SANDESTIN – This Thanksgiving, locals and travelers visiting the Emerald Coast can remove the holiday stress from their plate, leaving room for extra turkey and mashed potatoes. Guests of Ovide, the ground-floor restaurant at Sandestin’s Hotel Effie, can choose from two chef-driven holiday meals for the whole family:
Thanksgiving Brunch at Ovide
Perfect for hotel guests and locals, skip the clean-up and dine in at Ovide, Hotel Effie’s in-house restaurant. Ovide, the restaurant by award-winning celebrity chef and 2-time James Beard nominee, Hugh Acheson, is offering a feast of roasted turkey, cornbread stuffing, savory gravy, Effie’s iconic homemade biscuits and much more.
This experience includes a seafood buffet alongside a family-style dinner, including starters, salads, entrees, sides, and delicious desserts to taste. Brunch is available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for $65 per person and $30 for children under 12. Make reservations here or call 850-351-3030 by Nov. 18.
Thanksgiving Fall Dinner
Leave your cooking utensils at home and enjoy an elegant home-cooked meal at Ovide with all the flavor and none of the stress. This elevated Thanksgiving dinner features a three-course meal with an array of all your favorite fall classics. Ovide’s chic, well-appointed interior and sophisticated ambiance is the perfect setting for a heart-warming meal with loved ones. Make reservations here or call 850-351-3030 by Nov. 18.
Hotel Effie is located at 1 Grand Sandestin Blvd., in Miramar Beach.
INLET BEACH – Canopy Road Café’s new 30-A restaurant, located at 12805 US-98, promises to shake up the old breakfast routines of locals and tourists alike. This isn’t your grandmother’s bacon-and-eggs breakfast joint.
From whimsical dishes like Fat Elvis pancakes (in case you were wondering: peanut butter and banana pancakes filled with chopped bacon and topped with a peanut butter drizzle), to customized skillets with every ingredient under the Emerald Coast sun – Canopy Road Café has you covered.
Children will love Canopy Road Café because they aren’t treated as an afterthought. When they see that plate of Cookies and Cream French Toast headed their way, the expression on their faces is priceless. And when they take a picture of it and send it to their friends, you’ll know you picked the right breakfast spot.
But Canopy Road Café isn’t all sprinkles and whipped cream – there is something for the entire family. From five different “benedict” dishes to handhelds, omelets and house favorites, every breakfast base is covered.
And if the lunch hour has arrived, you can dig into an Angus burger, fries and wash it all down with a cold beer before heading back to work or the beach.
Canopy Road Café is the creation of Brad Buckenheimer and David Raney, college buddies who worked at a Tallahassee diner but knew they eventually wanted to start their own business.
Now, Canopy Road Café is taking off with eight locations sprinkled throughout the state and more on the way.
“We love what we do, and we love making people happy,” said Brad. “Smiles and sighs are our goal – smiles because breakfast was fun and sighs because they were satisfied.”
Brad and Dave are Florida boys who honor their roots – all of the meat and produce served at the restaurant come from the Sunshine State.
“We use local art in the restaurants, local vendors and cater to locals first,” Dave said. “Local diners will find that it doesn’t take long for our staff to learn their names and what they like. We hire local people and treat them well to keep turnover at the minimum.”
Open from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily, Canopy Road Café is located at 12805 US-98, Inlet Beach, within the 30Avenue complex. Find them online at www.canopyroadcafe.com.
SANTA ROSA BEACH – While opening a restaurant in the midst of a pandemic and the resultant shutdowns may be an incredible leap of faith, for owners Clint Machamer and Sean Merideth, the uncertainty was worth the risk in the face of reward. Open since May of 2020, The Grove 30A has become a local hotspot for casual beach dining, focusing on brunch, small plates, specialty sandwiches, and elaborate charcuterie boards. And then there are the branded buns – literally branded with a hot iron to imprint them with the restaurant’s logo.
“We wanted to create a comfortable and casual space to enjoy good food and great drinks,” said Merideth. “We love being able to see people enjoying the space and atmosphere, so I’d say atmosphere is one major thing that sets us apart from other restaurants in the area. The atmosphere is laid back casual chic, family and ‘fur baby’ friendly. People also appreciate being able to find a place that’s out of the ordinary, with food that is flavorful, fresh, and different, in a place like this, with views like we have. We’re primarily an outdoor dining space, and we regularly host live music, so people love to come here and listen while they dine or enjoy a drink.”
Offering favorites like the Grove Burger, The Grove 30A proves that even a burger gets their special treatment. Featuring 75/25 ground beef topped with melted American cheese, spicy arugula, crisp bacon, pickles, tomato jam, and Grove burger sauce nestled on a toasted brioche bun, this handheld will require both hands to wrap around its beefiness. For lovers of the classics, The Grove’s Cuban hits all the right notes: smoked pork, prosciutto, pickles, and mustard piled onto a hoagie before being pressed for even greater flavor. For a more refreshing, light dish, the Seared Ahi Tuna Tacos are a must. Seared ahi tuna, avocado, cucumber, ginger, and toasted sesame seeds all come together in harmony in a flour tortilla and are finished with wasabi aioli and ponzu.
For a great start to the meal, bacon-wrapped dates take top billing, while black bean hummus throws convention to the wayside. Snapper ceviche brings a bright simplicity to one of the area’s best fish.
Brunch welcomes the day with Eggs Benedict, featuring seared prosciutto and perfectly poached eggs cradled by a toasted English muffin with a tangy citrus hollandaise sauce, accompanied by home fried potatoes. For a more decadent take on French toast, The Grove makes theirs using thick-sliced brioche, topped with seasonal fruit and house made bourbon maple syrup. Avocado toasts offer a healthy option, with smashed avocado, pickled red onion, crumbled feta, and basil on toasted sourdough bread.
What has made – and kept – them successful is, of course, the quality of the food and their attention to detail. “We make many of our items in house, a few examples being our Grove burger sauce, tomato jam, and apple chutney,” said Merideth, who, along with Machamer and a couple young cooks, are responsible for the magic that comes from the kitchen, including the ordering, the prep, and the cooking. “Together, we have over 30 years of restaurant experience and knowledge, and every day, we learn something new,” said Merideth.
What keeps Merideth and Machamer going is, of course, their guests. “Our favorite thing about owning a restaurant is the reward of seeing satisfied guests and returning customers,” said Merideth. “It’s not easy and can be extremely stressful, but it’s rewarding.”
The Grove 30A is located at 3375 County Road 30A, Santa Rosa Beach. For more information, call 850-660-1594 or visit their Facebook page facebook.com/thegrove30a. Reservations accepted. Open Tuesday through Thursday 3 to 9 p.m.; Friday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
MIRAMAR BEACH – Having recently turned 50, Chef Giovanni Filippone has a lot to look back on across the five decades of his life.
A French-born Italian, Filippone grew up in a Sicilian family that emigrated to New Jersey after living in France, giving him a culturally diverse background that is obvious in his cuisine – not to mention his vocabulary. Speaking French, Italian, and “screwed up English,” or what he terms “Jerseyish,” Filippone is unapologetically unique and unabashed about being himself, an energetic force of creativity that culminates into dishes that sing with flavor and display an exceptional understanding of nuance.
Growing up in Europe with a mother who cooked meals from scratch using fresh ingredients, Filippone was inspired to become a chef – one at least as good as his mother was.
“She really impacted my career the most,” he said. “I grew up with her authentic Sicilian cooking, so that’s really where it all started.”
Where it led was the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park in New York, where he honed the natural talent that had been growing in him since childhood. It was an externship at Destin’s iconic Marina Café that brought the young aspiring chef to the Emerald Coast. Naturally, Filippone fell hard and fast for the beauty all around him and the friendliness of the people.
“I’d come from New Jersey and fell in love with the area,” he recalled. “I returned to New Jersey and promised myself I would come back here one day. A few years later, I bought a one-way ticket and moved to paradise.”
Living in paradise, Filippone has become part of the food scene at some of the area’s best restaurants, making his mark and showing just what incredible talent he has. Holding positions as executive chef of Marina Café as well as Beachwalk Cafe, Destin Chops, and Vue on 30a, he went on to become executive chef and managing partner at Mama Clemenza’s European Breakfast in 2019. Partnering with William Dee, the two have created a concept that offers guests decadent European-style breakfast dishes made from scratch.
“It’s a great nod to my roots, as we serve delicious European fare, and the schedule is great because it allows me more time with my wife and children,” said Filippone, who has two daughters with his wife, Jennifer.
A two-time contestant on Fox’s cult hit Hell’s Kitchen, Filippone is somewhat famous, having gone nose-to-nose with Chef Gordon Ramsey on more than one occasion. But fame isn’t what he seeks; rather, he simply wants to cook – and live at the beach.
“The beaches and the food drew me here when I was searching for externship opportunities,” he said. “Now, I love living here.”
With 30 years of being a chef under his belt, Filippone has a career that has taken him far. And while he may be a long way from the land of his birth and the country that runs deep in his veins, he brings it to his guests, welcoming them to his table and telling a story with every bite.
SANDESTIN – When Hotel Effie opened in February of 2021, it brought with it three new food and beverage opportunities: The Lobby Bar, Ara Rooftop Pool & Lounge, and Ovide, the hotel’s year-round fine dining restaurant.
The menu at Ovide comes from the mind of five-time James Beard nominee Hugh Acheson, 2012 winner of Best Chef Southeast and an alum of Bravo’s “Top Chef” series.
The food coming from the Ovide kitchen combines Gulf coast cuisine with Acheson’s Southern sensibility, then takes it to the next level by adding a French twist. Jesus Pacheco, director of food and beverage of Hotel Effie, said their food is really making waves.
“It’s unique in style; a trendsetter in this area,” Pacheco said. “Whether you’re proposing to your fiancé, or having a night out with the girls, it fits.”
Eats and drinks
Owner and developer Tom Becnel named Hotel Effie after his grandmother, and the Ovide name was borrowed from his grandfather.
“Effie was the ultimate host, her place was the place to be,” said Nova Winfield, assistant hotel marketing director. “We have really embodied that here.”
No place is that link to the past more evident than in Effie’s Biscuit, a menu staple made with salted butter and sorghum, using the actual family recipe.
From the starters menu, Pacheco pointed to the chargrilled octopus as a favorite, with its avocado, jicama and small chili salad.
“To me, it’s something you would never expect and the taste sticks around with you till your next bite,” he said.
One of the biggest brunch-time sellers is the farm egg with crispy rice, served with kimchi, spring onions and oyster mushrooms.
“This dish is thinking outside of the box and describes the culinary aspect of Hugh. It gives you the appreciation of our local cuisine,” Pacheco said.
From the dinner entree menu, he assured diners that Ovide’s pan-roasted snapper with bok choy and Thai chili is unlike anything you’ve had along the Emerald Coast.
“It makes your mouth water, to be honest! It’s our twist on a dish you’ll find everywhere around town, but it gives you that Ovide experience,” Pacheco said.
Beyond the breakfast, lunch, dinner, and kids menus served seven days a week (brunch on weekends), Ovide takes things further yet, welcoming guests to the immensely popular Saturday jazz brunches, special holiday meals, and the occasional celebrity chef dinner when Acheson is in town. Future plans include wine dinners and beer tastings as well.
Speaking of libations, the bar program at Hotel Effie was created by award-winning mixologist Kellie Thorn, always using fresh produce and house-made juices.
“We’ve made it our focus to be able to do those craft cocktails, and have bartenders that can really craft something specific for you,” Pacheco said, adding that the menu changes at least four times a year.
Stepping into an “aww”
The family ties continue in the décor, as Sara Becnel, GM of Sandestin Resort, hand-picked every detail in the restaurant. This marriage of fine dining and fine décor has been called “romantic” and even “sexy” – especially after the sun goes down. Here you’ll find rich, dark woods, warm lighting, and a dramatic floral ceiling mural that might stop you in your tracks.
“Sara took her time to create Instagrammable moments throughout the hotel to encourage people to notice the details – like our ceiling,” Winfield explained. “During brunch it’s a homey, family vibe. At night, it’s hopping, the music is good, the lights are down, the smells coming from the kitchen are amazing. It’s the place to be seen.”
Ovide is found on the ground floor of Hotel Effie, located at 1 Grand Sandestin Blvd., Miramar Beach, within the Sandestin resort. They take reservations and are open year-round for all meals, including weekend brunch. Visit them online at www.hoteleffie.com/dining/ovide or call 850-351-3030.
WATERCOLOR – Traditionally, a “fish out of water” describes someone found out of their element, but Fish Out of Water – also known as FOOW – is a palatable taste experience created by a kitchen staff found entirely in their element. Perhaps more of an homage to the restaurant’s commitment to seafood plucked fresh out of the water, the eatery’s name is topping everyone’s list of “must-eat” places on 30A.
Located at the WaterColor Inn, a St. Joe Hospitality property, Fish Out of Water offers sweeping views of the Gulf, and whether dining with family on vacation, celebrating a night out with friends, or enjoying the romantic gulf breezes with a special date, the restaurant offers just the right atmosphere for a memorable dining experience. And the menu, which features brunch, mid-day fare, and dinner, offers creative twists on coastal favorites, living up to its promise of “authentic cuisine and impeccable flavors.”
Chef Wichuta Theamsuwan, or “Chef Jules,” leads the culinary charge as Fish Out of Water’s kitchen manager. Described by those who know her as a “passionate leader who works hard and expects the best,” Chef Jules works diligently to create a fresh, savory menu and maintain a hard-working, talented kitchen team. The plates traveling from kitchen to table at the restaurant are not only exquisite in taste, but beautiful in presentation.
Chef Jules said the best compliment she’s ever been paid about her food was, “Ooh! Looks so nice! Tastes so good!”
“I believe that we taste first with our eyes, and then with our mouths. So I want the experience to start even before your first bite or even before you smell the dish being served,” she said. “I make sure that my dishes reach our diners looking fantastic, and it is absolutely essential that they taste just as good as they look.”
She chooses salt, herbs, and butter most in flavoring the food, and said, “At Fish Out of Water, we’re able to source such fresh seafood that it doesn’t require a lot more than that. We like to let the ingredients speak for themselves.”
Kristy McKinney, director of restaurants for St. Joe Hospitality, agrees that the freshness of the food is the most important aspect of the menu.
“Our restaurant is situated directly on the Gulf of Mexico, with views of the water, and people want to taste that experience as well as see it. We have fresh seafood delivered to our kitchen every day at Fish Out of Water, and we serve it in a way that lets the natural flavors shine. I like to say that with fresh seafood you don’t have to do a lot to make it taste wonderful, but if it’s not fresh, there’s nothing you can do to save it. So, we would only serve our guests fresh seafood. If we can’t get it fresh, it’s not on the menu.”
Brunch is served from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily and features such savory excursions as a Benedict (with a house-made English Muffin, poached egg, and hollandaise, and served with bacon, ham, or sausage and breakfast potatoes), citrus and herb cured salmon (on toasted sourdough with a boiled egg, capers, pickled red onions, roe, and Crème Fraiche), and the FOOWly Loaded BLT, made on toasted sourdough with smoked turkey breast, avocado spread, Cajun aioli, applewood bacon, vine tomato, and farm greens.
A midday menu takes over from 2 to 4 p.m. for Happy Hour and offers Smoked Gulf Coast Fish Dip (with green tomato jalapeño chow-chow, and house-made salt crackers), a Shrimp Salad Roll (on brioche with farm greens, pickled red onion, and tarragon mayonnaise), and a selection of specialty cocktails like the Horsefeather, made with Benchmark Bourbon, lime, ginger beer, Peychaud, and Angostura.
FOOW does not accept reservations and encourages diners to dress casually. The restaurant is open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and to-go orders may be placed online for curbside pickup. Large groups and families are easily accommodated, and a children’s menu is offered for younger diners. Fish Out of Water is located at 34 Goldenrod Circle and can be reached by calling 850-534-5050 or by visiting www.foow30a.com.
SANDESTIN – The 2020 offseason proved the perfect time for the sun to temporarily set on Sunset Bay Cafe. The restaurant was closed for a major remodel, modernizing the dining room of Sandestin’s much-loved eatery. Upon reopening, guests were welcomed into an indoor space as lovely as the waterfront locale the restaurant is named for.
“We basically gutted it,” admitted Bryce Jarvis, who co-owns the restaurant with his father, Gary. “All new walls, all new floors. We’re really excited.”
A palette of muted grays and weathered wooden floors really brighten up the space, highlighted by white shiplap accents. One wall of the dining room is adorned with a colorful mural, adding splashes of beachy seafoam, coral, yellow and blue.
The outside dining space uses the natural beauty of the Choctawhatchee Bay as its décor, surrounded by palm trees, blue skies and sunshine. A row of outdoor tables take advantage of the shade from the building’s awning, as guests enjoy cool breezes coming off the water.
Quenching that summertime thirst is no problem, with a selection of house cocktails – including five Bloody Mary options, three mimosas, a screwdriver and the Tequila Sunrise. The nearby outdoor Tiki Bar is open seasonally, positioned near the resort’s outdoor pool and the bay. You’ll find breakfast options like hot or iced tea, cappuccino, espresso, and iced coffee, as well as juices, milk and soda.
Now for the food
Once you’ve chosen a seat, the real decision-making begins. Like any good brunch house, the menu is varied, broken down into Starters, Benedicts, Breakfast Platters, Omelets, From the Griddle, Soups & Salads, and Lunch Plates & Sandwiches.
Get the meal started with a homemade cinnamon roll with Florida orange cream cheese icing or fried cheese curds with marinara.
Benedicts include favorites like the Fried Green Tomato, served with blackened shrimp and Old Bay Hollandaise sauce; or the Southern Boy featuring white peppered gravy and sausage atop homemade buttermilk biscuits.
Hot off the griddle, diners can chose from pancakes, French toast, or waffles, adorned with fruity favorites like blackberries, peaches, bananas or strawberry cream cheese – all served with two eggs and choice of breakfast meat.
As with any good Southern establishment, there’s your Shrimp & Grits, Chicken & Waffles and Crab Cakes. You might not expect the likes of Shrimp Grilled Cheese (five cheeses, spinach, and Gulf shrimp) with a cup of tomato bisque, or the Seafood Tacos (fish or shrimp served your way with fried plantains and coconut pineapple dipping sauce).
As fishermen, the Jarvises understand the importance of fresh seafood, and source as much sustainably caught seafood as they can get, delivered straight from the Destin docks.
They’re famous for their Sidewinder Fries: curls of fried potatoes with the perfect amount of seasoning. Off the Starters menu, they come topped with white pepper gravy, bacon, chives, and cheese curds. The side is also available at sister restaurant Slick Lips Seafood & Oyster House, located in the nearby Village of Baytowne Wharf.
Sunset Bay Cafe is located at 158 Sandestin Blvd. North, near the Linkside Conference Center within the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Miramar Beach. Visit them online at www.sunsetbaycafesandestin.com or call 850-267-7108. Breakfast and lunch are served seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
WATERCOLOR – There’s a new breakfast game in town, one as charmingly Southern as the rocking chairs you’ll find on its front porch. A sign on the wall encourages diners to “Count the memories, not the calories.”
“A square biscuit makes it much easier for you to eat with both hands!” – Gabrielle Testa, WaterColor Resort
Opened Feb. 1, Scratch Biscuit Kitchen Chef Matt Moore and his crew bake up cathead biscuits (so named for being the size of a cat’s head), all made from – you guessed it – scratch.
With the slogan, “Baked with care, served up square,” these aren’t your average biscuits.
“A square biscuit makes it much easier for you to eat with both hands!” explained Gabrielle Testa, general manager for WaterColor Resort.
Testa pointed to the Deep South biscuit, featuring fried green tomatoes, or the Chicken Fried with honey butter and pickles, as her favorites.
“The piece of chicken spans out from the biscuit! If you’re really hungry, that’s your go-to, but you won’t eat any other meals for the rest of the day!” Testa admitted with a laugh.
Benny-style biscuits include Nola’s Finest, featuring andouille sausage; the Port St. Joe with fried oysters; and the Cold Cured Salmon with avocado and hard-boiled egg. For those looking outside the biscuit, the Not So Square menu has meals served on sourdough or a bed of lettuce, all with chips or a side salad.
In addition to biscuit-based fare, Scratch Biscuit Kitchen also serves house-made jams (check out the tomato and jalapeño), jellies and gravies; an assortment of sides including grits, house chips, and hash brown casserole; and muffins. The Sweets menu offers a Biscuit Doughnut with Chocolate Gravy, Matt’s Apple Pie, and a bread pudding featuring bourbon vanilla anglaise.
“We have different specials every day, so we can get creative,” Testa said. “For example, we have perfected the vegan cinnamon roll to meet the dietary needs of such a diverse community.”
Younger diners are in luck, as the Kids Menu offers up a mini biscuit, turkey sandwich, scrambled eggs, PB&J or “chicken nuggies,” all served with apple sauce and a juice.
Lovers of a cup o’ Joe might appreciate the Mug Club. Guests who purchase the SBK YETI mug get unlimited coffee for $1 per visit. Scratch serves a rotation of personal Southern blend brews; on this day it was the Front Porch, Azalea City, Southern Pecan, and the Live Oak Decaf. An assortment of sodas, juices and even beer and mimosas are also poured daily.
There are three seating options: indoor tables, stools at the counter, or four outdoor picnic tables positioned under oversized umbrellas. The carryout window also allows for quick grab-and-go service.
Visit Scratch online at www.scratchbk.com where Moore shares his buttermilk biscuit recipe in a tutorial video.
Scratch Biscuit Kitchen is located at WaterColor Town Center, 1777 E. Co. Hwy. 30A, Unit 101, Santa Rosa Beach. Open for dine-in or to-go daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. (the takeout window opens at 6:30).
ROSEMARY BEACH – Pescado Rooftop Bar & Seafood Grill is offering an Easter Brunch on Easter Day, Sunday, April 4. All ages are welcome and guests over 21 years old will enjoy a welcome mimosa.
A buffet will be prepared by Chef Ken Duenas featuring items such as Gulf shrimp and Alaskan snow crab, bourbon glaze bone-in ham, rosemary and garlic-crusted prime rib, challah French toast and a duck confit hash – to name a few. The cost is $70 per person and $30 for children 12 years old and younger. A 7% tax and 20% gratuity will be added to each bill.
Pescado will have two seatings available, one at 10 a.m. and one at 12:30 p.m. Call 850-213-4600 to make your reservation. Space is very limited and will sell out very quickly.
SEACREST BEACH – La Cocina, the Latin coastal restaurant serving up ceviche and tacos, burritos and achiote fried wings along 30A, has reopened its doors as LaCo, an abbreviation of both “La Cocina” and “Latin coastal.” Over the winter, the eatery underwent a top-to-bottom remodel of the dining room and bar, and has debuted a new brunch menu from Executive Chef Eric Bartholomew. Brunch is served 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week, while the regular menu is offered 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, including takeout.
The Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash
The Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash includes roasted Brussels sprouts, whipped avocado, kale, lime vinaigrette, charred red onion, radish and a sunny side up egg.
Pan de Platano
Brioche banana bread is served with espresso cream and a mixed berry crumble.
Brunch at LaCo
The Seacrest Sunset mocktail with LaCo’s new Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash.
LaCo Chef Eric Bartholomew
LaCo Chef Eric Bartholomew with the newly renovated bar from Z-Space Design of Atlanta.
Revamped dining room
The dining room at LaCo received a top-to-bottom remodel from Z-Space Design of Atlanta.
Dining room with booths
New booths and tile work in muted beachy tones add to the coastal feel.