Blue Dot Barbeque doesn’t need to be flashy or showy. One small sign hangs beside the blue-brick building’s front door—no flashing lights, no giant marquee, and absolutely no skywriting. The owner chose the name in honor of his aunt and uncle—Blue and Dorothy Robinson—and this casual, down-home inspiration influences the hole-in-the-wall eatery’s spirit.
Surrounded by nondescript white walls, patrons snag a stool at the counter or grab a seat at one of the diner-style wooden tables. Orders of grill-fresh hamburgers and rib sandwiches emerge from the kitchen tightly wrapped in foil paper, releasing a burst of savory aromas as soon as they’re opened.
Many people argue that Blue Dot's burgers are the best in the area. In fact, a group of nine friends on a quest to find the best burger in Northwest Florida embarked on the NWFL Burger Tour in 2012. After sampling burgers from 14 different local and chain restaurants, the group rated Blue Dot as the best.
This culinary emporium's owners, Paras and Tamara Arora, know that palates can be choosy. So in early 2012, the couple opened Beyond India, an Indo-American fusion restaurant that combines traditional recipes from both cultures. Drawing on 20 years of experience cooking traditional Indian cuisine—specifically from North India—Punjabi chef Singh populates tables with pub-style golden appetizers and more exotic starters of delicately fried paneer pakora. The team bakes entrees such as seafood and tandoori lamb in an oven that reaches 900 degrees, almost exactly twice the temperature at which books and firefighting manuals burn. After sopping up a curry dish from the endless lunch buffet, patrons can cool off taste buds with a sweet slice of key-lime pie.
In the Southern-centric kitchen at Jen's Creoles Restaurant, chefs simmer batches of creole gumbo and bake tins full of creole cornbread. The menu of comfort food also includes wings, hush puppies, burgers, and andouille sausage sliced atop a mound of red beans and rice.
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Each of Wing Zone’s 15 sauces comes accompanied with a number. The digit doesn't signify the amount of ingredients, nor is it a tool for easier ordering. Rather, the sauce’s number, much like the scores given to candidates during presidential debates, denotes a spectrum of spiciness, with 1 being mild and 4 being too hot for its own good. Original wings, boneless nuggets, and crispy fried shrimp come dressed in up to four of the zesty flavors, such as garlic parm, Ragin’ Cajun, and, the hottest of the hot, Nuclear habanero. Aside from dressing up chicken and fish, the Wing Zone kitchen also churns out plainly dressed chicken tenders, stacks of burgers with bacon and cheese, and extinguishes burning taste buds with banana cheesecake or chocolate brownie bites.
Chefs roll fresh salmon, scallops, and barbecued eel into sushi behind Fuji’s open-air bar and send elegant platters to diners watching every slice or parties gathered in private rooms. Teriyaki-chicken or shrimp-tempura bento boxes arrive filled with neat portions of dumplings and crab rangoons to ensure that meals remain perfectly organized on the trip to the stomach. Pork or chicken cutlets are breaded and fried in the tonkatsu style, and udon or soba noodles tangle with stir-fried vegetables and fish cakes. Hibachi chefs sear filet mignon, chicken, or lobster tails to perfection to complement glasses of Japanese beer, sake, or jasmine tea from the beverage list.
In business for 15 years, O?Brien's Bistro serves an upscale menu of seafood and grilled meats, all prepared to order by chef and owner Jim O?Brien. The chef endeavors to please all tastes with a variety of seafood dishes?including crowd favorites such as lobster-stuffed grouper and coconut fried shrimp?as well as grilled chicken, steaks and house-made soups. He?ll even modify any dish to accommodate customer requests, such as allergy restrictions or a preference for rhyming ingredients. Though the bistro is located in a strip mall, the interior offers an unexpected retreat with latticed dividers, cascading ivy, and a fluorescent fish tank.