Crispy Fish V Seagrove, photo: Susan Benton

If looking for the best dining options in the Panhandle, below is a short list of those restaurants that have received the Florida Trend Golden Spoon Award. The awards are broken down into “Golden Spoon”, “Best New”, “Hall of Fame”, and “Best Brand.” I have been fortunate to dine in all of the restaurants below, know most of the chefs personally, and would recommend adding them to your list of places to dine, whether a local or visitor to the region.

V Seagrove 
2743 Scenic Hwy. 30A
Seagrove Beach

AWARD: Best New
In the sparkling Hotel Viridian, big flavors come locally. Chef David Cunningham smokes Wagyu brisket in-house, sources Gulf shellfish for seafood towers and finds Southern chanterelles and rabbit for pappardelle.

Bud & Alley’s Smoked Tuna Dip, photo: Susan Benton

Bud & Alley’s 
P.O. Box 4760
Santa Rosa Beach

AWARD: Hall of Fame
Heart of Seaside and the New Urban dining hall of South Walton since 1986; an edible amusement park on the boardwalk. Pizza, tacos, rooftop bars plus shrimp and grits or pork chops and collards for big eaters.

Fish Out of Water 
34 Goldenrod Circle, WaterColor Inn
Santa Rosa Beach

AWARD: Golden Spoon
Chef Brian Murray prepares local snapper, flounder, shrimp, Appalachicola oysters and Panhandle produce. Sleek design, Italian flair, Gulf view — and field peas and ham hocks.

Restaurant Fire 
7 Town Center Loop
Santa Rosa Beach

AWARD: Golden Spoon
Fire tours the south, from country chow-chow, beans greens and pork belly to New Orleans for tasso ham and grillades. Beach town regulars love it for breakfast and brunch, from ricotta pancakes and eggplant benedict to steak and eggs ranchero.

Restaurant Fire Tomato Stack, photo: Susan Benton

10859 US Hwy. 98W, #103
Miramar Beach

AWARD: Golden Spoon
A changing menu by Chef John Jacob mixes the Mediterranean and Gulf with good cheer and spice. Seared tuna may dress in cumin dust and watermelon salsa. Paired with a smart wine list.

600 Grand Boulevard

AWARD: Best Brand
Steaks and seafood tamed, brightened and repolished with tuna mignon, mushroom ravioli, smart bar menu and true wine savvy.

Cuvee Bistro 
36120 Emerald Coast Parkway

AWARD: Golden Spoon
Showcase of local hero Tim Creehan, who mixes cuisines from pork belly and kung pao shrimp to white chocolate banana cream pie. The wine list is long and the martini list wide.

Captain Anderson’s Restaurant 
5551 North Lagoon Drive
Panama City Beach

AWARD: Hall of Fame
Next to the fleet, seafood is fresh for the fryer or Greek charcoal grill. With big steaks, she-crab soup and a vast, deep wine list.

Sushi at Firefly

535 Richard Jackson Blvd.
Panama City Beach

AWARD: Golden Spoon
Urbane dining with lots of fish, local oysters and serious sushi, plus a chef who dares eggplant pancakes and boar shanks.

Global Grill 
27 S. Palafox Place

AWARD: Golden Spoon
Downtown dining  gets a worldly spin from chef Frank Taylor with Spanish tapas, Asian seaweed and wild mushrooms. Dig into lamb lollipops and Southern-fried frog legs.

Jackson’s Steakhouse 
400 S. Palafox Street

AWARD: Hall of Fame
Chef Irv Miller’s Oyster fry/carpetbagger bison steak meet seared foie gras, and cucumber martinis meet amid historic downtown vibe and down-home flavor.

Jackson’s Steakhouse Downtown Pensacola

McGuire’s Irish Pub
600 E. Gregory St.

AWARD: Hall of Fame
Pub grub is true green, boxty, bangers, lamb stew and Galway salmon, and prime steaks as well. Pair them with Irish porter brewed on site and an extensive wine list.

Note: Florida Trend restaurant editor Chris Sherman stuck his finger into Key lime pie 20 years ago. He has eaten his way up down and across Florida, tucking into grits, datil peppers, and medianoche sandwiches as well as the dishes of our grandest chefs, young and old. Florida sets a big and constantly changing table, so when you find a great new restaurant or have a grand meal, let Chris know. Ditto for those dinners that don’t match the hype. He can’t be everywhere… although he’d like to be. Share your thoughts with Chris.

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