By Gabriele Walkow
Perfectly situated in the center of Northwest Florida’s panhandle on the dazzling Gulf of Mexico, the charming towns of Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island are the heart of the Emerald Coast and home to fabulous fishing. Plenty of fish in the sea make the Emerald Coast Gulf-to-Table eateries passionate about the fresh seafood they serve. Here is a sampling of a few unique establishments.
Sister to Jimmy Buffett, Lucy Buffett’s wildly popular restaurant is located on Destin’s Legendary Marina Drive. Offering a FOUNTAIN FOR YOUTH to cool off the kids; a bouncing Jellyfish Jumper; and paddleboard rentals from the beach in front of LuLu’s, which is also equipped with pails, shovels and toys galore, the whole family will have fun here! Home to “Gumbo Love,” Lulu’s Famous Seafood Gumbo is a must-try. Then dive into the Big Fry Seafood Basket, which serves two and includes shrimp, oysters, fish and crab claws. With a yummy kids menu and extensive allergy menu, everyone has lots of dining options. lulubuffett.com/destin
STEWBY’S SEAFOOD SHANTY
Located at the north end of Racetrack Road in Fort Walton Beach, this chill seafood shanty offers very affordable, fresh and locally bought seafood. Based off an old family restaurant called Sam’s Oyster House, hungry guests can drive thru and take some seafood to go or stop in and order from the walk up window and eat in the cooled, enclosed deck. The large and varied menu includes specials, which change daily depending on availability but can include Spicy Shark Sriracha Ceviche, Colossal Shrimp and Fresh Mutton Snapper. All the sauces, sides and seafood seasoning are made from scratch and gluten free options are available. stewbys.com
THE BLACK PEARL
Located directly on the Gulf of Mexico at The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island, the Black Pearl offers wood fired steaks and seafood in a casual yet elegant setting. With unsurpassed Gulf views, catch a spectacular sunset while savoring fresh seafood, aged prime beef and whole Maine lobsters paired perfectly with a glass of wine from the extensive selection. Reportedly, the best martinis on the coast are to be found here! The delightful local Gulf Grouper comes topped with a red pepper coulis, ceviche and a black bean salsa. Dine inside in air-conditioned comfort or outside on the open-air deck. blackpearlgrill.com