Eating Destin – 2012

I’m extremely sad to be writing this. It means that I’m no longer on vacation and I have a full year, until returning to Destin, again. ūüė¶

I always have an eating game plan – sometimes, it works out. And, other times, it goes horribly awry. When eating in Destin, I have to take a lot of things into consideration…1. Places we love and want to return to. 2. The fact that we have kids with us. 3. Location. Given, we have 9 dinners to eat out, my foodie girl brain starts going into overload. I have to make sure that I’m getting my full on eating experiences in.

I’ll have to say that I was a little disappointed this year, with Destin. It was beyond, and I mean BEYOND, crowded. I have never seen it like this before – especially in August. I guess the recession’s over. Shopping sucked. Seriously – take my word for it. Minus 3 coffee cups, a sea turtle bracelet, a couple Destin car decals and a stuffed sea turtle…I got nothing. Not even a purse dammit. And, lastly, I was never wow-ed over by any food. <–this last one breaks my heart. My little, piggy heart.

I still loved the beach and still loved the company Рbut, the usual laid-back ambiance was LONG gone.

But, enough about me being a cry baby – let’s talk Destin food. We, typically, have breakfast and lunch in the room. Maybe a lunch and breakfast, or 2, OUT – but, we shoot to eat IN the room, for those meals.

I switched things up a bit – Ciao Bella was NOT first on the list, after our drive in. I went with The Back Porch…mostly cause I was desperate and craving a Key Lime Freeze. Yes, I know I have issues.


We got to The Back Porch, fairly early – maybe 5:30? Got sat right away – and, this was our view…

Yes, I’m ready to hunt leprechauns, baby!

First order of business…order the drink!

Oh, how I’ve missed you, Key Lime Freeze. It was, oh, so tasty. The simple things, people.

My bestie, M (to protect her identity), ordered a Pina Colada and my daughter, ordered a Frozen Strawberry Lemonade.

Pina Colada

Frozen Lemonade

We are in Destin – we have drinks. We are happy. Well, I am.


We had a waiter. He was very busy. It wasn’t bad service but I wouldn’t call it excellent either. It was “eh”, which is kind of par for the course, in Destin.

Run down…(and, I swear, pictures will follow, eventually)

Hubs ordered (and split with the girl), the Crab Cake Dinner.

Other items…

Chicken Sunset

Blackened Mahi

Grouper Destin

Grouper Florentine

That was mine. Okay – The Back Porch isn’t on my “love” list. It goes on my “eh” list. It has location going for it and the tasty drink, but, that’s usually it. HOWEVER, my Grouper Florentine was really damn good. Probably, one of the better things I ate all week. I was surprised.

One disappointment is that they got rid of corn on the cob Рthey have some odd corn/lima bean succotash. My son was peeved. Being as he associates The Back Porch with corn on the cob eating!

Back Porch Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Love, love, love. I love this…

…the trailer that houses all the cooking equipment. The simplicity of the menu and the “restaurant”. Fresh (actually, FRESH) catch of the day. And, that it’s simple –> have I mentioned that?

And, that. It’s on Crab Island and it doesn’t get better.

Okay…line it up.

Tuna Dip

Tuna Dip

I’ve had Smoked Tuna Dip before – but, not like this. It was so damn good. Squeezed with just a hint of lemon and some salty crackers – it needed nothing. The vultures (meaning, us) swooped down and consumed within seconds.

Buffalo Shrimp Dinner

Buffalo Shrimp Basket

Fried Fish Basket

Fried Fish

Soft Shell Crab Sandwich

Soft Shell Crab Sandwich

My son’s very classy Hot Dog

Red Snapper (fried) Basket

Okay – everyone ordered and this is where my problem comes in. I’ve been hearing about the infamous “Royal Reds”. These¬†humongous¬†shrimp that are so sweet, that they have the taste of crab. Without all of the cracking issues! Who doesn’t love that?

I went to order a pound of Royal Reds and….BEH! No go. They were OUT. My little heart wanted to cry.That’s all I wanted in life, were some Royal Reds. I wanted to rip heads off of shrimp, peel their shell and enjoy their sweet meat. Boo Hoo.

So, I went to option 2…the Red Snapper basket (someone else ordered it, too…hence, the pic above already).

It was good. But, my heart (and taste buds!) was set on Royal Reds. Still don’t like the hush puppies and tartar but, what can I do? I still love the Dewey Destin. In retrospect, I should have gone with the Stuffed Shrimp. Oh well.

Dewey Destin's Seafood on Urbanspoon

DAY 3: Ciao Bella

Yes, we, usually, go the first night in. I wanted to switch things up! Ciao Bella is in the Outlets, on a corner. Which could lead some to believe that it’s not good – I’m not the some people. Still LOVE it.

The boys split a Cheese Pizza

Sorry for the blur – I love Ciao Bella, but it’s not the easiest place to take pics in. LOTS of sun.

The big boys got a pizza, too – Del Pastore

Penne Ciociara¬†(that’s what I got last year!)

And, I got the Penne Carbonara, this year

It was YUMMY. One of the best things I ate all week. Nope, not seafood, but tasty all the same! Bacon, people. It had the BACON!

And, of course, the infamous dipping oil and bread.

And, again, I’ll repeat – the table (the whole table) should get bread and dipping oil. I don’t think Ciao Bella listens to me.

Ciao Bella Pizza on Urbanspoon


Do not be alarmed. Stay calm. This is a Krispy Kreme emergency. When the Hot Button Now light, goes on, we veer (sometimes U-turn) into Krispy Kreme. We descend like locusts and we watch the magic happen.

Here they go – all fried and ready to go through the…

GLAZE WATERFALL! I want to stick my face under it. I know it would burn. But, I’m willing to take that chance.

Yes, we are donut stalkers. And, so easily amused.

Final product

I would like to tell you that these glazed soldiers stood a fighting chance. But, alas, they didn’t make it back to the condo. If you’ve never had a fresh, hot glazed krispy kreme, you are missing out on one of the most beautiful things, in life. It’s warm and sweet and will melt, right in your mouth. It’s just supremely perfect.

Since we destroyed that box, we got another dozen. One of my choices was the birthday donut (Krispy Kreme is 75)

Yes, it was as good as it looks.

And, before we leave this Krispy Kreme moment…here’s my favorite pic from our whole vacation!

You must sing the Woo-Hoo, to the BTR (big time rush) song…and then, it becomes hysterical. Well, maybe, only to me.

Krispy Kreme on Urbanspoon

Okay, back to normal programming.

DAY 4: McGuire’s (has my heart)

I don’t care if it’s an Irish Pub. I love McGuire’s. Everything about it. The ambiance, the decor (as cheesy as it is – and I love it), the music, the chill in the air, the dollar bills, everything. Love.

Of course, we had to order Nachos

I kind of fell, out of love, with the nachos last year. Yes, they’re huge. But, that’s about it. There really isn’t an easy or good way to eat them and there’s not enough “stuff” for the massive amounts of chips. Eh.

So, ordered the Boxty’s, too.

They were fine. They needed some excitement. Kind of boring and bland.

House Salad

Caesar Salad

Shrimp Scampi


Kids Cheese Bread

My son’s favorite steak, the Strip, in 3 parts.

He takes his steak eating seriously.

And, I got the Prime Rib. It was so delicious, last year, I wanted it again.

This year…not so much. I think they gave me a cut, closer to the end – it wasn’t as tender as usual. The food gods were working against me.

But, I’ll forgive McGuire’s.

McGuire's Irish Pub of Destin on Urbanspoon

Note: we have been to ALL restaurants that we’ve been to, before. Get ready for NEWness!

DAY 5: It was raining. We took the kids to Fat Daddy’s arcade. HUGE mistake. It was day care field trip day = shoot me. However, my son DID win me Fred. Fred makes me happy.

I know I’m a¬†weirdo. It’s part of my charm.

Since we were out and about, we decided to eat out, for lunch. I’ve heard good things about Fat Clemenza’s

Let’s just say – CHARM galore. Small tables. Candles in the middle. Pizza Oven. Small and quaint. The cooks speak Italian! Gangster posters on every wall. They’re open for lunch and close until dinner. Love the¬†atmosphere.

AND – one of the best things I ate all week. What is it?

Mimmo’s Homemade Garlic Rolls

Yum, yum, yum. I can’t even say it enough. The knots were soft but still slightly crisp. Tons…and I mean, TONS, of garlic. Here’s the leftover plate to prove it.

I wanted to lick the plate. Really.

I know that I’m a snob, when it comes to garlic knots. This is the FIRST time, that I can say, that these were right up there, with mine! So good.

Cheese Pizza

Sorry that the pics are a little oddly colored. The place had bad picture taking lighting. But, the pizzas are wood-fired, in a 900 degree oven. The crust is nice and crispy!

Pizza Diavola

Chicken Parmesan Sandwich

And, I got the Italian Sausage Sandwich

Okay, I got a cup of the Tomato Basil soup (to the left). It was the BEST tomato soup, I’ve ever had or MADE! Perfect.

The sandwich, not so much. It was boring. Needed a kick of something. I could have had more soup and been just fine.

I do want to explore Fat Clemenza’s again – and, I took a pack of matches, on the way out.

And, yes, we still need dinner!

Fat Clemenza's on Urbanspoon

Rick’s Crab Trap

We’ve been here before – maybe 2 years ago. It was fine. Not something I would, normally, pick to eat again BUT, they have all you can eat Crab Legs for $32. This interested most of our group. And, I heard that Rick’s got new ownership, so we gave it another whirl.

Crab Poppers

I got a cup of the “award-winning” Gumbo

Yeah, it sucked. I took 2 bites and then the husband yelled at me for wasting $5. He could have eaten it.

Fish Tacos (not ME, surprisingly)



3 extra rounds were ordered – they came out on a big plate, like this, and everyone grabbed a portion.

The general consensus was that there was a LOT of seasoning on them. But, it didn’t stop them.

Crab Carnage

Yes, it was ugly.

I like crab. I just don’t really have the energy to deal with all that cracking, for a teeny piece of meat. But, you know what they did have on their menu?!?!?


Again, someone in the kitchen LOVED using the Old Bay. I liked ripping the heads off. But, they were okay. Nothing amazingly earth shattering. I don’t know if I’d like them better, ordered somewhere else?

Because I don’t typically get dessert, I felt compelled to order some Key Lime Pie

It needed raspberry sauce. That’s all I’m saying.

Rick's Crab Trap on Urbanspoon

DAY 6: The Pancakery (breakfast, since it was a monsoon)

Okay – here’s my Destin breakfast tirade. Yes, I like Another Broken Egg Cafe but I refuse to pay huge $ for eggs. Just can’t do it. I ran in and bought a coffee mug, but that was it. Thought we’d try the Donut Hole – even though it gets horrible reviews for extremely bad service and long waits. AND, the fact that last time we ran in there, they were out of donuts. Really? I looked over their menu and, honestly, didn’t see anything that looked special or original but still thought that we’d give it a whirl. We drove by the one in Sandestin and it was beyond PACKED. Being as they don’t have a wait system, besides waiting in a line and hope that a table pops up…we decided to go somewhere else. My daughter was pushing for The Pancakery –>so, there we went!

For the 8 of us, it was only about a 15 minute wait – not too shabby!

We got…

The Chocolatier

I have no clue how my daughter eats that. Puke.

Regular Pancakes

Kids Smiley face Pancakes

Basic Breakfast with Sausage

The Mule

Bacon and Mushroom Omelette

And, mine, the Basic Breakfast with Bacon

Again, it was fine. The potatoes weren’t very good and don’t look homemade. The pancakes…well, they’re too vanilla-y, for me. Not very light and fluffy either. Keep in mind, it takes a lot to impress me, breakfast-wise. I need creativity and originality. Both of which, are lacking, in Destin.

The Pancakery on Urbanspoon

Which leads me to –> if we ever decide to move to Destin, I’m opening a breakfast/lunch spot, that’s fun and funky! My alternate plan is to open a chili parlor since so many Cincinnati peeps visit there!

Day 6 dinner eating led us to Miller’s Ale House¬†– a new Destin eatery. My husband got sucked in by the Wednesday night special – 1 1/4# Whole Maine Lobster for $14.95! Um, hello…can’t beat that!

We started off with…

Loaded Fries

Caesar Salad

Stuffed Lobster

Seafood Mac’n’Cheese

Blackened Mahi

Zinger Potato Chip Nachos


And MY Zinger Tacos – I was going back and forth between fish tacos and zinger tacos. Since I thought we were going to Crab Island Cantina, the next night, I decided on the zinger tacos!

The beans and rice were really good! The zinger tacos needed more sauce but, other than that, pretty tasty!

And, my piggy chocaholic family got the Chocolate Pounder!

Even though I know it’s a chain, I like Miller’s Ale House – had a very comfy vibe to it. The service wasn’t great – I think he forgot about us, about halfway in. But, again, that’s southern service.

Miller's Ale House on Urbanspoon

DAY 7: Thursdays, in Harborwalk Village, there are fireworks. I had the brilliant idea to go to dinner at Crab Island Cantina and watch the fireworks. Apparently, so did everyone else. We couldn’t get into the parking LOT or the parking GARAGE! Keep in mind, it was 5. Yes, Destin Clusterpluck. <–toned it down for the kids.

So, we had to wing it, for dinner. In case you don’t know me – I don’t enjoy not being scheduled or ill-prepared. Especially when it comes to food. I need to know that I’ve stalked the menu, for hours, before eating. Again – I know I’m a freak.

We passed Fisherman’s Wharf, on the way to Harborwalk, and since the parking lot was empty, decided to give it a whirl. I was, frantically, trying to pull up the menu – I saw fish tacos, so, gave the approval.

Okay – immediately, it reminded me of a restaurant in Myrtle Beach. Kind of, appealing to the seafood masses with the addition of a salad bar. Very dated look.

But, again, had to move on to Plan B!

Coconut Shrimp

Banana Daiquiri

And, no, that wasn’t mine! ūüôā It was M’s – I don’t like bananas.

Kid Cheeseburger

Mahi Sandwich

The Pelican Platter

Captain’s Burger

Grouper Destin

Fisherman’s Flounder

And, I got my go-to meal – Fish Tacos!

And, open…

I wasn’t impressed – the fish was dry and wasn’t very good. The sour cream was pre-packed. I don’t know – I want things to be fresh. Even the rice and beans were boring. I was ready to go.

Fisherman's Wharf on Urbanspoon

DAY 8: Food Truck Time!

It was raining and we took the day to drive into Seaside and Seagrove (to check out a house). The hubby mentioned eating at Food Trucks, for lunch – I was IN. You don’t have to talk me into street food EVER.

After almost mowing over 1000 bikers (hence, why I despise pretentious Seaside), we finally found a place to park and unloaded right next to a handful of food trucks. There was a smoothie truck, a sno-cone truck, a melt truck, hot dog truck and a bbq truck. Taco and Pizza Bar across the street. My dreams come true.

Mikey liked the Hot Dog Truck – Wild Bill’s Beach Dogs

He got ONE hot dog, plain, and ONE coke = $10 (I did take a pic of Mikey’s food but my camera ate it)

Wild Bill's Beach Dogs on Urbanspoon

Maddie and her friend wanted the BBQ Truck

2 BBQ Sandwich Meals + 2 drinks = $27

Maddie said it was really good. Oh, did I mention that Mikey didn’t LIKE his $10 hot dog?

Barefoot BBQ on Urbanspoon

The hubby and I went to the Taco Bar

1 Fish Taco + 1 Carnitas Taco + Chips and Queso + Drink = $20

And, again, my camera ate my fish taco picture. Which sucks, cause it was a really great fish taco. The best that I’ve had, in Destin (or around Destin) but not better than Nada. Just sayin’.

Bud & Alley's Taco Bar on Urbanspoon

However – thought that the almost $60 was a little steep for street food! I’m glad we tried it – can’t say that I have to have it again.

¬†Floyd’s Shrimp House

My plan has seriously derailed. The problem is – I’m fairly adventurous with the eating. But, we have kids with us – and, a couple of the menus were NOT kid friendly. I wanted to try Old Bay Steamer and The Boathouse Oyster Bar…but the menus were pretty specific and I didn’t want anyone paying uber $ for food that they were just iffy about. Last year, when we went to The Black Pearl, I saw Floyd’s. Okay, I noticed it because there are pelicans on top and it reminds me of my brother-in-law BUT…still noticed it. I scoured the menu and I liked that it was funky!

The place is over the bridge, in Fort Walton. Away from the hustle bustle, which was nice.

We walked right in and we were able to be sat outside – it was a gorgeous day. Beautiful, but not hot. People were playing sand volleyball 50 yards from us. A wedding was taking place, under the pier. Ocean and more ocean. Perfect. Probably one of my best meals, just based on ambiance alone!

You guessed it – at a shrimp house, they probably have a lot of shrimp! Oh! And, they have an all you can eat large shrimp meal. (of course, hubs was all over it)

Gator Bites (that would be, Mikey – won’t eat anything but will eat gator!)

Cajun Shrimp Pasta¬†(I think this is M’s 15th day of pasta)

All you can EAT shrimp – boiled (that time)

Coconut Shrimp Meal

Captain’s Platter

Bushwacker (that WOULD be mine)

And my meal – the Killer Shrimp

My shrimp were good – I liked that they gave me toasted bread to sop up the garlic butter. That makes me happy. Although my food wasn’t AMAZING, I definitely want to go back to Floyd’s Shrimp House. It was a surprise hit! (among everyone)

Floyd's Shrimp House on Urbanspoon

DAY 9: our last dinner *sniff sniff* 790 on the Gulf

This was pinned on my pinterest board, as a restaurant, I might want to go to. It got booted over Boathouse Oyster Bar but, seeing reasons above, I added it back in.

Okay, it’s in a hotel and kind of hokey. But, kind of cool in a sinatra retro sort of way. Live music, tablecloths, mirrors – I kind of dug it.

Our server, God love her, was kind of¬†ditsy. She had no clue about the fresh fish and we could barely hear her. Then, when asked what the veggies were, she replied with “oh, it’s a melody.” Okay, honey.

Hurricane Shrimp

Yummy –¬†reminiscent¬†of bang bang shrimp (bonefish)

Tuna Dip

Duck and Andouille Gumbo

Lots of flavor but very rich – could never eat a whole bowl of it!

Chicken Fried Chicken

House Salad

Caesar Salad

Fish Sandwich

I have no clue what the hell this is – maybe Fried Shrimp Platter?

Gulf Coast Fried Seafood Platter


And, I decided to be bold and get the elusive Tilefish (which our server couldn’t describe to us). I got it blackened with some hollandaise sauce, on the side.

The spinach is so sad. The shrimp, on top of the fish, were better than the fish. If I wouldn’t have added sauce, would have been dry. But, again, it was fine.

790 on the Gulf on Urbanspoon

And, so, our eating adventures, in Destin, come to an end. I LOVE exploring new food and I love returning to favorites. But, I’ll have to say, I was a little disappointed in the eating, this year. Maybe, I’m harder to impress?

My favorites?

The Grouper Florentine from Back Porch

Tuna Dip – Dewey Destin

Tuna Dip

Penne Carbonara – Ciao Bella

Mimmo’s Garlic Rolls – Fat Clemenza’s

Tomato Basil Soup – Fat Clemenza’s

^^^Ignore the sandwich – only loved the SOUP!

Yes, after 9 days of eating, those are my only favorites.

So, here I am…back in Cincinnati. Know what my first meal back was? Skyline! What can I say? I’m a west side girl, in the off season.

Love you, Destin – can’t wait til next year.

Oh, and Fred says…

17 thoughts on “Eating Destin – 2012

  1. have so enjoyed you tr’s on destin’s trip advisor…this was an adventure to me, as we mainly cook our fresh seafood in our condo to save $$, or maybe $$$$! i want to follow your blogs from now on. we are leaving friday and hopefully not into the eye of the storm. we will be eating and drinking well….have you ever tried pandora’s on the island for their 14.95 prime rib special? it is a good deal. dewey’s is a must have for us every year. good job you did!

  2. I found your blog through a post on Trip Advisor. I must admit my sad face appeared when I read the pejorative phrase “The service wasn‚Äôt great ‚Äď I think he forgot about us, about halfway in. But, again, that‚Äôs southern service.” As a southern reader, I won’t be clicking on your blog again.

  3. We have had some similar experiences in our ten annual trips to Destin. We go in winter, when fresh fish and seafood can be even harder to find. But we have a few reliable choices – some of which are a little farther away, but worth the trip. All are family friendly. You might want to try Christiano’s and Louis Louis on 98, just east of the 30A turn-off, and Stewby’s on Fort Walton Beach. All are reliable for fresh, delicious fish and seafood at reasonable prices. (Louis Louis does not take credit cards, but will take your personal check with ID and has an ATM.) Hands down, you should trundle out east to Blue Mountain Beach on 30A for Marie’s Bistro. Fresh fish, sushi, delicious seafood (the shrimp and grits were fabulous), meat dishes galore, reasonable prices and truly friendly local proprietors/chefs.

    Closer to Destin, we enjoyed two nice meals at Tightlines (where the Lucky Snapper used to be). The crab cakes at A La Carte on Fort Walton Beach were marvelous as was a shrimp bisque and calamari.

  4. “The melody” cracked me up!, literally. You r a great writer. Try a novel. Loved the whole read. You put lots of time and effort into this.

  5. Hi Nancy! Our Cincy West-side family is heading down to Destin for our annual trip Sept 8 to 15 (hopefully Issac spares the panhandle). After 22 years of visiting this area, I gotta say – it’s changed ALOT. Thanks for the update on the restaurants. All the best – go REDS!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful vacation memories in Destin! Looking at all of this food has made me soo hungry!! I can’t wait to try these dishes at each restaurant based on your reviews and pictures. Nice-looking blog, by the way. Take care.

  7. I injoyed your blog thanks for all the info!!!! We are going to destin for the first time im excited to try some of these places… I love food so i feel you!!!! Thanks

  8. Hi Nancy, I enjoyed reading your blog . I’m an Alabama girl. We make a few trips a year to seagrove/Seaside . I just wanted you to check out Red Bar on your next trip . It’s a must for everybody I know . We make sure to go every time .. Crab cakes are to die for ! You can only get them on Fridays and Saturdays. Go early they will sell out !! Just thought you might want another choice .. Have a great day .

    • Thanks, Pam ūüôā

      I’ve heard great things about Red Bar – if it were just me and the husband, we’d be all about it! But, with the limited menu, I don’t think the kids will go for it. Alas – there will come a day, that we will vacation, kid-less. ūüėČ

  9. Hello Princess. I am a Destin local and was looking up Fat Clemenza’s menu on line (which I love and plan on dining at this evening) I found myself reading your review and couldn’t stop. You are
    hilarious and so much fun to read. Very entertaining. Just wanted to thank you for all the time and effort you took to entertain. A smile on my face for a great start to a beautiful Saturday. We walk some Saturdays 3.5 miles on the beach to the Back Porch for lunch. Now I know what I am doing today. Come back we need more people like you here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s