Destin's Best Seafood Restaurants and Markets

Breathe in the scent of Destin waterfront's salty air, squint at the sunlight shimmering on the Gulf of Mexico's turquoise waves, and gaze into the distance at fishing charters returning to shore. No doubt, it's only a matter of time before you're craving some seafood. Tucked into the heart of the heart of the Gulf Coast and dubbed "The World's Luckiest Fishing Village," Destin, FL, is primed to offer an amazing seafood selection to the hungry masses. Whether you're craving casual grub at a fish shack, want to fancy things up a bit with a candlelit meal or are planning a cozy night cooking in your vacation rental, Destin's seafood restaurants and markets have you covered.

Here's a look at our top picks for a tasty seafood meal in Destin.

1. Dewey Destin's

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One of Destin's seafood mainstays, Dewey's can seem every inch a tourist trap -- Panhandle visitors perpetually pack this casual joint. Of course, there's usually a reason restaurants become iconic, and yup, Dewey's delivers. Still, there are a few key things to remember: steer clear of the fried platters (they're not the freshest), and don't pin your hopes on the french fries (totally weak). Instead, opt for a plate of steamed seafood by the pound prepared mild or spicy, or the fresh catch of the day, often grouper, snapper or triggerfish. Whether you order the fresh catch fried grilled or blackened (c'mon, why not crank things up a notch?), it won't disappoint. Other major wins include the daily specials. Always fresh and creatively prepared, recent specials have included grilled mahi-mahi topped with tomatoes, olives, garlic, fresh basil and feta cheese, finished with reduced balsamic, and seared grouper topped with sautéed artichokes and shrimp, finished with a lemon butter cream sauce. For starters, dive into the over-the-top creamy hot crab dip, and close the night with a slice of homemade Key lime pie.

2. Shrimp Shack

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An easy drive from downtown Destin, the Shrimp Shack lies within Seaside, quite possibly one of the most picturesque beachfront communities on Earth. Any doubts you may foster about food quality from a "shack" with counter service will be blown to smithereens after a taste of the Shrimp Shack's amazing seafood. Start with a plate of oysters, which on recent visits have been sourced from Louisiana, and you will be overcome with briny delight. Follow this with a pound of steamed shrimp doused in spices and dipped in cocktail sauce, and then -- wait for it -- indulge in the glory that is the steamed Royal Red. This species of deep water shrimp is seasonal and packs a wallop of buttery flavor -- think lobster, but more tender (and, some would argue, tastier). A decadent lobster roll is also on the menu if you're still itching to fill your belly. Wash your meal down with a crisp glass of sauvignon blanc, while enjoying the Gulf views from the Shack's beachfront pavilion.

3. Sexton Seafood Market

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There's no reason dining at home in Destin shouldn't knock your socks off as much as a night out. Most vacationers in Destin opt to stay in condo or beach house rentals -- and often travel as part of a multifamily group. Given the circumstances, eating out nightly can add up quick, so take advantage of your rental's fully equipped kitchen and Destin's amazing fresh seafood markets, like Sexton's. A favorite of locals and tourists for more than 30 years, Sexton's sells a wealth of fresh seasonal catches, including grouper, snapper, shrimp, Red Royal shrimp and stone crab claws. Sexton's even doles out a selection of coveted local Apalachicola oysters. The seafood here is always freshly caught and in season, so if you have your heart set on something specific, contact Sexton's for availability. In addition to fresh seafood, try Sexton's smoked tuna dip, corn and crab bisque or boathouse gumbo. Still not enough? Maybe an order of their jalapeño hush puppies will fill 'er up.

4. Marina Cafe

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Marina Café
Perhaps you’ve grown tired of dining in your swimsuit, sand in your hair, at one of Destin's many casual eateries. When a special occasion -- or just the desire to dress up a bit -- arises, head to the much-loved Marina Cafe. A prime waterfront location guarantees a romantic sunset location; in fact diners can arrive early for a happy hour drink on the restaurant's waterfront deck. When it comes time to dine, you'll be greeted with a menu chock full of masterfully prepared seafood entrees, like the pan-seared yellow edge grouper with jumbo lump crabmeat, orzo pasta salad and champagne vinaigrette. Not all Marina Cafe's seafood is locally caught, however it is all fresh -- we suggest tucking into the seared Maine diver scallops served over navy beans, sautéed spinach and roma tomatoes in a parmesan thyme broth. Save room for the rum raisin bread pudding soufflé topped with caramelized bananas, bourbon caramel and vanilla ice cream.

5. Louisiana Lagniappe

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Louisiana Lagniappe has been delighting Destin's locals and visitors with impeccable service and creative Creole-inspired seafood preparations for nearly 30 years. Fair warning: a night spent dining here will be pricey, but well worth it. Widely recognized as one of Destin's finest restaurants, Lagniappe serves up classics like grouper meuniere and Maine lobster and shrimp etouffee. Still, it's the chef's selections that really shine, like the grouper sautéed and topped with a fried jumbo soft-shell crab, honey-roasted nuts and Hollandaise sauce. As you ponder the menu, plan accordingly: you'll want to warm up with an appetizer, like the blackened scallops served with pineapple-rum butter sauce, or a bowl of the Cajun seafood gumbo. Wash these flavors down with one of Lagniappe's signature cocktails, like their authentic French Quarter Hurricane, a heady mix of Myer’s rum, Bacardi rum, grenadine, orange juice and pineapple.
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