With multiple locations throughout northwest Florida, Helen Back Cafe does its best to ensure that cold drinks and hot comfort foods are always nearby. The eateries' signature items are its hearty pizzas. These hand-tossed pies won the 2012 reader' choice poll for Best Pizza in Emerald Coast Magazine, and Esquire urged readers to visit and, "eat the best pizza you've ever shoved in your sunburned face."
With 17 toppings available?including everything from meatballs and jalape?os to chicken and onion?patrons are able to build their own custom pie from scratch. A small selection of sandwiches and other classic finger foods round out the menus, giving visitors snacks to nibble as they enjoy a frosty beer or cocktail from the bar and listen to the live bands on select Friday and Saturday evenings.
For Helen Back Cafe, keeping customers happy is almost as important as giving back to the communities it serves. The staff regularly provides donations to charitable causes, and Helen Back Cafe proudly supports The Special Ops Warrior Foundation, which helps the dependents of fallen soldiers continue advancing their educations.
Tionna Bishop met her first coffee roaster in Sausalito at the age of 13, and a passion was born. From there, she began a tour of coffee houses around the Bay Area with her father and grandfather with a dream of someday owning her own coffee shop slowly brewing inside her. Today, she’s living out that dream at Bishops Coffee and Tea, where she roasts small batches of beans every week to sell in bulk or transform into steamy lattes and frothy cappuccinos. Just beside the register, buttery croissants and muffins made in-house from scratch beckon from beneath a glass case, begging to be paired with a cup of the coffee of the day. The café’s atmosphere is just as welcoming as its comforting eats, with cozy chalkboard menus, outdoor benches, and weekend performances by a piano player well-versed in the best coffee-related showtunes.
Higher Ground Coffee & Tea Co. presents a bevy of sandwiches, breakfast specialties, and coffee-and-tea-based beverages. Locally inspired eats include the Hot Brown sandwich, which the staff constructs by layering an open-faced sandwich spread with chicken, cheese sauce, bacon, and a fresh tomato on top to throw off the food pyramid's watchful eye. By preparing vegetarian options, the eatery accommodates the culinary predilections of different diners amid the interplay of yellow, red, and turquoise colors. Behind the counter, a polished brass steamer churns out tall cups of coffee served chilled or hot, and between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m., staffers man skillets to sizzle eggs, bacon, sausage, and evidence.
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.
Brian, DR, and Lee at Dirt Road Cookers are a tight-knit gang of old-fashioned sausage-smokers and brisket-wranglers, and they have the cowboy hats to prove it. Now, within the trio’s shrine to all things sauce-slathered, customers dine on a menu tangy barbecue chicken, tender pork ribs, and spicy housemade sausage paired with summertime mainstays including potato salad, baked beans, and coleslaw. In addition to helping them hone their barbecuing chops, their years behind the smoker also taught them the value of efficient eating; all of their eats are available for munching on the premises or in handy to-go orders.
The Club at Hidden Creek, which Golf Digest named one of the top 201 North American courses, challenges golfers to a round of fairway finesse on a links dotted with carefully concealed targets. The 6,805-yard, par 72 course is a formidable landscape of rolling lies, groomed greens, and ravenous water hazards. Hidden Creek served as a host site for the U.S. Open qualifying rounds and has been conquered by Graeme McDowell and many a sentient windmill. Click here to see tee times.