Northwest Florida Culinary Standouts

By: Laura Spinale

New dining experiences on the Gulf of Mexico.

Table-hop between some of my favorite northwest Florida restaurants:

At Jackson's Steakhouse in Pensacola, repeatedly named one of Florida's best restaurants, entrée prices reflect the designation. Taste their famous filet or coastal crab cakes. Jackson's also enjoys a rep for making a perfect martini.

Asian and Cajun? If this mélange appeals, try H20 A Cajun-Asian Grill, the restaurant at the Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front. Choose from a diverse selection of steaks, seafood, salads and gourmet burgers.

Dessert lovers should head to The Village of Baytowne Wharf (at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort) to taste the New Orleans bread pudding with rum sauce served at Acme Oyster House.

Dining on a budget? Take note: there's a $6.50 entrée-sharing fee at Louisiana Lagniappe in Destin, but each person gets his or her own salad and Creole-stuffed or baked potato. A kid's menu is also available. For a starter, I ordered Oysters Lagniappe. Covered with cheese, stuffed with crabmeat, they were enough to fill me.

Dress for an elegant meal at Seagar's Prime Steaks and Seafood (in the Hilton Sandestin), replete with top-notch porterhouses and fresh local seafood, coupled with a huge wine list.

Capt. Anderson's Restaurant
is a Panama City Beach tradition. Southern Living, Wine Spectator and Florida Trend have heaped their awards on the waterfront restaurant and market, where local catches shine. Call ahead before you visit - this family-owned business operates only eight months out of the year.

It's not for the tea and toast crowd, but Caroline's River Dining in Apalachicola makes a breakfast dish called the Bay Jewels Benedict. Think: your choice of eggs (typically poached) served with shrimp, oysters or grouper and a buttermilk biscuit, topped with hollandaise sauce. The sea bite of the oysters adds an unexpected kick to breakfast. Eat indoors or out, soaking up the stunning river views.

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