By Lauren Sage Reinlie
Aug. 12, 2022
SANDESTIN – Step off the street at Grand Boulevard and into Tommy Bahama Restaurant and you will be immediately transported into what GM Pratt Shirley likes to call “island time.”
“We want you to come in and forget about everything,” the restaurant’s general manager said. “We don’t want you to think about anything except having a great time in the sun with handcrafted cocktails and scratch-made food.”
He described the restaurant’s vibe as laidback and relaxed, with the feel of being on a Caribbean island. The space is styled like an old rum plantation with high ceilings, large windows, plenty of natural light, and island decor. A large outdoor patio is another highlight.
One of the most popular dishes on the menu is fish tacos. They are served on corn-blended soft tortillas with Cajun-marinated Mahi Mahi, a house-made cabbage and jicama slaw with a lime vinaigrette, chipotle aioli, and tomato relish.
The macadamia-breaded snapper, another popular dish, is grilled and served in a wasabi Beurre blanc with grilled asparagus and coconut-almond rice on the side.
The drinks – especially the Mai Tai, served with a fresh orchid in it – can leave anyone feeling like a tourist lying back in a lounge chair on a Caribbean island. The Coconut Cloud is made with fresh coconut milk, coconut-flavored rums, and freshly grated toasted coconut.
On the simpler and lighter side, bartenders serve up a martini made with freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice, Grey Goose vodka, and fresh basil leaves.
“It’s absolutely crisp and wonderful,” Shirley said.
For dessert, one option includes a piña colada cake. The four layers of white cake have been soaked in rum, topped with roasted pineapple, iced with a white chocolate mousse, and topped with freshly grated toasted coconut.
In addition to the regular menu, the restaurant’s new executive chef Ramain Ebank creates four to eight specials each day. Ebank was born and raised in Jamaica and uses some of that influence in his specials. “We are super excited to have him,” Pratt said.
Pratt’s takeover of the restaurant three years ago coincided with a change in his own lifestyle from the high-paced, high-stakes business world to his version of island time. At that point, he and his wife were managing several storefronts and living on a small piece of farmland where they had raised their two sons.
“When the youngins went off to college, we kind of looked around and said, ‘We don’t really need all this,'” Pratt recalled. “We loved the island life, the beach life, and Tommy Bahama presented this opportunity for us to make that happen.”
Like many soul-searchers before them, they sold everything, packed up, and moved to Florida. Now the couple spend as much of their off-time as possible on the water, cruising around the Choctawhatchee Bay on their boat.
Tommy Bahama Restaurant has live music every day of the week from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Pratt said tunes range from Jimmy Buffett to Bob Marley and everything in between. (“Baby Shark” was even recently added to the repertoire one night by special request.)
A large outdoor seating area overlooks the green lawn at Grand Boulevard, making this a great “island” getaway for families with kids as well.
“There’s really something for everyone,” Pratt noted.
Tommy Bahama Restaurant is located at 525 Grand Boulevard in Sandestin. Reservations are accepted but not necessary. The restaurant is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call 850-654-1743 or visit www.tommybahama.com/restaurants-and-marlin-bars/locations/sandestin.