A local’s favorite restaurants

One of the more challenging decisions when guests visit Panama City Beach is finding the best places to eat. Just as when I travel, I want to know where the locals dine. Below are my 10 favorite restaurants I love on Panama City Beach. They are not ranked in any particular order and none of these are franchised or chain restaurants.

Dee’s Hangout – Be sure to stop in Dee’s Hangout at their new location in the Edgewater Shopping Center next door to Firefly.  A graduate of the NYC Culinary Institute, Chef Dee is best known for his blend of coastal Cajun southern cuisine. His signature smoked tuna dip now reaches throughout the US. You’ll find me there most around the noon hour. His lunch specials are second to none. Expect an hour wait during the dinner hours in peak season. Don’t forget to try the banana pudding for dessert. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.

Diego’s Burrito Factory– Opened two years ago, but has quickly became a local’s favorite. Their tagline is “Let us roll you a fat one!” Walk in, stand in line and select your entrée, whether it’s a burrito, taco or quesadilla. Choose your favorite type of meat; steak, chicken or the one I crave the most, the pineapple soaked pork called Al Pastor. The final selection is unlimited choice of toppings they offer.  All served with chips and salsa. You may dine inside or sit on the front porch enjoying the Gulf breeze.

Thomas Donut and Snack Shop – Open since 1971, Thomas Donuts has been a historical restaurant on Panama City Beach. Located on the West end known as, Laguna Beach, tourists and locals alike visit in search of the tastiest donuts on the beach. All the donuts are made fresh daily and host the largest variety of flavors. It’s not just a donut shop, the menu offers a selection of lunch items like the shrimp melt or the delicious hamburgers.  You will find me there the most during the breakfast hours. The signature smoked sausage link biscuit is my favorite. Thomas Donuts is also known for making those Texas style kolaches.

Liza’s Kitchen – A fresh alternative to traditional restaurants. Located on the East end, Liza’s offers a blend of the best sandwiches on the beach.  Everyone should try the Hippee Chick.  In addition to the freshest sandwiches, their soups and salads consistently receive stellar reviews. Sunday brunch seems to be very popular among those who live in the Thomas Drive corridor.

Sandbar Seafood and BBQ Joint– Known for its fresh seafood and award-winning barbeque, the Sandbar is located just off Front Beach Road on Hwy 79. This is my favorite restaurant for fried shrimp. You can order it by the pound. It’s also a great place to watch your favorite game on one of the many large televisions. Sit at the bar as the shucker delivers you oysters on the half shell.  Ask to meet the owner, Dave Humphries, he is one of the most personable natives on the beach.

Hunt’s Oyster Bar –Although not on the beach, Hunt’s Oyster Bar located across the Hathaway Bridge on Beck Avenue is a local’s favorite that many tourists place on their visit list while in our area. Choose your oysters raw, fried or Cajun baked.  My recommendation is the lunch seafood basket. It’s served with a filet of grouper, fried oysters, fried shrimp, fries and cole slaw, all for under $9. You can expect a short wait because it remains very popular. They are closed on Sundays.

Runaway Island –Located on Front Beach Road one mile east of Pier Park, Runaway Island is one of the few restaurants where you can dine outside next to the Gulf on a 6,000 square foot wooden deck extended all the way to the sandy shores. Watch the sunsets and enjoy the tunes of live entertainment. I particularly love the Runaway Fish Tacos.

Firefly – Known as Panama City Beach’s most elegant dining restaurant.  Firefly is best known for its she-crab soup and signature sushi. Located in the Edgewater Beach Shopping Center, Firefly is the perfect venue for that romantic night. Choose the atmosphere you want, whether it’s in the main dining room under the ambient lit tree or in the sushi bar.  Firefly sets the standard in local fine dining.

Saltwater Grill – Centrally located on Hutchison Boulevard, the Saltwater Grill is another fine dining restaurant known for; Gulf fresh seafood, choice steaks and Maine lobster. Many guests enjoy listening to pianist, Michael Rorah, in the mermaid room next to the 25,000 gallon tank. My favorite is the grouper filet topped with the crab imperial and the oscar style ribeye.

Bayou on the Beach – With a New Orleans flair, Bayou on the Beach offers the best in Cajun seafood. Their Who Dat Shrimp quickly became my preferred choice on the menu.  Daily deals on oysters on the half shell. Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Andy’s Flour Power – Located on Thomas Drive.  Andy’s is Trip Advisor’s #1 restaurant for best breakfast on the beach.  John, the owner frequently makes his rounds checking on his guests ensuring a first class dining experience.

Captain Anderson’s – Since 1967, Captain Anderson’s has provided Panama City Beach with waterfront Seafood dining at it’s finest!

NEW to Panama City Beach:

Back Beach BBQ – Located on the West End of PCB.  If it’s brisket you want, it’s brisket they got!  Throw in a side of collard greens and call it a day.  This BBQ joint will definitely be sure to please and make you come back for more.

Eat My Pasty – One of our favorite places to go enjoy ‘fish n’ chips’!  Located right off Hwy 79, South of Hwy 98, Eat My Pasty offers a traditional English menu, not typically found in this area.

Honorable mention:

J Michaels

Dusty’s Oyster Bar

Shuckum’s

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