fabulous breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu (and we found they also offer a late brunch – at least on Sundays anyway – if you miss breakfast). But you don’t have to worry about whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner to get their signature dish (and one of my all time beach fare favs): (more…)
1. Rosemary Beach: Summer Kitchen @ Rosemary is great for breakfast and dinner –http://summerkitchencafe.blogspot.com/p/breakfast-lunch-dinner-menus.html
– my 2nd favorite breakfast place – and fairly affordable – I always get their spinach, feta tomato omelet and add mushrooms – yummy! – and for dinner you can’t go wrong with anything they have at all – love just about everything on their menu!. Small, but sweet.
We also love the tapas place in Rosemary (La Crema) – good for small plates or desserts only if you choose. Their Brussels Sprouts are outstanding (even if you think you don’t like them, my guess is you will) – as well as their Stuffed Piquillos and Spanish Steak Tostados. Those three go quite well together! http://www.lacrematapas.com/
Many people also opt to go just for their desserts (The OMG Cookie is fab as is their fondue; chocolate covered bacon is not one of our favorites but your mileage may differ). You can use the No Wait App to get into the Tapas place during long wait times (they don’t take regular reservations, but you can get on the wait list via the app and that works well). Once signed in and on the list, the app will tell you when to arrive – then you can just walk around Rosemary or do what we do: go head up to the rooftop bar at Havana @ The Pearl and get cocktails and just chill.
Also good in Rosemary: Wild Olives Wine Bar, Edwards ($$$) and Restaurant Paradis ($$$). There’s also Acme Ice House (more bar type food – nice atmosphere though). I really enjoy Restaurant Paradis and eating on their terrace!
3. Seaside – By far my favorite breakfast place: Great Southern Cafe – http://www.thegreatsoutherncafe.com/tablet/index.html
– get the Grits a YaYa or one of their benedicts for breakfast! Hint: go early. They also have a fabulous lunch and dinner menu. You can’t go wrong with Great Southern.
We also love Bud and Alley’s – http://www.budandalleys.com/menu_dinner.php
– Best. Crab.Cakes.Anywhere!! – Bud and Alley’s is pricey, but they have a ROOFTOP BAR that is more affordable. Rooftop is kid friendly and has excellent views. But this is the place we go when we have family and want to have that *one* special dinner.
4. Grayton Beach – The Red Bar – Blackened Grouper on a cheese grit cake with spinach – our flat out favorite dinner in the entire area – and if The Red Bar is crowded, which it usually is (and loud, too) you can also go to Louie Louis off 98 in Sanddestin – same family ownership, same food, less crowd and quieter.) Again, the blackened grouper on the cheese grit cake is awesome!! In fact, if I had one place and one dinner to recommend out of all that is offered, this would be it (even if you think you don’t like fish, this is it). And Louis Louis will most definitely NOT be nearly as crowded as Red Bar, but I still suggest going early (5 ish?) because it too can have a long wait during peak times. 😉 Honestly, if you go early to either, you should be fine (4:30-5ish). Red Bar has a totally different atmosphere than Louis Louis (but we still adore both). Kid friendly early. Not so much after 9 pm. CASH or CHECK ONLY (they have an ATM and WILL TAKE out of town checks. No CCs!)
5.) Stinky’s Fish Camp, in Santa Rosa – I really love their version of Oysters Rockefeller and their balsamic pear salad (and I’m not even much of a pear fan – but absolutely delish!) and they are known for their crawfish pie, seafood stew and Sunday Brunch (as well as oysters-all-ways). I am not a dessert person at all, but Stan talked me into sharing the Heaven and Earth dessert and it may be the best dessert I’ve ever had. http://www.stinkysfishcamp.com/
6.) The Hub – think food trucks (but not really) meets open place for kids to run around meets a sports bar. Seriously. They have huge TVs and small food places and a huge open area. Weekend in the fall will have football on. http://hub30a.com/
7.) Old Florida Fish House – Very kid/family friendly (everything on 30A is really but OFFH has that “vibe”), fresh seafood and steaks and fresh SUSHI
!!!! 😉 Need I say more? http://www.oldfloridafishhouse.com/
8.) 30 A Avenue Restaurants – There are three other there, including Cuvee 30A – all very good. If you head west on 98 from PCB area, these are just past the bridge on the right (pretty close!)
There are also tons of neat little boutiques in all these little seaside villages. I personally love Rosemary Beach and Seaside the best. Seaside is nice to park and then just walk it. Shop. Eat ice cream. Shop some more. Go Eat dinner. Check their website for free concerts, etc. And the drive along 30-A from Rosemary all the way to Grayton is just fabulous (don’t get in a hurry – we love doing this around 8 a.m. and just meandering.)
Check this site for various events/farmers markets/live music happenings, etc: http://30a.com/
And don’t forget: You can head west on 98 and in about 20-25 minutes you’ll come to the outlet mall for serious shopping! Keep going and there’s tons of stuff to do in Destin – go down to the Harbour (tons of fun there, too – love going to AJs ;-)!): http://www.destinboardwalk.com/
To the east – Panama City Beach:
1. Pier Park is to the east of our condo – not too far – maybe 6-7 miles just past 79. It’s an outdoor mall type of place, with lots of “chain” type restaurants. However, we do love going to the beer garden (http://www.hofbraupcb.com/
) and getting their Bavarian Beer Cheese Pretzel with the Beer Cheese (coupled with a Dunkel and then outside to people watch) 😉 Rarely crowded in my experience (and/or a nice way to spend a rainy afternoon). At night we like eating outside out front so we can hear whatever band is playing across the street at Tootsies. Also, The Craft Bar (http://thecraftbarfl.com/
) just opened on the north side of Pier Park – very good selection of craft beers and bourbons and they have awesome hamburgers!! Our favorite is the blue cheese burger. Very good. And “The Brass Tap” is just to the west of Dillards – also very good and a great selection of craft brews: http://brasstapbeerbar.com/beer/PierPark
Of course there are tons of shopping places there, movies, etc.
2. Dusty’s on Front Beach Road (also our second favorite spot) is a bar but has great oysters and really, really good fried and/or blackened (I love the blackened – Stan likes the grilled or fried) shrimp and scallops (they have really good seasoning). However, unless you go at 11 am when they open, you’ll most likely find yourself waiting a bit – or 2 hours! But It’s a fun place. But waits are sometimes long unless you go for lunch. However, if only two of you, just sit at the bar to eat (that’s what Stan and I do).
3. Schooner’s is beach front – http://www.schooners.com/
– bar type food, but not bad, and the location is awesome directly on the beach!!
4. Uncle Ernie’s – http://uncleerniesbayfrontgrill.com/
– This is Stan’s personal favorite and up there for me as well – but it’s located in Panama City Proper, 20 minutes east, and then over the bridge, down by the docks/port – so a bit of a drive, but worth it. (Grouper Imperial is very good there, as is their filet imperial – as are many of their apps if you just want to order 6 and share – oh, and their homemade hummus is outstanding). The main reason we like it isn’t the food (although the food is lovely!) – it’s the atmosphere: specifically upstairs at the Martini Bar, overlooking the marina, at sunset, specifically on a Friday or Saturday evening (when the solo guitar singer is there). It’s just perfect to be there right after the sun goes down, the sky is lit up beautifully, the music is just right (not loud) and there is a lovely breeze and laughter on the table. It’s just that kind of place.
Hunt’s Oyster Bar is also around the corner and they compete pretty well with Dusty’s for best oysters in my book. No reason to go to Hunt’s if you’re not an oyster fan – but if you are, it’s definitely worth checking out! These two places won’t be nearly as crowded as PCB, but obviously a bit further of a drive.
***6. Buddy’s – http://buddysseafoodmarket.com/
– and possibly the aggregate family personal favorite, but you can’t eat there. You can, however, go in and order their seasoned/steamed shrimp to go (along with corn and taters and/or tuna dip) and take it back to the condo
and eat in the condo
, on the balcony, or (best!) grab some boogie boards for makeshift tables and just eat on the beach like we do: Best Restaurant in the World.
They stop taking orders at 5:30/5:45! So get there earlier than that. Also, the closer to 5, the longer the line.