The view from our patio at the beach

Last week we took a spur of the moment trip to the the Emerald Coast of Florida. It’s the off-season, so rentals were super reasonable, and we were able to score a condo within a few yards of the dunes in Sandestin. Ah, there’s nothing quite like waking up to the sunrise over the ocean. I could really get used to enjoying breakfast at this table every morning.

Know what else I could get used to? The amazing fresh seafood that abounds at every restaurant. No meal during our entire trip was disappointing. In fact, they were all wonderful in their own way. So if you’re ever in Destin, Seaside, Rosemary Beach, WaterColor, or any of those other little resort areas, here are a few spots that I highly recommend you check out:

Cafe Tango’s Seafood Stuffed Piquillos Peppers

Cafe Tango

14 Vicki Street
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
(850) 267-0054

 

Over seven hours in a car with nothing but fast food and snacks from the gas station do not a satisfied pregnant woman make. On the night of our arrival, we dropped our bags in the condo, and out the door we went. It was late, and I was starving, so we headed to Cafe Tango, a tiny gem I found on Chowhound. With only eight tables in the place, it’s a cozy spot with perhaps the friendliest staff we encountered on the trip.

Its cuisine is described as European inspired coastal, and it delivers. We started the meal with the crab & shrimp stuffed smoked piquillo peppers served on seared green onions and finished with a smoked pimiento de piquillo pepper butter. Bursting with fresh crab and shrimp, this was a perfect start to our stay at the beach.

 

Cafe Tango’s “Dancing Fish”

Next, we both struggled to choose from the fresh fish offerings because they all sounded so fantastic. I ended up with the “Dancing Fish”, Grouper topped with shrimp, lump crabmeat, grilled diver scallop, and spinach in a jalapeño cream sauce. A side of mashed potatoes and medley of snap peas, mushrooms, and red peppers made this meal so large that even though I was starving when we arrived, I could barely even eat half of what was on my plate. But that’s okay- just meant that I could enjoy this same meal again, but the next time it would be for lunch!

 

Cafe Tango’s “Basque Fish”

Hubs went for the “Basque” Snapper, pan sauteed in the traditional style of Northern Spain and topped with shrimp in a white Fabada bean sauce with Morcilla and Chorizo sausages. Rich and satisfying, this was definitely a comfort food dish. He too was completely stuffed, but unlike me, he couldn’t bear to leave a morsel behind, so every last bite was gone from his plate.

I’ll have to mention too that even though we had no room in our bellies for any sweets on this particular night, their dessert menu looked so incredible that we ended up coming back again before our trip was done, just to have dessert!

 

Cafe Tango’s Butterscotch Bread Pudding

 

 

Bistro Bijoux

9100 baytowne blvd
Miramar Beach, FL 32550
(850) 622-0760

Thanksgiving Dinner at Bistro Bijoux

I had already checked around to see which restaurants would be open on Thanksgiving, and luckily, one of them was a spot that came highly recommended by our friend Wilson. Bistro Bijoux, located in the Baytowne Wharf area of Sandestin, has a New Orleans flair. In fact, rumor has it that one of New Orleans’ best known chefs, Emeril Lagasse, brings his family here quite often. I’d say that’s a testament to how good the food is, wouldn’t you?

Bistro Bijoux’s Lobster Spring Roll

Our meal began with lobster springs rolls that consisted of  of huge crispy tempura fried lobster tails, Thai peanut and wasabi dipping sauces, soba noodle and julienne vegetables. Light, refreshing, and delicious.

Now it was time for our Thanksgiving dinner. While it was tempting to go the more traditional route with their entree option of turkey, jalapeno cornbread stuffing, gravy and all the fixin’s,  we were both craving red meat.

So red meat it was. He ordered the specialty of the house, the “Black Skillet” Filet Mignon, served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, bacon braised kale, roasted garlic and truffle butter. This was truly one of the best steaks either of us had ever tasted.

Bistro Bijoux’s Lamb Porterhouse and Eggplant Fries

But the star of the show was my dinner, a tandoori spiced Lamb Porterhouse, topped with pistachio gremolata, served with French green lentils, provencal tomatoes, and eggplant fries. No question about it, this was THE best lamb either of us have ever eaten.

Note: while the low lighting in the restaurant does create a beautiful ambience, it isn’t a great help when it comes to my food photography. Please forgive the low quality images and believe me when I say that these photos don’t even begin to do the dishes justice!

 

Restaurant Paradis

82 S Barrett Square
Rosemary Beach, FL 32461
(850) 534-0400

 

Rosemary Beach lights in the square

Friday night we drove over to Rosemary Beach to dine at Restaurant Paradis with friends. We weren’t expecting to happen upon this gorgeous sight – the town square sparkling with Christmas lights. If this doesn’t put you in the holiday spirit, I don’t know what will.

Restaurant Paradis’ Grilled Romaine Caesar


Like Bistro Bijoux, the mood lighting made it difficult for me to get great photos, but hey, that’s okay. Just trust me when I say that Paradis does it right.

From the bread with sweet honey butter to our appetizers of lobster and calamari, to my char-grilled Caesar salad, our evening was off to a fine start. (By the way- those are pickled sweet cherry peppers in the salad. And yes, I love that little addition.)

While the hubby opted for Ahi tuna seared rare with coconut lime rice, sautéed baby bok choy and wasabi mustard sauce, I ordered the dish I’d had my eye on since looking over the menu two days prior.

Stuffed Shrimp Paradis


The Stuffed Shrimp Paradis, grilled jumbo shrimp stuffed with crabmeat and wrapped in pancetta, served with a smoked cheddar corn soufflé and red curry sauce. Hello!


V Seagrove

2743 Scenic Highway 30A
Seagrove Beach, Florida 32459
(850) 468-0973

 

Sadly, our vacation was nearing an end. On our final night at the beach, we dined al fresco at V in Seagrove, savoring the fresh ocean air and feasting on more fresh seafood.

Our starters, shrimp & chorizo corndogs and roasted oysters, were both great, but the oysters definitely wowed me. Topped with caramelized fennel, smoked bacon, garlic, parsley and parmesan cheese, I probably could’ve eaten another plate of these all by myself.

 

V’s Roasted Oysters

For dinner, I opted to go a bit lighter than I had on previous evenings, because this was the night we were to make a stop back at Cafe Tango for dessert. (See first restaurant notes above)

A spinach salad made up of local greens, fresh chevre, candied pecans, shaved sweet onions, then tossed in a warm andouille molasses dressing was followed by an appetizer portion of shrimp & grits with a smoked tomato butter.

My honey didn’t go so light. His lamb chops on pumpkin gnocchi with browned butter sauce were decadent and absolutely scrumptious.

V’s Lamb Chops

Sunshine, ocean breezes, sand between my toes, incredible seafood in my belly– we enjoyed ourselves so much during these four days that it’s tempting to make this Thanksgiving trip a new family tradition. Only time will tell….

 

11 Responses to “Eating Along the Emerald Coast”

  1. 1

    Barbara Keith Payne — November 29, 2011 @ 8:14 am

    You certainly hit some of the very best!!! Great reviews and your pictures are fabulous. The weather this year was especially cooperative. The dining along 30A has certainly improved over the last few years! We had great meals at Borago and Stinky’s Fish Camp as well. Did not even make it to Basmati’s, a long time favorite. Great post!

    • Beth replied: — November 29th, 2011 @ 8:45 am

      Borago & Stinky’s are on my short list. I’ve heard great things about both, so will definitely plan them into our next visit!

  2. 2

    susan30AEATS — November 29, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

    Hi Beth!
    So glad you could make it to South Walton and enjoy some of our fabulous food finds! I just finished a feature article for the Fall issue of Emerald Coast magazine if you want to get to know six of our top Chefs a little better! Also, check out my blog 30A EATS covering Pensacola to Rosemary Beach! You are correct about Emeril! He actually has moved here and has his kids in our schools! Glad to have him as a local! Definitely try Borogo, Stinky’s and Basmati’s! I also recommend Vintij in Miramar Beach, and Smiling Fish Cafe at Gulf Place! You would also love Restaurant Fire for Brunch! Great post and come back soon!

    • Beth replied: — November 29th, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

      Thanks Susan! I will definitely turn to you for tips on my next visit!!

  3. 3

    ErinsFoodFiles — November 29, 2011 @ 5:00 pm

    That bread pudding looks amazing! How does it compare to Mirror’s? (RIP)

    • Beth replied: — November 29th, 2011 @ 5:03 pm

      As wonderful as it was, I’m not sure any bread pudding will ever live up to that banana bread pudding at Mirror. *moment of silence*

  4. 4

    Heather — November 29, 2011 @ 8:22 pm

    wow all of that food looks amazing! we stay in that area about once a year & I’ve never eaten at any of those places. Will have to remember that for next time. & Don’t you just LOVE rosemary beach? I bet those christmas lights were awesome.

    • Beth replied: — November 30th, 2011 @ 10:22 am

      Yes, love Rosemary Beach! That’s where we’ll stay the next time we go. This time around we planned it so last second that I couldn’t find a good rental there. From now on there will be advance planning!

  5. 5

    Susan in the Boonies — November 29, 2011 @ 11:07 pm

    You know…you didn’t have to put together such an exquisite post.
    You had me at Emerald Coast…

  6. 6

    doug — November 30, 2011 @ 10:17 am

    FYI, Southwest has a direct flight to Panama City. Rent a car, drive west for an hour and you’re there. MUCH better than that crap drive from Nashville!

    • Beth replied: — November 30th, 2011 @ 10:21 am

      Oh yes, believe me, we would have rather taken that flight! Unfortunately, we didn’t decide to go until about 48 hours in advance, and there we no flights available to get down there on Wednesday or back on Sunday & the cost for the flights on days surrounding was too expensive. Next time, we’ll plan better and fly!!

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