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.
Ed's Hometown Seafood and Steaks caters to the entire family with a menu full of seafood specialties, steaks, and burgers for lunch and dinner. Kids might get a kick out of watching the lobsters in the live lobster tank, while adults might enjoy picking which lobster could best drive a tank. The staff prepares other fresh seafood such as soft-shell crab, Bayou catfish, and seafood gumbo. They balance the menu out a bit by also searing tender baby back ribs and juicy steaks. An adjoining sports bar has a full-service bar and hosts monthly dart tournaments and poker nights.
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.
Cuvee Bistro takes its name from the French word that refers to a blending of ingredients. It's fitting for the eatery, which combines its southern roots with worldly inspirations to create sophisticated culinary dishes. To accompany this eclectic cooking, the restaurant features an internationally sourced list of wines, which earned an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator for the last four consecutive years, adding to the restaurant's already impressive award collection that includes a spot on OpenTable's Top 100 Hottest American Bars and Florida Trend's Golden Spoon Award.
Meet the Chef
From a young age, many chefs know they want to spend their lives cooking. But not very many chefs begin working in kitchens at age 14. This is exactly how Cuvee Bistro owner and executive chef Tim Creehan began his career. After being promoted to executive chef, he spent decades showcasing his culinary skills in kitchens from Atlanta to Hong Kong. He also opened multiple restaurants, many of which still serve his signature dishes long after his parting.
His vast experience earned Creehan celebrity status on the Emerald Coast culinary scene. This status only increased after he appeared on regional television programs, was featured as Cooking Light's Shining Star Chef, published three cookbooks, and cooked for celebrities such as Bruce Willis, Cybill Shepherd, and Danny Glover.
Southern Cuisine with a Twist
The addition of white-cheese grits and fried green tomatoes helps reinforce the menu's roots in classic southern cooking. However, Creehan takes those familiar flavors in new directions by incorporating Asian and European influences throughout his cooking. Here are three dishes that reflect the kitchen's commitment to tradition and creativity:
|Grassfed beef carpaccio accompanied by shaved romano cheese and horseradish-tinged cream||Chilean Sea Bass with Avocado Citrus Vinaigrette and Basmati Rice||Colorado Rack of Lamb with Garlic Dijon Cream and Roasted Brussels Sprouts|
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.