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I love Destin and the Destin area so much that it is maybe a bit ridiculous. We just got back this last week from Navarre, FL which is very, very close to Destin and less than a 25 minute drive. Destin has SO many fantastic places to eat, shop, and explore. There are outlets and a bunch of other cool places to shop. There is a lot of activities for kids in the area, including the Gulfarium down the road in Fort Walton, and even more things for adults to do. There is basically something for everyone no matter what your family enjoys and that is what I love the most about this area. You will not be bored on your vacation at all.
We have been to this area three different weeks in the last year and have gotten to try SO many restaurants here. You will not find all of the ones we have tried below BUT you WILL FIND all of our favorites that we love. Several of the places we love so much we have checked them out a few times during our visits. You can check out this post to read more about our most recent trip to Destin including where we stayed. Also our full review of the Gulfarium in Fort Walton can be found here. I can not recommend the Gulfarium enough especially if you have young children. It was my favorite activity in Destin by far.
1. The Donut Hole
OH. MY. WORD. You hate to play favorites and with a place as awesome in a culinary sense as Destin is it is nearly impossible to pick but I will say The Doughnut Hole is definitely in the top three! This place is UH-MAZING!!! There are three locations in the area and you can get breakfast literally all day long- Hallelujah and Amen! We checked out the location closest to the Sandestin Causeway and waited in line for around 30 minutes to be seated. It was worth every minute! The line moves pretty quickly and if you plan your visit at a less popular time you might be able to wait little if any. There is also a take out line which was moving FAST! Several times when we drove by the line was WAY out the door so when I tell you it is popular, it really is! It is also a locals hangout and I always want to eat where the locals eat and not the tourist because the locals know what is really good! The Donut Hole it is NOT your run of the mill breakfast food. I mean it is in the sense that there is a lot of grits, bacon, eggs, and pancakes but each single thing is elevated to an exceptional level of quality and taste. The items are simple but prepared and seasoned SO well that it makes something as simple as a pancake taste incredibly complex and flavorful.
They also offer a lot of non-breakfast food that sounds great like burgers, sandwiches ect that all sounded and looked amazing. We loved DH so much we ate here again on a recent trip passing through this area and checked out the location close to Blue Mountain Beach this time! There is also a location closer to Panama City Beach worth looking into and on my list as well. I think my favorite thing about the donut hole in addition to their mindblowingly delish breakfast- are the sweets and donuts (DUH!). There is an unbelievable selection of donuts, pastries, brownies, cookies, cakes, and their famous key lime pie. We always get a bag full of sweets as we check out for later. These makes for awesome treats during a week at the beach. My personal favorite donuts here are the sour cream ones. Pierce votes for the brownie that is bigger than my hand while the hubby was a big fan of the chocolate covered ones filled with custard. Either way you go you can not go wrong at the donut hole. Trust me friends. This will be a HUGE hit with the kiddos!! You can find more on their facebook here.
Brotula’s is another Destin MUST. Brotula’s is yet another location we loved so much that we hit it twice and it was just as good both times. The view is dynamite and the food is even better if you can believe it. Brotula’s is located directly on the water and has a super cool warehouse vibe going on inside and all of the wood is beautiful. My favorite thing about Brotula’s is that they offer the famous Red Royal Shrimp that we are crazy for. If you have read any of my previous Destin posts then you have probably figured out that we are obsessed with these shrimp. I could go on and on but just envision shrimp that taste like lobster tail and you will understand the obsession. Brotula’s will steam up a pound of these babies according to YOUR specification on spices, cooking method ( steamed or boiled ect) and add the flavored butter of your choice.
You can also chose from a ton of delicious sides as well like cheese grits or fries to name a few. The fried pickles and fancy homemade potato chips will send you over the edge with delight as well as their enormous offerings of craft and local brews. I can recommend Los Pilitos. It is local and what a summer ale should taste like. We ate outside the first time we went and that was sheer happiness in March. However, this time since it was 1000 degrees it was a bit warm for my liking so we enjoyed the view from an inside table. We did however walk outside briefly and enjoy watching all of the activity at the marina and seeing all of the beautiful boats beneath. The location here really is fantastic and the kids really enjoyed watching all of the boats. The prices are extremely reasonable and the service was 5 stars both times we have been. Don’t skip Brotula’s AND get the Red Royals. More info on their website here.
Oh Boshamps! Another beloved Destin Institution- where to begin?? There is just SO much right with Boshamps! I had been grilling an uber driver the night before about all about the famous Boshamps. He laughed and said good luck getting in there because that place is always on a wait. Mr. MT, P, and I showed up optimistically and guess what? They were on a two and a half hour wait. Turns out that uber drivers know what they are talking about after all!! I am sure I looked shocked and frantic but the sweet hostess asked if we would consider eating on the back porch facing the water. If so she could seat us immediately. WINNING!
I attached a shot above of our view but we had a fantastic view of the marina. The boats or the docks had underwater blue lighting which made for a super chic and fun vibe. There was also a fantastic fire pit below us that looked like it would be a lot of fun to hang out by. In March it was chilly at night and thus why the outdoor spot was available but it was totally worth it. The food here is unbelievable. Mr. MT and I both had the specialty dish which is “The Original” Destin snapper. This is their most famous dish and what they are known for according to our waitress. As a general rule of thumb when the waitress tells me they are known for something I go with that 9 times out of 10. It usually works out well 😉 Anyways “The original” is jumbo lump crab, gulf shrimp, mashed red early potatoes, braised local greens, lemon butter, béarnaise honey roasted nuts over fresh caught local snapper and it is INSANELY good. My P had the kid’s cheeseburger and honestly it was one of the best burgers I have ever had on a sweet Hawaiian roll. The layered chocolate ganache cake was desert and it was every bit as good as I expected it to be. This was one of the more pricy meals of the week but also one of my favorites. The food and the view are spectacular and still casual enough to be kid friendly for sure 🙂 You can find more info at their website here.
We have had dessert at Shakes so many times now I have totally lost count. What I can tell you is that this is probably our family’s single most favorite establishment in the area. Shakes serves up custard any way you can think of all day every day. I still am not 100% certain what custard is but what I can tell you is that Shake’s custard tastes like a better, sweeter, and richer version of homemade ice cream. They have every kind of shake, malt, topping, and custom custard concoction you can dream up and then some. There are several “favorites” on the menu or you can make your own. Mr. MT’s favorite is the mint chocolate chip concrete and my favorite was Shake’s Bopper. My smallest companion liked it all.
We have not tried the hot dogs yet but they too look and small amazing. I bet their hot dog game is about like their custard game….FLAWLESS. You can walk up to Shakes and sit and enjoy your treat as you watch all the traffic whiz by on the main drag or you can zip through their fast and easy drive through and get your treat to go. No matter what you do while you are in Destin, do NOT miss Shake’s. We have had ice cream far and wide in just about every ice cream joint near the gulf I feel like and Shakes is by far my fav! I can almost promise you once you go one time you will be back again and again. You can find more info on their site here.
5. Harbor Docks
Have you ever wondered when you visit Destin where all the awesome restaurants get their fresh seafood from? Well there is a good chance it is from Harbor Docks. Harbor Docks sources the food in their restaurant from their own wholesale market and then also sell to LOTS of the local establishments as well. So even if you eat somewhere else- chances are it came from Harbor Docks. You can read their full dinner menu here. One thing that makes Harbor Docks unique to a lot of my other picks is that they are WELL known for their sushi. I think seafood and sushi are an interesting combo that you don’t see all the time but it makes perfect sense that a wholesale seafood market would offer the best sushi- and they DO! Spoiler alert: Fantastic view is included here as well.
HD is situated on the waterfront and there is a great view at night of all the boats. You probably have figured out by now I am a sucker for a good view! It counts for a lot! Remember I told you I get what a restaurant is known for most of the time and HD was no exception. Sushi is exactly what the two adults had and P gobbled up his kid entree as well. Harbor Docks has an extensive sushi offering and it can be found here. We had a ton of different rolls and they were all remarkable. I don’t think you can go wrong with any because every bit of it is super fresh which makes a huge difference in the taste of sushi! Our friendly and efficient waitress recommended I try a local beer- the funky buddha- and it did not disappoint either! To me HD reminded me of a really cool treehouse type feel with tons of huge covered porches that are connected. I love the laid back and casual atmosphere as well as the super reasonable prices. If you want to go somewhere and have good food but not feel like you have to dress to the nines- then this is definitely for you! Harbor Docks will be filed under the “must do again” list for sure!!
Some nights when you are on vacation it is great to order a pizza and enjoy some down time at the room. In fact- I always look forward to pizza night almost every trip we take. It is easy because you don’t have to dress up and can eat in your pjs. It is relaxing because you don’t have to figure out where to go and you can veg on the sofa after a long day on the beach and stuff your face with delicious carbs!! Amen 🙂 It is also a lot cheaper than going out to eat usually and so that is a huge perk in my book. We also usually order extra so we will have extra to snack on for lunch the next day ect. Merlins was absolutely killer pizza and no big surprise there because they were voted best pizza in Destin for 2018. That’s what I am talking about Merlins.
I ordered on their website which was super easy and fast. They offered a lot of options and very fresh ingredients which all sounded so good. The pizza arrived very fast, hot, and was just SO tasty. I thought the price was very good especially for what I would refer to as specialty pizza. There were tons of deals available too much like you see at chain pizza stores. Everyone was very satisfied with dinner on this night and our wallet was pleased too. If you are looking for an exceptional pizza restaurant to try in Destin then I can not recommend Merlin’s enough. You can see their menu here.
7. Royal Reds
I love shrimp. I have had them all, everywhere, and every kind of way. These shrimp were recently discovered and changed the course of seafood. These little jewels are found at depths greater than 600 feet which is almost twice the depth of your average shrimp. People often describe them as tasting like lobster tail and they really, really do! One night for dinner we stopped by a local fish market ( there are tons) and grabbed a few pounds with all the trimmings. We hurt ourselves we ate so much! Like I did not want to quit. When we were back in the area recently my husband insisted we had to eat royal reds no matter what and we made a point to find them again. Many markets sell out so call in advance to make sure they have them. We also discovered that most local chain grocery stores don’t have them but almost all of the smaller mom/pop type stores had them advertised on their signs. Don’t go to Destin without getting your hands on some because they will change your life. If you have a condo or access to a kitchen this is another great less expensive option one night rather than going out to eat. I love an excuse to stay in and eat some good grub while saving some bucks too!
8. Dewey Destin’s
Dewey Destin’s has two locations in this area- one near Crab Island and the Harbor location. Destin Harbor location is just off of the main strip in Destin and was very close to the condo we stayed in. We opted to check out the Crab Island location which is located on the bayside headed out of Destin towards Fort Walton. DD at Crab Island is built over the bay but if you are looking for a fancy seafood restaurant then this is not it. If you are looking for uh-mazing fresh seafood at great prices then you are at the right place!! Dewey’s is also adding a third location at my favorite new place in Florida- Navarre Beach- but it will not be open for a few more months. Look for a full post soon on Navarre Beach 🙂
Dewey’s reminds me of an old fish camp but do not let the simple exterior fool you – they are serious about their seafood and the quality is exceptional. DD’s is the type of place you do not have to get dressed up for and I LOVE THAT!! You could totally wear a beach cover up and baseball hat to hide your beach hair and be just fine 🙂 Love it!! Because Dewey’s is just plain good food minus the fancy frills it is great for kids because you don’t have to be so worried about them being loud or making a mess as much as some. Weather permitting there are TONS of outdoor seating options available which is my absolute favorite place to be especially with littles. They can be loud and messy and you don’t have to worry you are ruining the lunch of the people next to you. The bay views at Dewey Destin are phenomenal. We really enjoyed watching all of the fisherman and boats near Dewey’s. In short, my recommendation is the fried shrimp basket but they have just about any fresh seafood sandwich or basket under the sun. Everything we had was good and P even loved his hotdog. If you are looking for more info you can find my complete review of Dewey Destin’s here.