July 1, 2021
By Michelle Farnham
SANDESTIN – Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention. Such was the case with Emeril Lagasse’s newest restaurant right here on the Emerald Coast. While the pandemic forced the temporary closure of Emeril’s Coastal Italian last summer, he and his staff were busy re-imagining the Grand Boulevard eatery.
When the doors reopened in August, guests found a revamped dining room and a new menu, with a renewed focus on seafood. Lagasse and his chef de cuisine, Frank Szymanski, let the ingredients take the lead, creating dishes they themselves want to eat.
“I have always loved seafood and have a connection to cooking with seafood since I was a kid,” Lagasse admitted. “I’ve always felt the food tastes better when you have a connection and appreciation for the ingredients.”
With the Gulf Coast in their backyard, their list of potential local suppliers is as impressive as it was extensive – something Lagasse has believed in throughout his career.
“There are so many hard-working and reliable local purveyors who source these ingredients with care and attention, and I wanted to support what they are doing because it’s so important,” he said. “We are lucky to have such fresh seafood and vegetation in our area that it would be foolish not to use what’s right here and available to us.”
New to the table
So what might you find on the menu at Emeril’s Coastal? Chef pointed out the Fresh Catch section as a fine example of the local seafood his team brings in daily.
“You can get your fish prepared one of four ways: Grilled with sea salt, lemon-garlic infused olive oil and local root vegetables; fried with cocktail sauces, tartar and blue crab hushpuppies; broiled with lemon, fumet butter and bay laurel; or cast-iron preparation with essence, Creole meuniere and a cheddar grit cake,” he explained.
He also recommends the miso orange-glazed wild caught salmon.
“It has some international flavors to accompany it, including my daughter’s Kimchi which she and her husband Andy make locally, and it’s so good,” Lagasse added.
Hometown foodies might recognize other local purveyors including Black Bear Bread Co. of Grayton Beach, Shane Cochran Honey from Santa Rosa Beach, and Louisiana Lagniappe Inc. and Destin Ice Seafood Market in Destin.
Coastal fans will still find some old favorites on the revised menu, including the Fettuccine Nero, Pineapple Upside-down Cornbread, house-made ice creams and sorbets, and the fabled Olive Oil Cake.
Lagasse and Szymanski like to switch things up from time to time with their seasonal meals. 2020 saw the return of their eight-course Feast of the Seven Fishes, Trufflemania, A Night in France, and A Night in Portugal, in addition to holiday meals and nightly specials.
An extensive wine list joins the Dessert Cocktails and Nightcaps menus, ensuring you have a beverage to pair with every plate. From the Grown Up Abita Root Beer Float, to a 1.5-ounce pour of Remy Martin Louis XIII or a bottle of Colgin IX Estate ‘14, there’s something to suit every palate.
In addition to outfitting the kitchen with some new equipment to support the menu adjustments, the dining room itself saw a refresh as well. Lagasse capitalized on this opportunity to do a housekeeping and renovation project.
“My wife Alden helped with switching out some of the art to reflect a more seafood-driven motif,” Lagasse said. “We love the space and didn’t want to change much, just made tweaks and got to do some projects that are difficult to execute.”
The adjoining outdoor patio has proved even more popular than normal since the reopening. The space is outfitted with fans, umbrellas, misters, and heaters.
On occasion, you might even see Lagasse’s son EJ behind the pass, home from culinary school at his father’s alma mater, Johnson and Wales. Lagasse insists he never pushed his son into the industry, but is proud to see him working hard at ensuring the family’s dining empire has a long and delectable future ahead.
Emeril’s Coastal is located at 435 Grand Boulevard, Miramar Beach, and is open from 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday (9:30 on Friday and Saturday), and Sunday brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reach them by phone at 850-608-7040, or visit emerilsrestaurants.com/emerils-coastal/