Booths line a long wall of windows at Marina Cantina, giving diners a direct view of boats and blue water. In the kitchen, cooks prepare distinctive Mexican specialties such as adobo-dusted calamari, chipotle-rubbed salmon broiled on cedar planks, and nachos piled with chihuahua cheese, shrimp, and crabmeat. Bartenders pour flights of tequila and infuse top-shelf margaritas with ingredients such as agave nectar or piquant ancho-pepper salt.
"You don't know what you're missing," President Barack Obama told the journalists who'd just turned down his offer to order some ice cream on his family's tab. Meanwhile, the staff at Bruster's Real Ice Cream passed the president's order through the stand's windows—mint-chip ice cream for Obama, a hot-fudge sundae for the First Lady, and a cup of cake-batter-oreo ice cream for Sasha, according to Obama Foodorama.
The customers aren't always presidential, but Bruster's crew whips up all desserts in-store for the average citizen, too—including cakes, waffle cones, and the ice cream itself. Ice-cream choices rotate between more than 150 flavors, including red velvet cake batter and mocha almond fudge made with caffeinated ice cream. Flavors made with oreos and thin mints keep inner cookie monsters from jumping out of their people-suits. The staff also forges the ice cream into other forms, such as ice-cream cakes and pies, sundaes, and Blasts blended with candy mix-ins.
The fermentation specialists at Panama City Beach Winery craft their lush tinctures from a cornucopia of Florida produce, winning over the taste buds of various competition judges across the country. During the 30- to 45-minute tasting, guests can cleanse their palates with 10 to 12 of owner Larry Honeycutt's delicious concoctions, a bacchanalian cascade that includes everything from banana and guava to carrot and blueberry sparking. Honeycutt will talk guests through the individual characteristics of each libation, detailing cocktails and ideal pairings such as banana wine and peanut butter or tomato wine and bad comedians. Beverage testers will leave with a pair of souvenir wine glasses emblazoned with the palm-tree logo and a bottle of Category 5 sangria.
Panama City visitors and natives are never more than a hop, a skip, and a parasail away from aquatic amusement, thanks to Adventures at Sea’s more than 60 locations, most stationed behind Panama City Beach's hotels and condos. The staff rents out pontoon boats for trips to Shell Island and pulls up to six riders on inflatable banana boats with a speedy jet ski. Experienced crews captain charter fishing trips and give fishers everything they need to catch trophies such as king mackerel, red groupers, and Stanley Cups that got away. After action-packed days filled with sunny memories, visitors can rent a lounge chair and soak up the sunset.
The open kitchen at Bruno’s Pizza reveals the cooking process for all to see. Before customers' eyes, pizza chefs toss dough into the air and whip up house sauces, using these as building blocks in pizzas, calzones, and towering crust castles. Their specialty pizzas are laden with toppings that include black olives, italian sausage, and portobello mushrooms; one pizza even comes with five types of peppers. Craft beer or soda accompanies each meal.
The pizza gurus at Bud & Alley's Pizza Bar layer sauce-slathered dough disks with artisan ingredients such as buffalo mozzarella, arugula, and eggplant. Patrons can drown memories of unsuccessful fly-fishing trips in the sauce from a seaside pizza covered in fresh fish, basil, and tomatoes ($15). Classic margherita pies topped with an aerodynamic layer of san marzano tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, and fresh basil ($14) soar from the oven onto waiting platters. Bedecked with arugula, shaved squash, zucchini, eggplant, and cheese, the Farmer's Market pizza ($14) sprouts with vegetables the way the earth would if it were flat and watered with sauce. Customers can also pair slices with meaty clam spaghetti ($16), or orecchiette pasta adorned with morsels of fennel sausage ($15). In between bites, diners can lubricate lips with selections from the lengthy drink list of top-shelf tequilas, mixed drinks, and wines ($9–$13).