Beal Street Bottle Club mixes an engaging cocktail of music, local art, and community, and invites visitors to add their own imbibe-able ingredients. A BYOB joint, the club invites patrons to bring favorite spirits, wines, or invisibility potions before augmenting libations with the bar's purchasable selection of mixers, ice, and non-alcoholic drinks. Local blues and jazz musicians, DJs, and other performers brandish their talents and hone their crafts on Beal Street's intimate stage. Carefully mixed sound levels envelop listeners without overwhelming ears, foregrounding each band member's contribution and packing the dance floor with rug-cutting revelers. Between sets, step outside of the Club’s red door and sample the wares of street-side food vendors or gossip of the city’s town crier.
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 jalapeños 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.
The bar’s trademark dueling pianos serve as the epicenter of these nightly celebrations; patrons submit their favorite songs on slips of paper for the pianists and backing musicians to recreate. If the website’s playlist is any indication, the bands can handle popular songs from all genres and eras, from Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” to Kanye West’s “All of the Lights.” The performances are spirited: colorful lights splash upon a stage where servers, guests, and chairs that have somehow developed mobility all dance along to the music. On Sunday nights at the Fort Walton Beach location, a comedy show cranks up the revelry at 9 p.m. after the dueling pianos stop for a rest.
Fueling the celebration is the bar’s indulgent selection of drinks. The menu includes military specials and revelers grab colorful straws to help drain 32-ounce booze buckets filled with fruit-flavored rum or other fruity libations. Honey-infused whiskey sweeten specialty cocktails, and local beers add depth to coolers stocked with Stella Artois and Dos Equis.
The Breeze Cinema 8 and The Ridge Cinema 8 may be independently owned, but they keep up with technological advances as well as any megaplex. Both theaters present the latest Hollywood blockbusters in crisp DLP-digital projection and resounding audio from Meyer Sound speakers. Select flicks are even rendered in RealD 3D, which sends heart-pounding car chases racing over the audience's stadium seats and lets Steven Spielberg's name gently graze your cheek.
The theaters have occasionally attracted big-name visitors in the flesh, including veteran Marcus Luttrell, the real-life model for Mark Wahlberg's character in Lone Survivor. It also occasionally plays special sing-along versions of family movies such as Frozen.
Nippon Sushi and Grill's expansive lunch ($10.49) and dinner buffets ($12.99) abound with sushi, rolls, hot dishes, and other delicacies inspired by traditional Japanese cuisine. Nippon's sushi shamans hand-roll specialties such as the Green Dragon roll, deliciously crafted from cream cheese, spicy crab salad, and a fried crab stick, topped with avocado and roe. The cucumber and crab White Tiger roll sports a crown of white fish, tuna, and tempura, and the Ninja Turtle roll's core of cream cheese and crab comes cinched with avocado and a black belt of barbecued eel. Refreshing libations ($1.89) stand by with straws in hand to hose down potential wasabi fires.