By Jack Smith
Man fished before written history using birds’ beaks and bones for hooks, with plant fiber for lines. Piles of cast-off shells – shell middens – have been found in caves in most of the world, including the United States, and date back thousands of years as well. As civilizations evolved, spearfishing, hand gathering, trapping, ice fishing, and even kite fishing flourished as popular alternatives to more traditional angling, depending on location.
Religion may have brought the first settlers to America, but it was mostly fish that provided for them. For some time, eating seafood was, however, considered beneath American aspirations. I refer to a letter written by English adventurers to New Plymouth Settlers, as recorded by William Bradford, the first governor of the Plymouth Colony in 1623, “If land afford you bread, and the sea yield you fish, rest you awhile contented; God will one day afford you better fare.” Clearly, Bradford (and those English adventurers) had never had feasted on Pompano, Mahi Mahi or Red Snapper. I may be prejudiced, but I believe the best seafood dishes I have ever enjoyed come from chefs in Panama City Beach, and I’m pretty sure if Bradford and his buddies had a few nights out to sample our local best, they wouldn’t be quite so bold. I also know that if our fish were any fresher, it would be wearing lingerie. So head out to one of our favorites listed here and enjoy.
The Shrimp Boat Restaurant
1201 Beck Avenue, Panama City | (850) 785-8706
The Shrimp Boat is known for its selection of high-quality seafood dishes. Start your meal off with Tuna Tataki, bacon-wrapped shrimp or a dozen roasted oysters. One of their most popular new dishes is Pasta Frutti di Mare, which features shrimp, scallops and mussels with traditional fresh arrabbiata sauce and is served over linguine. While perusing the menu, take advantage of their Sunset Special: BOGO signature drinks every day from 4-7 p.m.
Pineapple Willy’s Restaurant
9875 S Thomas Drive, PCB | (850) 235-0928
Look no further for the best seafood dish in Panama City Beach. Pineapple Willy’s Blackened Mahi-Mahi with Pineapple Salsa features a light and flaky filet of Mahi-Mahi topped with a blend of sauteed red onion, fresh pineapple, red peppers, red onion, cilantro and lime juice. Pair that with a frozen daiquiri on their historic pier dining and you’ll swear you were in paradise.
14854 Bay View Circle, PCB | (850) 230-0005
Boon Dock’s grilled shrimp are seasoned to perfection with our proprietary blend of Cajun spices, bell peppers and onions, plus two side dishes and hush puppies. Thank you to all of our wonderful customers for 22 years. We look forward to many more!
Sisters of the Sea
3901 Thomas Drive, PCB | (856) MER-MAID
Lobster Mondays! Monday just became your favorite day of the week. From 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. feast on a complete one lb. lobster dinner for $15.99. If these lobsters were any fresher, you’d have to slap ‘em. Dine in only. Must purchase beverage. Ends March 29th.
Mike’s Cafe and Oyster Bar
17554 Front Beach Road, PCB | (850) 234-1942
Our family opened Thomas’ Donuts on the west end of Panama City Beach in 1971 and we have been serving old friends and making new ones ever since. Mike’s Diner was opened in 1986 with a commitment to providing friendly service and the best quality food. In 2011, we changed Mike’s Diner into Mike’s Cafe & Oyster Bar.
Captain Anderson’s Restaurant
5551 N Lagoon Drive, PCB | (850) 234-2225
You’ve got to come in to Capt. Anderson’s and try our Scamp Imperial! It’s called ‘Imperial’ for a good reason. It is the most highly esteemed food fish in the Gulf, and Capt. Anderson’s serves up the finest in the world! Ours is broiled Greek-style on an open hearth, topped with fresh flavorful lump blue crab meat and served with lemon, butter, olive oil, chopped spring onions and parsley.
5121 Gulf Drive, PCB | (850) 235-3555
Fresh from the Gulf Grilled Grouper – a Schooners specialty. Arguably, the most flavorful of all local seafood harvests, Grouper is best when lightly grilled and accompanied by hot crisp hushpuppies, a few veggies and the world’s most beautiful view.
Christo’s Sports Bar & Grill
2903 Thomas Drive, PCB | (850) 708-1878
Come in and try our Boom Boom Tuna! The word Ahi in Hawaii refers to Yellow Fin Tuna, some of the tastiest fish in the ocean. Our version of Ahi Tuna is seared to perfection and served with our house siroc aioli.
Paparazzi Gourmet Deli
2810 Thomas Drive, PCB | (850) 588-8244
Seafood and pizza might not be your traditional pairing, but with our Grand Lagoon Pie you’ll get a feast of shrimp, clams, garlic, fresh basil, mozzarella, and olive oil that will make you rethink your whole approach. Or keep it simple with the Pink Shrimp Pie, featuring a vodka sauce (pink sauce) with tender shrimp. If you’re in search of the best Italian food on the beach (with a seafood twist), look no further!