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9
Fort Walton Beach
Rick's Crab Trap


This restaurant is well-known for its local seafood. Rough plank walls and draped fishing nets distinguish the interior, and nautical accents add bursts of color. The menu features fish prepared by steaming, grilling, broiling and frying. You'll find crabs of all varieties, oysters, crawfish, shrimp and mussels, along with amberjack and yellowfin tuna. A chicken dish and a hamburger are available for landlubbers, but the majority of the menu is devoted to seafood. Wine, beer and cocktails are served as well, and a number of specialty drinks will put you in the appropriate mood to enjoy Gulf Coast evenings.

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Popular with the locals, this family-owned deli is a great place to pick up lunch. You can order salads and sandwiches all day, choosing from the vast selection, which includes BLTs, shrimp salad, tuna salad, liverwurst and grilled cheese. Hamburgers are also available, and you can check out the lunch specials from 11am-3pm each day. Tables and booths offer convenient seats in the restaurant, or you can get something to go. Starting at 4pm, they change tack and serve more substantial fare for dinner, including chicken, pasta and pork dishes.

Read more about Callahan's Island Restaurant and Deli →




The most striking aspect of this family-owned steak house is the ship's hull incorporated into the structure. It draws immediate attention, although the cuisine steps in to maintain that hold. Famous for tender steaks and ocean-fresh seafood, the restaurant is a local haunt that welcomes visitors as well. Prime rib is a favorite, but other cuts are just as flavorful, and the chicken and veal are succulent, too. Pastas are available, and the desserts are always homemade. An extensive international wine list makes terrific dinners even better, and a lounge offering live entertainment and dancing is the perfect way to top off the night.

Read more about Pandora's Restaurant and Lounge →


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Beach Walk Café


One of the Emerald Coast's most celebrated restaurants, this waterfront eatery serves American cuisine with Asian and European influences. Its chef, Tim Creehan, creates dishes such as tempura-fried grouper with black bean sauce and stir-fried vegetables, oven-roasted pork with shiitake mushroom dressing, or roasted lamb with eggplant and goat cheese rolls. He is also known for his hot crawfish salad, crabmeat spring rolls, white chocolate banana cream pie, and a delightful Sunday brunch. These, along with his other specialties, reveal why he has been chosen as chef for dinners hosted by celebrities such as Amy Grant, Vince Gill and Cybill Shepherd.

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Boathouse Oyster Bar


Unassuming and relaxed, this simple, waterside eatery doesn't buy into the commercialization found so frequently at beach resorts. It doesn't pretend to be fancy, and it doesn't expect its clientele to be either. Grafitti marks the walls, and physical comforts are at a minimum. It does, however, have a great view of the harbor and is known for its fresh, cold oysters. The cheeseburgers, huge and juicy, aren't too shabby either, and the gumbo is award-winning. Live music during the week adds an energetic note of local flavor.

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Pino Gelato


Small, bright and clean, this Italian coffeeshop is a convenient place to grab a "pick-me-up" while shopping at the factory stores. The contemporary space has a counter to order from and café chairs of wicker and metal. Coffee drinks, always in demand, include cappuccinos (hot or iced), espressos, lattes and cafe au lait. Bottled waters and soft drinks are also available. If you need a bite to eat, they sell sandwiches and desserts too, including tiramisu, cannolis and croissants. Outside, tables along the sidewalk are a nice place to enjoy a gelato while you gather your strength for the next bank of shops.

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3
Blue Mountain Beach
Basmati's


The contemporary building that houses Basmati's is integrated beautifully into a tangle of native greenery and jasmine, creating a sense of balance between both manmade and natural elements. This Asian sense of harmony extends inside as well. The cuisine pairs local seafood with flavorful ingredients and zesty seasonings, resulting in entrees such as Thai red curry shrimp, Cantonese rack of lamb and curry crab-noodle cakes. The signature dish, firecracker grouper, features a tempura coating and a spicy sweet-and-sour sauce. Vegetarians will approve of the teriyaki portobello mushroom and the quinoa sesame tempeh, and sushi-lovers will be pleased by the extensive nigiri and maki selections.

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2
Santa Rosa Beach
Bayou Bill's Crab House


For more than 15 years, this casual restaurant has brought the bounty of the Emerald Coast to eager diners. An all-wood interior peppered with nautical accents sets the stage for plentiful seafood dinners, whether they're fried, broiled or steamed. Shrimp, scallops and oysters team up with cole slaw, hush puppies and potatoes for a coastal feast, and crabs of all varieties are a special treat. House specialties include stuffed grouper parmesan, and shrimp and rainbow pasta. You'll also find options for the landlubbers, and a full bar serves up beer and cocktails, frozen or not.

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1
Santa Rosa Beach


An ocean view and trendy blue-tiled sushi bar enhance this large dining room's appeal. Soft shades of yellow and green dominate the interior, and guests may dine at either a table or semi-circular booth. The kitchen boasts flavorful fish and meat prepared with homegrown veggies and exotic seasonings. The short but intriguing menu might include wild striped bass with butternut squash lasagna, baby carrots, turnips, and apple curry sauce or moulard duck breast with poached quince, polenta, frisse, and orange coriander sauce. An extensive selection of wines is offered, and a limited assortment is available by the glass.

Read more about Fish Out of Water →


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