Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Dining in Destin

I have been traveling to Destin for too many years to count. From childhood trips to jaunts to our condo at Sterling Shores, everything is completely familiar. One thing I've always found lacking is a truly fantastic (non-chain) restaurant. Don't get me wrong... I love the old school Gulf Coast haunts like The Back Porch and Habor Docks for the fried shrimp and oysters. There really is nothing more fun than visiting these casual places that welcome sand and flip-flops from their patrons, and the food is usually surprisingly good.

 I've sampled what other 'upscale' places have tried to pass on as fine dining in the area (which is usually fish and two sides on a white tablecloth), and have been unimpressed, preferring to go back to my fave t-shirt selling, fish frying establishments. Until now...

The lovely Henderson Park Inn has been on my radar for awhile and we've touted it in the magazine on multiple occasions. Primarly as the best place to stay (which it definitely is). But, until last night, I hadn't personally dined in the charming restaurant. To say I was missing out is an understatement. With their onsite, chef-driven Beach Walk Cafe, they get everything right; from an impressive wine list to the chef sending out a bit of tasting prior to the meal this is Destin's 'feather in the cap' for foodies.

We enjoyed expertly seared tuna and perfectly sautéed spinach in a ginger soy sauce, amazing lamb chops (chef's special), and signature dishes: eggplant and crab appetizers and prosciutto wrapped caesar salad with house made croutons and dressing. The presentation was perfect, the service measured up and despite a somewhat dated interior compared with metropolitan restaurants, the experience was completely divine. I came without expectations and left saying WOW! 

If you haven't been to this hidden treasure, I suggest you snag a reservation before they get completely booked. If these photos are any indication, the food draws purveyors of taste...and the reputation is building. The view of the ocean from your table will be just as amazing as the food, as the property is surrounded by gardens and sand dunes. Would love to hear your thoughts on where you love to dine along the Emerald Coast? And, look forward to more posts as we try out the best in the area this week!