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Coastal Cuisine: Dining Adventures Along the Emerald Coast

Welcome to a gastronomic journey along the stunning Emerald Coast of Florida, where the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico meet some of the most delectable culinary experiences you’ll ever encounter. In this blog, we embark on a mouthwatering exploration of why these coastal destinations – Destin, Okaloosa Island/Fort Walton Beach, Panama City Beach, and Miramar Beach – are renowned as top places to eat. From the freshest catches of the day to the savory flavors of the South, each locale offers a unique and delightful dining experience complemented by breathtaking views that elevate your meal to a memorable event. Join us as we uncover the secrets behind these coastal gems that tantalize both the taste buds and the senses, leaving you craving for more with every bite.




  • Beach Walk Cafe: Nestled along the pristine shores of Destin, Florida, Beach Walk Cafe stands as a beacon of culinary excellence against the backdrop of the mesmerizing Gulf of Mexico. With each visit, diners are treated not only to a feast for the palate but also to a visual spectacle of the emerald waters gently lapping against the sugar-white sands. This upscale dining establishment has rightfully earned its place among the region’s culinary elite, known for its impeccable seafood offerings and an ambiance that exudes romance and sophistication. We love savoring a perfectly seared grouper and indulging on their renowned lobster bisque. The Beach Walk Cafe’s commitment to freshness and quality is evident in every dish. But it’s not just the exquisite menu that makes this restaurant a gem; it’s the unparalleled view of the Gulf that transforms each meal into an unforgettable experience, where fine dining meets the soothing serenity of the beach.
  • The Back Porch: The Back Porch, perched right on the shores of Destin’s dazzling emerald waters, embodies the quintessential beachfront dining experience. With its toes in the sand and its gaze fixed upon the Gulf of Mexico, this iconic restaurant captures the essence of coastal living. Renowned for its fresh and succulent seafood, The Back Porch serves up a tantalizing menu filled with Gulf-to-table delights. Signature dishes like the Amberjack Sandwich and the seafood platter are our favorites, showcasing the restaurant’s commitment to quality and flavor. But what truly sets The Back Porch apart is its prime location and relaxed ambiance. As you dine on the outdoor deck, the panoramic views of the white-sand beach and azure sea create a soothing backdrop that amplifies the flavors of your meal. Whether you’re sipping a tropical cocktail, watching the sun dip below the horizon, or simply savoring the briny breeze, The Back Porch embodies the charm and allure of Destin’s coastal lifestyle, making it a cherished destination for both locals and visitors alike.
  • Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer: This charming waterfront eatery beckons seafood aficionados and casual diners alike with the promise of a memorable culinary voyage. Brotula’s commitment to sourcing the freshest seafood from the Gulf waters shines through in their diverse menu, boasting delectable dishes like Gulf-to-Table Red Snapper and their famous Steamed Seafood Pot. While the cuisine is undoubtedly a highlight, it’s the views of the bustling harbor, the bobbing fishing boats, and the ever-changing coastal panorama that elevate the dining experience to another level. Our favorites are the signature shrimp and grits or sharing a seafood boil with friends. Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer strive to ensure that your taste buds dance in harmony with the rhythm of the Gulf, making it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking a taste of Destin’s maritime charm.
  • Dewey Destin’s Harborside: Dewey Destin’s Harborside beckons with a promise of delectable seafood in a laid-back, waterfront setting. This family-owned and operated gem takes pride in its tradition of serving up the freshest seafood, much of which is sourced directly from the Gulf waters. Whether you opt for the classic fish sandwich or the legendary Destin Platter, every bite at Dewey Destin’s Harborside is a testament to their dedication to quality and flavor. While the food is undeniably exceptional, it’s the serene views of the bustling harbor, the bobbing fishing boats, and the salty breeze that create a dining experience like no other. Whether you’re dining indoors or al fresco on the deck, Dewey Destin’s Harborside offers a taste of old Florida charm, making it a beloved destination for seafood enthusiasts seeking an authentic Gulf Coast experience.
  • McGuire’s Irish Pub: McGuire’s Irish Pub offers a delightful departure from the traditional beachside dining scene. Step inside this enchanting eatery, and you’ll be transported to a charming Irish pub filled with character, history, and an infectious sense of merriment. Known for its warm hospitality, hearty Irish fare, and an extensive selection of beverages, McGuire’s is a cherished destination for locals and tourists alike. The menu boasts classic Irish dishes like shepherd’s pie and corned beef and cabbage, and their signature “Senate Bean Soup” is a must-try. As you savor your meal and explore the quirky decor, you’ll discover thousands of dollar bills covering the walls, each signed by patrons—a fascinating tradition that has become an integral part of the pub’s unique charm. McGuire’s Irish Pub is a haven where the spirit of Ireland meets the warmth of Southern hospitality, creating an unforgettable dining experience.
  • AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar: AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar, nestled on the shores of Okaloosa Island, is a vibrant seafood haven that captures the essence of coastal dining. As you arrive at this waterfront gem, the lively atmosphere and the salty sea breeze immediately set the stage for a memorable experience. With its prime location overlooking Choctawhatchee Bay, AJ’s offers not only sumptuous seafood but also a visual feast of fishing boats and the picturesque bay waters. The menu is a seafood lover’s dream, featuring a wide array of Gulf catches, from oysters on the half shell to seafood gumbo and steamed shrimp. Whether you’re enjoying a meal on the spacious deck, taking in live music at the Tiki Bar, or simply basking in the sunset over the bay, AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar embodies the spirit of Okaloosa Island, where coastal flavors and laid-back vibes unite to create a dining experience that’s as refreshing as the sea breeze itself.

Okaloosa Island/Fort Walton Beach


  • The Gulf: The Gulf is essence of beachfront dining. As you approach this open-air, minimalist-style eatery, you’ll be captivated by the unspoiled beauty of the Gulf of Mexico, stretching out as far as the eye can see. The Gulf’s commitment to sustainability is evident in its innovative “container architecture” design, which showcases repurposed shipping containers and driftwood, creating an eco-friendly and visually stunning atmosphere. The menu here is a celebration of Gulf Coast cuisine, featuring fresh, locally sourced ingredients in dishes like the Gulf Shrimp Po’ Boy and the Gulf Catch of the Day. With picnic tables and Adirondack chairs right in the sand, dining here is a laid-back, communal experience where you can savor each bite while your toes are in the sand and your eyes are fixed on the endless horizon.
  • Floyd’s Shrimp House:
    Floyd’s Shrimp House, a delightful seafood haven located on Okaloosa
    Island, is a local favorite that embodies the essence of Gulf Coast
    dining. As the name suggests, Floyd’s is renowned for its succulent shrimp
    dishes, prepared in a variety of mouthwatering ways, from classic
    peel-and-eat shrimp to blackened shrimp tacos. Beyond the shrimp, their
    menu boasts a delectable selection of Gulf catches, satisfying seafood
    enthusiasts of all kinds. With an expansive deck offering views of
    Choctawhatchee Bay and a laid-back ambiance, Floyd’s is the perfect place to
    indulge in seafood while soaking in the coastal charm. Whether you’re
    enjoying a family meal, sharing appetizers with friends, or simply
    relishing the Gulf breeze with a cold drink in hand, Floyd’s Shrimp House
    is a quintessential Gulf Coast dining experience that keeps visitors
    coming back for more.
  • Rockin’ Tacos: Rockin’ is a spirited Mexican eatery that brings the vibrant flavors of Mexico to the serene Gulf Coast. As you enter, the lively ambiance and enticing scents of sizzling fajitas and homemade tortillas welcome you to a dining experience that’s a fusion of Mexican zest and coastal charm. The menu offers a delightful array of Mexican dishes, from savory tacos to zesty enchiladas, all prepared with a coastal twist that includes fresh Gulf seafood. We enjoy sharing a meal with friends on the breezy outdoor patio, sipping margaritas, or indulging in a lively night at the bar, Rockin’ Tacos.
  • Old Bay Steamer: Old Bay Steamer, nestled in Miramar Beach, is a beloved seafood haven that has become synonymous with the Gulf Coast dining experience. Old Bay Steamer is renowned for its delectable seafood steam pots, where the freshest catches from the Gulf are infused with aromatic herbs and spices, creating a culinary masterpiece that’s both flavorful and satisfying. The menu also boasts an array of seafood classics, from crab legs to shrimp scampi, all prepared with the utmost attention to quality and taste.

Panama City Beach


  • Firefly: Firefly is an enchanting dining destination that beautifully marries culinary excellence with a refined ambiance. The warm and inviting atmosphere is complemented by the soft glow of twinkling lights, creating a romantic and intimate setting. Firefly is celebrated for its inventive American cuisine with a Southern twist, featuring dishes crafted from the freshest local ingredients. Signature dishes like the Firefly Grouper and their delectable crab cakes showcase their commitment to quality and flavor. The restaurant’s extensive wine list and craft cocktails add to the dining experience, making it perfect for special occasions or a memorable night out. Firefly embodies the essence of Panama City Beach’s upscale dining scene, where exceptional food and an intimate atmosphere come together to create an unforgettable culinary journey.
  • Runaway Island Beach Bar & Grill: Runaway Island Beach Bar & Grill is a laid-back coastal gem that embodies the essence of beachfront dining. The restaurant’s inviting and casual atmosphere makes it a perfect spot for beachgoers and vacationers seeking a relaxing meal with a view. Runaway Island’s menu is a celebration of Gulf Coast cuisine, featuring a diverse range of dishes from fresh seafood platters to mouthwatering burgers and tropical cocktails. The beachfront tiki bar adds to the charm, making it a favorite spot to enjoy a drink and take in the breathtaking sunset over the Gulf. Runaway Island Beach Bar & Grill encapsulates the spirit of Panama City Beach’s beachside dining, where good food, good company, and the beauty of the Gulf combine to create a memorable experience.
  • Pineapple Willy’s: Pineapple Willy’s offers a quintessential Gulf Coast dining experience that’s both relaxed and inviting. Perched right on the sugar-white sands and overlooking the emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the restaurant’s laid-back atmosphere is perfect for those seeking to unwind and savor delicious coastal cuisine. Pineapple Willy’s is renowned for its signature dish, the Ribs and Willy’s World Famous Pineapple Sauce, which is a mouthwatering blend of sweet and tangy flavors that keeps patrons coming back for more. The extensive menu also features a variety of seafood, sandwiches, and tropical drinks. The outdoor deck and tiki bar add to the charm, creating an ideal setting for beachside dining. Pineapple Willy’s captures the essence of Panama City Beach’s beachfront dining, where good food and the tranquil beauty of the Gulf Coast come together to create cherished memories.
  • Schooners: Schooners, a cherished landmark, stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of coastal dining. Nestled right on the beach, this iconic beachfront restaurant has been a beloved destination for locals and visitors alike for decades. As you approach Schooners, the soothing sound of waves and the panoramic views of the Gulf immediately set the stage for an unforgettable experience. The restaurant is celebrated for its fresh seafood, particularly its succulent oysters and famous Grouper sandwiches, which are considered some of the best in the area. With its beachside tiki bar, live music, and a welcoming, laid-back atmosphere, Schooners invites patrons to relax, unwind, and enjoy the essence of Panama City Beach’s beachfront charm.
  • Saltwater Grill: The Saltwater Grill is a culinary gem that offers a delightful blend of seafood and steak in a casually elegant setting. From the moment you step inside, you’ll be enchanted by the restaurant’s warm and inviting ambiance, characterized by its rich wood accents and cozy lighting. Saltwater Grill is renowned for its diverse menu, which showcases the finest in Gulf seafood, hand-cut steaks, and fresh ingredients. The restaurant’s extensive wine list and handcrafted cocktails further elevate the dining experience, making it ideal for special occasions or intimate evenings out.

Miramar Beach

  • Vue on 30a: Vue on 30a is a dining destination that offers a feast for both the senses and the soul. The restaurant’s pristine white décor and panoramic windows create a light and airy ambiance that perfectly complements its coastal setting. Vue on 30a takes pride in its culinary offerings, serving a menu that highlights the freshest Gulf seafood and locally sourced ingredients. Dishes like the Gulf Coast Grouper and the Crab and Lobster Risotto showcase the restaurant’s dedication to quality and flavor. With its extensive wine list and craft cocktails, Vue on 30a offers an upscale dining experience that’s ideal for special occasions or romantic evenings. Whether you’re enjoying a sunset dinner on the outdoor terrace or sipping a glass of champagne while gazing at the emerald waters, Vue on 30a captures the very essence of Miramar Beach’s coastal elegance, where fine dining and breathtaking views combine to create unforgettable memories.
  • Pompano Joe’s: Pompano Joe’s, a beloved coastal eatery in Miramar Beach, is a vibrant and lively restaurant that captures the essence of beachfront dining. With its colorful decor and beachy atmosphere, Pompano Joe’s invites patrons to unwind and savor the flavors of the sea. The menu is a celebration of Gulf Coast cuisine, featuring an array of seafood specialties, from the signature Pompano Joe’s Platter to the Blackened Mahi Mahi Tacos. Our favorite is the Shrimp and Grits. The beachfront tiki bar adds to the charm, making it a favorite spot to enjoy a tropical cocktail and take in the stunning views of the sugar-white sand and the emerald waters of the Gulf. Whether you’re sharing a seafood feast with friends, enjoying live music, or simply relishing the beachside ambiance with your toes in the sand, Pompano Joe’s embodies the very heart of Miramar Beach’s coastal dining scene, where good food, good company, and the beauty of the Gulf Coast unite to create cherished memories.
  • The Donut Hole: The Donut Hole, a beloved bakery and breakfast institution with locations in Destin and Santa Rosa Beach, is a delightful haven for those seeking a sweet start to their day. The Donut Hole has earned a reputation for its mouthwatering array of donuts, from classic glazed to inventive flavors like maple bacon and red velvet. Beyond the sweet treats, the restaurant’s extensive breakfast menu offers a savory side with hearty omelets, fluffy pancakes, and savory biscuits and gravy. With its friendly staff and cozy diner-like atmosphere, The Donut Hole is the perfect place for families, friends, and travelers looking to indulge in a comforting breakfast or a quick coffee and pastry pit stop on their way to the beach.
  • Surf Hut: Surf Hut is an ideal beachfront dining destination that captures the very essence of coastal living. Surf Hut boasts a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere that’s perfect for beachgoers and families looking to enjoy a meal with a view. The menu is a delightful celebration of Gulf Coast cuisine, offering a diverse selection of fresh seafood, including their famous Grouper sandwich and seafood platters. With its spacious outdoor deck, beachside bar, and a tiki-inspired decor, Surf Hut provides the ideal setting for beachfront dining. Whether you’re sipping on a tropical cocktail, sharing a seafood feast with friends, or simply soaking in the breathtaking beauty of the Gulf, Surf Hut embodies the spirit of Miramar Beach, where good food, good company, and the serene backdrop of the Gulf Coast come together to create lasting memories.
  • Captain Dave’s on the Gulf: Captain Dave’s on the Gulf, situated in Miramar Beach, is a renowned seafood restaurant that offers an authentic coastal dining experience. Captain Dave’s is celebrated for its extensive seafood menu, featuring an array of Gulf catches prepared in various mouthwatering ways, from blackened snapper to shrimp scampi. The dining experience is enhanced by the restaurant’s open-air deck, allowing patrons to enjoy their meal while taking in the panoramic views of the sugar-white sand and the turquoise waters. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or simply looking to savor the flavors of the Gulf Coast, Captain Dave’s on the Gulf embodies the very essence of coastal dining, where good food, good company, and the beauty of the Gulf unite to create memorable moments along the Emerald Coast.

Where to Stay

Choosing to dine at these exceptional establishments and stay with RealJoy in the beautiful coastal destinations of Destin, Okaloosa Island/Fort Waton Beach, Panama City Beach, and Miramar Beach is an invitation to experience the very best of the Gulf Coast. From the mouthwatering seafood and picturesque beachfront views to the warm hospitality and unforgettable moments, each establishment offers a unique taste of the region’s charm and flavors. When you pair these dining experiences with a stay through RealJoy, renowned for its comfortable and well-appointed vacation rentals, you’re ensuring that every aspect of your coastal getaway is nothing short of extraordinary. Whether you’re seeking a romantic escape, a family adventure, or a relaxing beach retreat, the combination of exquisite dining and exceptional accommodations creates a coastal experience that will linger in your memory long after the sun has set over the Gulf. So, come savor the Gulf Coast’s culinary delights, unwind in your coastal haven, and let RealJoy transform your vacation into an unforgettable coastal journey filled with flavor, relaxation, and endless coastal beauty.