Located at Grand Boulevard in Sandestin, Emeril’s Coastal Italian is the first of Emeril’s Restaurants in Northwest Florida.

Originally, Emeril was not entertaining the idea of opening a restaurant in his adopted home town of South Walton where he lives with his family. But, many like myself were thrilled when he reconsidered.

Emeril’s Coastal Italian combines the rich and diverse tradition of Italian cuisine with the bountiful variety of nearby fresh Gulf seafood and locally sourced ingredients. 

Chef de Cuisine, Frank Szymanski, along with other local culinary talent, and Ki Song An, the General Manager, who has been with Emeril’s Restaurant Group since 1999, work closely with Chef Emeril to deliver a menu featuring Italian favorites. You will find house made meatballs, Lasagna Bolognese, other hand crafted pasta dishes, and creative flatbreads, with a daily specialty menu offered that has a focus on the freshest seafood.

“My team and I have had a lot of fun developing this menu and exploring all the amazing ingredients that the region has to offer. We are thrilled to open our doors and look forward to bringing an experience we can be proud of to our guests. We just try to make people a little happier leaving than when they walked in,” said Lagasse.

My husband and I had a difficult time deciding what we wanted to try from the menu. It was all so enticing, and the price point for our area so refreshing! We settled on the Shrimp Bisque and Emeril’s Coastal Board to start. I also ordered a martini with one blue cheese olive as well. I was told they did not serve blue cheese olives, but when the drink arrived it contained one. Nice improvising! And, I’m obsessed with the martini glasses.

My former husband grew up in his family owned restaurant in New Orleans East from the early 1970’s to late 1980’s. They were fishermen, shrimpers, and seafood wholesalers too. You can read more about that here. I bring this up as no one has ever come close to Ellie’s Shrimp Bisque… ever…until now. Ellie was my now deceased mother-in-law who was well known for her talent in the kitchen as the head cook. Emeril’s Coastal Italian has hit a home run with their Shrimp Bisque. The deep seafood flavor shined through the luxurious creamy bisque. It brought back a flood of fond memories. What I think good food should do.

Emeril’s Coastal Board changes nightly, and we chose the right night. We could not have been happier with the tasting of Bluefin Tuna Crudo, Smoked Gulf Shrimp, and another NOLA favorite, Crabmeat Ravigote, topped with fried capers. The perfect appetizer.

Again from the specialty menu, third time’s a charm, we ordered seared Gulf Triple Tail served with a risotto casserole, nestled in a classic pink vodka sauce. Sweet, tender, flaky, and perfectly prepared, the team at Emeril’s Coastal Italian knows how to prepare fish, and do it well.

Being fresh pasta lovers, we had to side with Emeril’s son E.J. on his menu pick, E.J.’s Rigatoni. Filled with shrimp, broccoli, and a house made Italian sausage ragout, it was flavor packed. Plan to order a side of Brussels Sprouts with bacon vinaigrette to round out this meal.

I only had a minute to speak with Chef Frank as the dinner service was hustling. We discussed my love of soft shell crab, specifically the one posted recently on Emeril’s Coastal Italian social media that was topped with Cajun Caviar, another business that the Lagasse’s are involved in. I was brought a sample to try. It was absolutely decadent, and a dish I’d come back for time and again.

The décor for Emeril’s Coastal Italian was inspired by Alden Lagasse’s vision for an approachable yet elegant atmosphere, and merges Italian and coastal influences. The design team included interior designer Susan Lovelace, ASID from Lovelace Interiors, design associates Brooke Williams, and interior design assistant Amber Miller. I especially loved the artwork by Landon Lott of New Orleans. His larger than life murals are a main focal point in the space. The neutral color palette, furnishings, and dramatic lighting, create a sophisticated yet casual ambiance that balance the bustling open kitchen and lively rectangular bar and café.

I also just found out by a member from Emeril’s team that they have given a three-year $125,000 grant from the Emeril Lagasse Foundation for our local Food for Thought to launch the Full Circle Kitchen program. This will expand service and commitment to food insecure children and their families in Okaloosa and Walton Counties.

Offered to high school students enrolled in Food for Thought, the Full Circle Kitchen Program will bring students into Food for Thought’s Santa Rosa Beach Pantry where they will learn fundamental cooking skills from restaurant partners and local chefs. How great is that? And, Thoughtful Dinners will be held (one) each Fall, and each Spring featuring a different local guest chef and culinary team. The first kicks off October 19th. 

Exhausted from such a wonderful dining experience the night before, I put shopping at the new Grand Boulevard stores off until the next day. Rested and refreshed, we returned to check out Pottery Barn, the best place to find goods for our Miramar beach house. After living in South Walton for over two decades, to finally have a store like Pottery Barn means we are big time. I can finally see the bedding before purchasing it, unlike previously with only their catalog to go by.

Our daughter, Caroline, was married September 9th with Hurricane Irma bearing down. She grew up in South Walton and worked near our 30A home in Seaside until she went off to college at The University of Alabama. During high school she was an “Ophelia girl”, those that can’t get enough of the high end beach wear. And, she still is. I was excited to see the new Grand Boulevard boutique, and purchased a bathing suit and cover up for her to take on her honeymoon since it was put on hold until they can safely fly into the Caribbean.

Another catalog I order from is Vineyard Vines. They have exceptional rain gear, and until I walked into the store, I was unaware that they monogram…everything! Yes, I am one of those Southern gals that likes a good monogram. I think my family needs to be prepared for what is coming their way this Christmas!

Shopping does make one hungry, and though I was tempted to pop into Emeril’s again for lunch, I had to stop at Everkrisp, as I’m addicted to the Destin location but can’t stand fighting the traffic to get there. The owners are longtime locals whose family has been in the restaurant business for decades. Everkrisp offers fresh salads, grain bowls, soups, and has an emphasis on health and wellness. Something I try to incorporate into my life as much as possible since I’m often indulging as a food and travel writer.

With so many old favorites, and new stores that I still need to visit like Anthropologie, Lilly Pulitzer, and Kinnucan’s, not to mention our go-to Peter Millar coming soon, I will definitely be spending quite a bit of time at Grand Boulevard shopping and dining in the future.

Emeril’s Coastal Italian is family friendly and located at 435 Grand Boulevard in Miramar Beach, FL 32550. Hours of operation are Sunday through Thursday lunch and dinner 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Grand Boulevard is the shop, dine, play and stay Town Center located on Northwest Florida’s Beaches. Based on the prominent mixed-use architectural model, Grand Boulevard offers a dynamic lifestyle experience with convenient access to a multitude of exclusive shopping and dining options, entertainment, professional services, corporate offices and lodging. Grand Boulevard is a Howard Group and Merchants Retail Partners property. For more information, please call (850) 837-3099 or visit www.grandboulevard.com.

 

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