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Hooked: Where The Locals Go For The Best Seafood

Living at (or visiting) the beach is all about sun, sand and a slower, more relaxed pace. But, there’s one thing we take quite seriously: Seafood. The Gulf of Mexico, as a whole, is 615,000 square miles of outdoor recreation opportunities and an abundant source of gulf shrimp, stone crabs and fish like grouper, snapper and cobia. Into catching your own? Great! There are any number of local charter fishing excursions that’ll give you an opportunity to drop a line. Rather have it delivered right to your table? Now you’re talking. If you want to eat like a local, take a look at some of our team’s favorite seafood spots and drool-worthy dish recomendations.

Harbor Docks: Agent Penny Jackson loves Harbor Docks for its simple, fresh and delicious seafood straight from the gulf. Reviewers online praise the restaurant’s sushi, but they’re far from a one-trick pony. Try their gulf fish tacos or house-smoked yellowfin tuna dip. One of the best parts about eating here are the water views and relaxed atmosphere.

Dewey Destin’s: The number of agents and staff who cited Dewey Destin’s — known affectionately at Dewey Destin’s Bayside — as a favorite was not a surprise. Karen Fillingim, Keli O’Neal, Willee Skibbe and Caleb Spears all agreed that the original location is a “must visit” for great eats. The original location is a simple dock with a trailer for a kitchen that overlooks Crab Island. Keli O’Neal said grabbing a snow cone after dinner is a definite “do.” If you’re curious, yes, Dewey Destin is a real person, the great-great-grandson of the town’s founder, Leonard Destin.

Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House: A great venue with great food right on the Destin Harbor is what agent Kelly Hill said about this local favorite. You’ve heard of “farm to table,” but how about “gulf to table?” That’s what Boshamps specializes in. Their own Lucky Dog Seafood Company sources and prepares the freshest gulf seafood available. And, Boshamps isn’t just for humans; the restaurant — named for the owner’s dogs Bob, Otis and Shug — is also dog-friendly. On the menu, Snapper Destin is a favorite.

Bric à Brac: Don’t confuse the Bric à Brac after-hours with the Bric à Brac that is lauded for its crab cakes and shrimp and grits. Located in Destin, Bric à Brac is owned by members of the Petit family who also lay claim to Grayton’s Beach’s beloved Red Bar and Louis Louis on Mussett Bayou Road. The shrimp ceviche is excellent and their crab cakes are award-winning. On Friday and Saturday evenings, Bric à Brac becomes a spicy dance club.

Stewby’s Seafood Shanty: With two locations — one in Fort Walton Beach, one on Okaloosa Island — Stewby’s is a fan favorite for many here, including agent Willee Skibbe. Reviewers love the restaurant’s casual vibe, generous portions and great prices. Try the fish and shrimp grilled or fried and load up on sides the likes of cheese grits, seasoned fries and hush puppies.

The Gulf Restaurant: I can’t let this blog post pass without adding one of my favorites. Despite its name, The Gulf is actually tucked away on the Choctawhatchee Bay on Okaloosa Island. With a true island vibe that includes waterfront seating and plenty of room to roam, The Gulf is a mish-mash of shipping containers, recycled building materials and simply great food. Take a look at the daily special or consider the lobster and shrimp roll a safe bet.

Nick’s Seafood Restaurant: Our referral coordinator, Amanda Morgan, and agent Leslie Miller both gave a nod to Nick’s On The Bay, with Leslie adding that the fried scallops are her favorite meal locally. Located on the north shore of Choctawhatchee Bay in Freeport, Nick’s has been serving up fresh seafood in the area since the early 1960s. Diners love the steamed shrimp and crawfish.

The Bay: The Bay and the next restaurant on our list are favorites of agent Mandy Cooper. Chef Jim Shirley is the mastermind behind this eatery that offers indoor or outdoor waterfront seating. People rave about the key lime pie, but are most impressed by the beach vibe and child-friendly atmosphere. Try the pesto snapper or grouper ravioli.

North Beach Social: Another of Jim Shirley’s creations, North Beach Social is also on the bay, complete with superb sunsets and a white-sand beach. The menu covers favorites from Shirley’s other restaurants, including Great Southern Cafe’s Grits a Ya Ya, The Bay’s Bomber burger and 45 Central’s poké bowls.

Louis Louis: Louis Louis is a sister restaurant to Grayton Beach’s Red Bar and is perched just off of Highway 98 on Mussett Bayou Road. Diners love the blackened grouper and the bread pudding. The restaurant also hosts live music on a recurring basis.

Local Catch Bar & Grill: With a name like “Local Catch,” how could we omit this one? Agents Tracy Sweetland and Caleb Spears gave us this idea and we couldn’t agree more. Situated right on Scenic Highway 30A, Local Catch promises just that — local seafood in the form of gulf shrimp, grouper and oysters. They also occasionally host crawfish boils.

Shunk Gulley: Here’s another that’s gone from “hidden gem” to “perennial favorite” with some of the best gulf views on the list. Shunk Gulley sits at the intersection of Scenic Highway 30A and County Highway 393 and is the culmination of great food, live music and killer views. Oysters and crab claws (three ways!) are no-brainers here, and be sure to save room for the restaurant’s famous “Shunk juice.”

Stinky’s Fish Camp: Tracy Sweetland recommends this seafood eatery with the funny-sounding name, but there’s nothing funny about its awesome menu. Located on 30A, Stinky’s has a smattering of menus for brunch on Sundays to an entire menu dedicated to Taco Tuesdays. If it’s seafood you’re after, you’re in good hands there, too. The oysters, seafood chowder and fresh fish are all winners.

Grayton Seafood Co.: We had several people chime in noting this as a favorite, including the Joiner Group’s Maggie McCown and Spears Group’s Kadi Higginbotham. Both noted it’s not really a “hole in the wall” type seafood joint, but is definitely delicious nonetheless. Patrons remark about the grouper cheeks (when available), cobia, shrimp and grits and fried catfish.

Red Bar: After a fire leveled this Grayton Beach establishment in 2019, its owners were determined to rebuild and reopen the doors. The “new” Red Bar emerged just 18 months later and, by all accounts, it is still a favorite hangout for locals and tourists alike. The Red Bar lives by a “simple, classic and delectable” motto, which certainly includes its blackened grouper, shrimp and crawfish and crab cakes with citrus beurre blanc. Go for the food; stay for the live music.

Café Thirty-A: A staple on Scenic Highway 30A, Café Thirty-A has been serving high-end, tasty fare in Seagrove Beach since 1995. Start with the saffron mussels or she crab soup, then move on to the pan-seared snapper or shrimp pasta. Opt for a sorbet sampler at the end or a glass of limoncello.

Summer Kitchen Cafe: Located in Rosemary Beach, Summer Kitchen Cafe is a favorite of agent Janet Murphy, who recommends the grouper. It’s casual breakfast and lunch by day and transitions into a more fine-dining experience at night. Their menu features local brews and everything from truffle fries to grilled fish du jour.

Dusty’s Oyster Bar: You simply cannot visit the Gulf Coast without sampling some oysters. And, even though you’ll have to travel to Panama City Beach for this one, it is well worth the journey according to Janet Murphy. This seafood joint is known for its raw bar and fried sampler including crab claws. When dinner is over, cross the street to the beach to walk off your meal.

Did we miss your favorite? Add it in the comments below!

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