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.
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.
Captain Larry maneuvers the Sea Blaster??a 73-foot speedboat??on four different cruises in the Gulf, departing from the HarborWalk Village. Dolphin cruises speed through the water during the day, coming up close to dolphins as they leap out of the sea in an effort to distract humans while they steal their sunglasses. With the addition of snorkeling, passengers strap on a simple breathing apparatus and paddle through the crystalline waters. Others spy dolphins during the sunset cruise, as the horizon burns pink and orange, or watch fireworks burst over the water from the Sea Blaster?s deck every Thursday evening.
As its website states, it's always 5 p.m. at The Wine Bar, located inside Wine World Miramar Beach. Guests can select from a generous selection of lunch items that include soups, salads, and sandwiches. For hungrier patrons, the menu is adorned with larger dishes such as blackened grouper, crab cakes, and gourmet macaroni and cheese. The Wine Bar also stocks myriad craft cheeses from around the world, which customers often pair with a refreshing glass of wine.
As breezes drift in from Sandestin Marina on the Choctawhatchee Bay, live blues tunes also permeate the air at Graffiti & The Funky Blues Shack. An eclectic Italian American menu offers dishes such as escargot Milano, which comes sautéed in garlic, olive oil, and fennel seeds. Entrees include gourmet pastas such as chicken parmesan and fettuccine bolognese, as well as familiar fare including wild buffalo meatloaf and cedar planked salmon.
Helen Back believes a meal should be about more than just food. That's why its menu serves up the right portions to enjoy while watching a golf game or lounging on an outdoor patio. Try a white-sauce pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms, and black olives or down a bowl of nachos covered in spicy meat and jalape?os, while washing down your meal with one of the frequent drink specials from the full bar. Weekly specials include free pizza for members of the military and motorcyclists, and the restaurant's connection to the community also extends to fundraising for local youth and the Special Ops Warrior Foundation.