Whiffs of fruit and oak season the air in the Village of Baytowne Wharf during the annual Sandestin Wine Festival, a three-day event now in its 26th year. Vintners uncork more than 700 wines aged in America and abroad, including rare and specialty varietals parceled out during charity wine auctions. Novice tipplers learn basic wine styles and pairings as they explore the Grand Tasting and special events such as “Winemakers and Shakers,” which matches wines with gourmet meats and cheeses. As live music floats across the grounds, special lectures enlighten curious festivalgoers on topics such as biodynamic wines. New cooking demonstrations in the culinary tent include a Sunday session led by Stinky’s Fish Camp’s executive chef, Jim Richard, who will divulge the secrets of Spanish paella—a dish renowned for its compatibility with red wine, white wine, and grape-flavored Juicy Juice ($20 per demonstration). When guests empty their stemware, they can track down their favorite wines of the day in the onsite retail tent and take bottles home to savor and share.
When The Melting Pot originally opened in 1975 just outside Orlando, diners had just three options: swiss-cheese fondue, beef fondue, or chocolate fondue. The restaurant first expanded four years later, when an enterprising waiter at the initial location opened up a new outpost in Tallahassee. Today, the company—now owned by that original waiter, Mark Johnston, and his brothers Mike and Bob—reigns as the premier fondue, wine, and drink restaurant, stretching across North America with more than 140 restaurants. The restaurant's menu has also expanded, and patrons can now expect six varieties of hot dipping cheese paired with salads, entrees, and molten chocolate.
On a given night, groups of viscous-dip-loving foodies gather around tables to nosh on cheese-fondue appetizers and various salads while cooking steaks and seafood in a choice of healthy broth or oil. Birthday revelers and romance seekers cap decadent evenings sharing the chocolate desserts that have defined The Melting Pot for decades.
Since his grandfather opened up a restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1905, A. J. "Poppy" Tusa's family has remained in the restaurant business for more than a century. Poppy continues his family's traditions of providing hospitality and authentic Louisiana flavors at Poppy's Crazy Lobster Bar and Grill, where the chef and his crew boil Cajun-style seafood by the pound, assemble towering po' boy sandwiches, and pan-sear blackened Maine lobsters.
Though the food is fresh and flavorful, the restaurant's main draw may be its seaside dining room and dockside patio. Fishermen and generous mermaids can even bring in their freshly caught fish, and the kitchen will cook it up for them. There's live music and entertainment, and the full bar's mojitos, hurricanes, and beers add to the tropical environs.
Only a short burger flip from the Santa Rosa Sound, the red-and-yellow-checkered façade of Tops Hamburgers hints at the ample spread of ketchup and mustard one can expect to find on each of the restaurant’s burgers and dogs. Rather than overthink the menu, chefs keep things refreshingly simple with 100% beef patties and produce cut as the sun rises each morning. Cruise through the drive-thru for fried pickles or tots to go, or stop by the brick-paved dining room to challenge a server to a burger-skipping contest on the waters of the nearby Gulf of Mexico.
There are plenty of reasons to come to Groovy Grouper Grill, including its menu. The adventurous bill combines culinary influences from Asia, Central America, Louisiana, and other hubs into dishes that might include meatloaf sliders with chimichurri, flatbread with smoked sirloin and bourbon glaze, or banana creme brulee. Revelry in the space is augmented by hand-crafted cocktails as well as wines from around the world. The space may also fill with pulsing music late into the evening.
San Gelato Caf? creates Italian confections the proper way, using ingredients and equipment imported from Italy. The shop offers more than 20 of flavors of gelato?including coconut, apple pie, and tiramisu?as well as more than a dozen types of sorbet, in fruit flavors such as banana, pineapple, and papaya. Additionally, the flavor selection always includes gluten-free and dairy-free options. These sweets can be paired with Italian coffee or fresh paninis, wraps, and pizzas.