Scenically perched over the Gulf of Mexico's inviting waters, the seafaring chefs at Harbor Docks whip together tasty treasures crafted from the sea's naturally briny bounty. A parade of ceremonious appetizers opens oceanic feasts with fried crab claws ($10.99+) and fried grouper cheeks ($10.99); stuffed mushrooms are filled with less expressive, but equally delicious lump crab and monterey jack ($11.99). Famished fishermen can sink teeth and hooks into the market-priced catch of the day, culled from Harbor Docks's wholesale market and prepared to your taste, whether you prefer your fish blackened, broiled, sautéed, fried, chargrilled, or converted into a fetching hat. Sushi seekers can take a delectable detour through Harbor Docks's extensive menu of rolls and nigiri, nibbling traditionally prepared bites such as the eel- and avocado-laced Banzai Roll ($8.99). Or rub rice-y elbows with remixed creations such as the Cowboy Roll ($8.99), which corrals hunger using a combination of steak, green onion, and tiny seaweed lassos.
It’s barely an exaggeration to say that Marlin Grill is a cornerstone of the Baytowne Wharf community—it occupies a grand, two-story corner space in the sprawling Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, its curving façade giving out on a patio facing the Events Plaza. As might be expected of a resort restaurant, the menu is broad and accommodating—there’s even a children’s menu with fried lobster and crab cakes among the chicken fingers—but creative preparations add zip to the steakhouse template. Filet mignon (dry-aged certified Angus, like all Marlin’s beef) is wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon and itself grilled over hickory just to show trees who’s boss, and a pair of cold-water lobster tails splash into kiwi-honey mustard sauce and mango chutney. Sides tend toward the impossibly rich, the mashed potatoes mixed with ricotta and the macaroni 'n' cheese studded with Tasso ham.
The drinks program is appropriately ambitious, covering more than 600 wines, a deep list of scotches and their allies, and fruity martinis, including a $10,000 version complete with one-carat diamond. The beer selection is a little more down to earth, centering on regional brews such as Georgia’s Sweet Water 420 Pale Ale and Florida’s Grayton Pale Ale.
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.
Waves crash on the shore. The sun slides lazily toward the world's edge, slowly igniting the sky into a fiery portrait of rouged clouds and canary-yellow streaks that darkens to purple along the horizon. A glass of white wine on the table turns amber in the light, and, across the table, a love interest seems to glow. Such a scene happens nightly at Beach Walk Cafe at Henderson Park Inn, thanks to it being perched directly on the white sand beaches of Destin and, just beyond it, the glittering waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Rated in the top 100 Most Romantic Hotels in America and a recipient of a Florida Trend Golden Spoon Award, Beach Walk?s menu adds to the upscale ambiance with New Zealand venison and pepper-crusted Yellowfin tuna, plus a wine list that complements any dish. The inimitable atmosphere has helped the hotel earn heaps of praise from the hospitality industry, including inclusion in Southern Living's prestigious Hotel Collection.
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.
Chef Quinlan draws upon his inspiration from coastal, Cajun, and Caribbean cuisines as he cooks at Poppy's Seafood Factory. His menu showcases entrees pulled from the Gulf Coast, such as lobster thermidor and fried shrimp, as well as boiled seafood feasts available by the pound?like British money or an absurd amount of American money. There are also plenty of steak and pasta dishes to go around, as well as an ample wine list.
Poppy, the owner, hails from New Orleans?a city known for both its good times and exquisite cooking. He came out of retirement to keep the good times rolling within the laidback, casual fine dining environment of his restaurant.