I try to get to the Florida Gulf Coast / Panhandle / 30A area at least a couple of times a year, and  Destin is our go-to destination. Dining out is always a favorite way to pass the time along the beautiful Emerald Coast, and my family has many favorite spots. I'd like to share my personal favorites below, and I would love to hear what yours are too. And PS, this is not all of them, just some of my personal faves. Enjoy!

  • The Back Porch 1740 Scenic Hwy 98, Destin. This place is very sentimental to me. Not just for the delightful menu served at lunch and dinner, or the fact that is right on the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico, but because my family has been coming here for years and years. The Back Porch started out as a shack and now has evolved into a full-service restaurant with a gift shop, and lines waiting out the door during high tourist season. I especially love the smoked tuna dip and don't mind standing in line to get in. Really fresh seafood, and a great beachy atmosphere.
  • Piccolos / The Red Bar 70 Hotz Ave. Grayton Beach. After a terrible fire destroyed the entire place in 2019, the Red Bar is back! And if you've been to this place, you probably didn't even know that the restaurant is actually called Piccolos, and the bar is The Red Bar. This place is an institution around the South Walton area, and they are famous for their delicious gulf seafood, live music, and cool bohemian atmosphere. Anybody who's anybody stops by, and I highly recommend the grouper sandwich. So yummy! And FYI - cash or check only.
  • The Local Market 950 Gulf Shore Drive, Destin. This is my favorite spot for breakfast or lunch, and I was happy to see that they have recently opened for dinner service from 4:00 - 9:00 pm. I love this place. Everything is locally sourced, they have great sandwiches, with specials every day, homemade ice cream, beer, and really nice people behind the counter. My favorite menu item is the breakfast taco, which is a scrambled egg, cheese, and bacon, rolled in a homemade tortilla, served with an orange slice and pico de gallo. Pair that up with an iced coffee, and you get outta there under $10. Also, you can take home some fresh pimento cheese and housemade pickles for your beach condo.
  • Bud & Alley's Waterfront Restaurants 2236 East County Road 30-A, Seaside. There are actually several restaurants in this group right on historic 30-A in Seaside, including the Pizza Bar Trattoria, and the Taco Bar. Southern coastal classics, great drinks, and honestly, the best waterfront view you could ever ask for. The rooftop bar is the go-to place for visitors and locals alike. I love the fact that you can make reservations online in advance at Bud & Alley's, but beware, if you are not staying in Seaside the traffic and parking for this place can be a real nightmare.
  • AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar 116 Harbor Blvd., Destin. Ok, yes, it is a tourist destination, but I put AJ's on the list because it's just so much fun! Great views right on the harbor, fresh seafood, live music, and you can pretty much wear what you want to go out to eat there. Fresh oysters and they will even cook your catch if you're on one of their charter boats! Plus, you get a front-row seat for the weekly fireworks show from next door at Harborwalk Village.
  • Camille's at Crystal Beach  2931 Scenic Hwy 98, Miramar Beach. Camille's is the sister restaurant to Local Market, and maybe that's why I love it so much. The beach bar and coffee is served from 7:00 am - 5:00 pm, and the full serve restaurant is open from 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm. The pizza is to die for, and they have a fresh local catch of the day for seafood. A really fun, cool place to go, and you can also ride your bike up, and sit outside on their awesome patio. Love this place!
  • Merlin's Pizza 1251 Airport Rd, Destin Local pizza at its best, and a really really friendly staff! Merlin's always has specials, and you can call ahead for great salads, wings, or specialty pizzas to take back to your condo. Locally owned, which is one of the reasons I love this place so much.
  • Destination Little Donuts 4463 Commons Drive, Destin. The people that own this place are so nice. They have an unbelievable amount of specialty donuts, and my current favorite is the jalapeno bacon with maple glaze. A small shop, with five different kinds of coffee to choose from, and a really incredible gourmet selection of donuts. You've really got to try this place!
  • Cowgirl Kitchen 54 Main St., Rosemary Beach. Open 8:00 am - 9:00 pm, which makes it a perfect stop if you are going to the fantastic Farmer's Market in Rosemary Beach on Sunday mornings. This place is cool and casual, with delicious comfort foods with a coastal twist. Their queso and chips, smoked tuna dip, and other menu items are also available at their CK Feed and Supply store right across the street.
  • The Caf  3008 US Hwy 98 W Santa Rosa Beach. This is a new addition to my faves. The best fried chicken and the friendliest people who serve it! So reasonable that you'll be shocked, and located right on Hwy 98, so it's super convenient. You might pass this place by because it's in the same building as a gas station, but do yourself a favor, and stop for their delish home-style cooking.

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