Saturday, April 10, 2010

Emerald Coast Food

Emerald Coast
Candice and I enjoy vacations to the Emerald Coast in Florida. One of the problems we encounter every time is where to eat. Most of the restaurants there are, frankly, terrible. I know I'm spoiled because of New Orleans, but the restaurants are over-priced, poor service and the food just sucks. What makes it so inexcusable is the abundance of incredibly high quality ingredients. They have vegetables from Georgia, citrus from Florida, and seafood from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic isn't too far away, either. The measure of most restaurants in the area is now how good they are, it's how little to they screw up the top-quality ingredients.
The Red Bar
Fortunately, in the land of mediocre restaurants, there is one redeeming one: The Red Bar. From what I understand, it's one of the oldest restaurants in the area and was founded by a Belgian guy (who made sure the bar kept Stella Artois on tap!). They serve breakfast; the waffles are wonderful with house-made whipped cream, strawberries, and powdered sugar. They also are just the only place along the coast that knows how to cook vegetables. There are only about 6 or so main items on the menu at dinner time, but by keeping it simple, they don't screw it up and they're amazingly consistent. The Red Bar is the only place I'd recommend to another New Orleanian in the area without reservation. The prices are good, the service is excellent, and the food is great. I'll give it my highest compliment: it could survive as a pure restaurant in New Orleans, even without the beachside locale.
Evening at the Red Bar
The only drawback is if you don't eat dinner there early, it gets really jammed up with an incredibly long line.

There is also one alternative to The Red Bar: get the great ingredients and cook it yourself. The groceries there are pretty good and cheap.
Goatfeathers in Blue Mountain is the seafood supplier to most of the restaurants in the area. The grouper-type fish are local and very fresh. You can generally get something in the afternoon that was swimming in the morning. Try this recipe, for one.


Kevin Allman said...

Thank you for this! Like you, I often have trouble finding good restaurants when I'm in Pensacola and those parts. There are a couple of decent places in downtown Pensacola and on the water, but I always end up going back to the same places. I'll put The Red Bar on my list next time I go.

Clay said...

There is a Commander's Palace in Destin, which has excellent food, but why go to the copy when you can go to the original?

Ryan Waldron said...

I haven't been to the Red bar in years (because I haven't been to Grayton in years), but I remember it always being a wonderful place to eat. I seem to recall through the haze of the years excellent mashed potatoes. I really need to get back there.