The Opinionated Foodie: The Love (or Not) of Food and Everything That Goes with It

Not Fitting in at The Acme Oyster House-Destin, Florida

The Acme Oyster House is a fabulous place to eat. We love it. It was a must-go-to on our trip to Destin.
There is only one problem-the neighborhood.

When we are around the beach, the people in the restaurants we visit are nice and comfortable. Folks may be dressed nicely, or they may be in their sandy swimsuits, which may or may not be a good thing to look at. People at the beach are going with the flow. They are there to have a good time. If someone doesn’t wear makeup or fix their hair or even match? That’s okay. It is all good in the sand.

The Acme Oyster House is not in a run down neighborhood, for sure. Quite the opposite. It is found in a nice area in Sandestin called the Baytown Warf. They have shops and restaurants and neat things to do. It is not really near the beach. Therefore, it is not so near the beach mentality. Everytime we have visited this area, we have felt a little out of place.

Not that we are slackers, I guess. It is just a shock to the system to go from seeing bathing suits and flip flops to seeing whole families dressed in matching outfits of blue and white seersucker with their noses slightly affixed in the air.

For example, we took Miss Helper to the American Girl Doll store near the restaurant. She picked out a doll and an outfit to go with her doll. She had a hard time with the outfit since she was only allowed one. After much thought on Miss Helper’s part, she picked out a green Hawaiian dress with matching lei. It was cute, and it was the last one. Miss Helper was proud of the doll with the dress, and so she carried her around with her all the time.

As we were shopping and such, I heard (and Miss Helper did too) several grown women say to other grown women who all had on Outfits and could have used a sandwich for some meat on their bones, “That was the American Girl dress we wanted.” They were talking about the dress Miss Helper’s doll was wearing.

I wanted to say, “Welp, you snobby little snob, too bad for you.”

That would never happen at Fudpuckers.

And so, when we visit Acme Oyster, it is an experience.

On this trip, our family plus our well-dressed doll ate on the patio to the side of the restaurant. A family in line in front of us wouldn’t eat outside (maybe it might wrinkle their seersucker to sit outside?), but we will and walked right in. The non-outside eating family waited. Outside.
We started our al fresco dining experience with the broiled oysters and the boo fries.
The oysters were fantastic as expected. They were hot as fire and good as gold.
The boo fries were a long shot. I picked them because they reminded me of an article I read recently about the way fries are often served up North.

They were crisp fries with a warm, rich, beefy gravy and cheese on top.
Deee-vine. I now have permission from my non-roast eating hubby to make roast just so we can try making boo fries on our own with the roast gravy.
For our dinner, Miss Helper had the seafood gumbo. She had asked our waitress if it was a spicy dish, and the waitress said no. It ended up being a little too spicy for her, but we think she takes after her Granmommy in such a way that rice krispies would be spicy for her. She still ate like a champ.
Mr. Opinionated wanted to order the boiled crawfish, but they were out. We found that peculiar. He had the fried crawfish po boy instead. So, they could fry them but not boil them. Hmmm….
Mr. Picky had the chicken and liked it fine. No surprises there.
For the second time in a row, I had the Peacemaker. Good Lawd, it is good. It is spicy and crunchy and fresh and amazing. I love it. I ate the whole thing.

While we were enjoying ourselves, our vacation, and our food, the table next to us became occupied with a group of fellow outside the restaurant eaters-a mom and her three kids. They were none of our business, but soon, they became too interesting to ignore.

Two of the kids made it fine, but when it came time for the daughter to order, she wasn’t going to cooperate easily. The fish she wanted was off the menu. The waitress explained that the new fish on the menu was about the same as the one she was looking for. The daughter wouldn’t hear of it. Then, the waitress offered a different fish cooked a different way and several other options. No go. The daughter resorted to pouting and eating nothing.

When the fresh oysters they ordered arrived, the mom took one look and declared they would not do because they were too big. The waitress explained that those oysters were the smallest they had and that she specifically asked the kitchen for small oysters just for her. The mom refused them and sent them back.

What a snot. Like they should shuck all the oysters they had just so she could have the twelve smallest ones.

She didn’t even say thank you.

That’s my only problem with Acme Oyster House. We love it-really, we do. The food is top-notch, but the company could be a little less on the Real Housewives of Destin side.

Acme Oyster House on Urbanspoon

Sandestin on Dwellable

Half a Dozen at the Shrimp Basket-Destin, Florida


A half a dozen times, we have driven to the shore. A half a dozen times, we have eaten at the Shrimp Basket. A half a dozen times, I have ordered the crawfish platter. A half a dozen times, it has been the best meal ever.

Today, the waitress suggested that I try something new. I laughed, and then my tone turned serious as I said:

“Um. No.”
Why mess with success? I am all for branching out and trying new things. It is one of the things I like about myself. But this? This meal is not to be messed with.

My husband and I first ate it by mistake. We were at the beach in Gulf Shores for a short trip, when one night we got hungry really late. We drove the short trip from our hotel to the first place we found that looked good-The Shrimp Basket. I ordered the crawfish basket while he ordered something else, and we took our food to go and ate it on the balcony overlooking the gulf at our hotel. It was one of our favorite moments of the trip.

Coincidently, nine months later our first child was born. That doesn’t have anything to do with this meal. It’s just a nice part of the story.

There won’t be any such surprises on this trip, we can hope.

We did try something new for our appetizer. We ordered a dozen steamed oysters. Now, I lova some oysters, but these were not my favorite. The last time we ate at the Shrimp Basket, the Bama oysters were not my favorite then. Today they were flavored weirdly and were a little bland.

That’s okay, though, because our entrees were next.
My crawfish platter was as good as ever. The etoufee is to die for, and the crawfish tails are better here than anywhere else.
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Mr. Opinionated had the fried basket with crawfish, oysters, and crab claws.
Miss Helper had the crawfish.
Mr. Picky had the grilled cheese. But-he did try a crab claw and HE LIKED IT!

He gets fifty cents for trying one.

We’ll try anything to get him to try something new-except change my order at The Shrimp Basket. I can’t wait for visit #7.
Shrimp Basket on Urbanspoon

Harbor Docks-Destin, Florida


Day 2 of the Vacation of the Year. The beach, the sun, the food.
Lunch today was at a place new to us-Harbor Docks. A friend recommended it last time we were here, but we just didn’t get to it. Then, we had a hard time with this place, not because we couldn’t find it or anything like that. No, we had a hard time remembering what it was called. The Harbor? The Dock? The Fishing Dock?

After a while, all of the seafood places (and the condos) around here sound the same.

But, we found it and the four of us walked right in to Harbor Docks for a late lunch. Our first table was a dark, quiet one inside surrounded by a lot of blue haired old people. No view, no breeze. Nevermind that.

Our second table was much better. We ate outside in the open air surrounded by some lady on her phone and a younger lady who was apparently napping.

The View

The View

It was awesome.

Our waiter was a nice young man who started us of with a nice bottle of cold water. They don’t do that at restaurants anymore, and it was nice here.

Really, even the water was impressive.
After looking at the menu, we chose the smoked tuna dip as an appetizer. I have an acquaintance who makes a tuna dip. A lot. I swear every time a potluck comes up, the tuna dip will be there. That tuna dip was what I was expecting, but what we got was far, far better. The tuna was fresh caught and smoked on sight. It was so, so good, and it didn’t last long.

Not Your Frenememy's Tuna Dip

Not Your Frenememy’s Tuna Dip

I had one of the specials-the grilled swordfish with jalapeno-tomato cilantro cream sauce with jasmine rice and cucumber salad. It was very similar to what I ate at The Back Porch, and just as yummy. When I order something with jalapeno, I know that I always run the risk of getting something too hot and spicy. This dish was a little on the spicy side, but not too much. I could handle it thanks to that tall bottle of complimentary water.
Mr. Opinionated had the fried red snapper sandwich. Again, very similar to the day before. It was good but not as good as the fried grouper at The Back Porch.
Miss Helper branched out a little and had the fried swordfish. She loved it.
Mr. Picky again had the chicken fingers. I see a pattern here.
Our lunch was very, very good. Harbor Docks is a keeper on the permanent list of places to eat while in Destin.

When the meal was over, we sat back in our deck chairs-happier and chubbier than we were when we walked in. Our waiter asked about dessert. We hardly ever get dessert and so the answer was a no.

Then, he mentioned the homemade key lime pie and the homemade white chocolate bread pudding.
The key lime pie was good. A little on the tart side but not in a bad way.

The bread pudding? Good Lawd.
I have never had dessert like this. It was super moist and divine. I was as full as a tick but I still could not leave any on the plate. It all had to go.

When I complimented the waiter on the bread pudding, he started talking about how easy it was to make. He kept talking and I thought he was going to give me the recipe.

No such luck.

I guess we’ll just have to drive back again someday. Harbor Docks is a name we won’t forget again anytime soon.

Harbor Docks on Urbanspoon

Take Two: The Back Porch-Destin, Florida

So, we have driven what seems like the equivalent of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and we are back in our beloved Destin, Florida. Land of sunny skies, white sand, and awesome restaurants.

After driving several days and enduring hours in the car, we made it. First stop-to eat!

My policy on vacation is no Mexican food, no restaurants that we have back home, no places that offer a coupon via brochure, and no cheesey chains.

Fudpuckers? Hooters? Harry T’s? Um, no.
We went to The Back Porch for our first meal, and we walked right in, took a table outside, and ordered.
We had eaten at The Back Porch before. Just like last time, it was fabulous.
We started with the oysters. Fresh and delicious.

I had the grilled mahi-mahi with the pineapple rice and lemon-caper beurre blanc sauce. It was divine. The fish and the sauce were wonderful together, and I was glad I got the sauce on the side as it was a little runny. I ate the whole thing even though I told myself that the sauce was full of butter and was horrible for me.

I loved it still.
Mr. Opinionated got the fried grouper sandwich-his favorite beach food. Miss Helper got fried shrimp, and Mr. Picky began his culinary tour of the gulf with chicken tenders.

We were a little disappointed that we didn’t see any of the cats, and the trash on the side of the restaurant from the restaurant was gross. The Smell was still there too. Even with all these flaws in our experience, The Back Porch alone was worth the drive. But, I can’t stop here. We are looking forward to more food and fun.

Final Meal in Destin-The Crab Trap

Well, the final meal of our journey was upon us. With only minor glitches, we had a successful trip to Destin both fun- and culinarily-wise. We made it to some places we really wanted to visit. We found some we weren't sure about but that turned out great. We skipped a few once we saw them. We had a big time.

For our last dinner in Destin, we were unsure of what to do. Repeat a restaurant we loved to be sure our last meal was a great one or try something new with our one last chance? We still had plenty of places to go-Staff's, Bayou Bill's, and AJ's just to name a few. We wanted to end with another wonderful meal. The pressure! We didn't want to choose a bad place thus scarring our food memories. We deliberated, and then we decided to try The Crab Trap for our precious last Destin seafood meal.

It was the wrong move.

Harsh, but true.

Hot Crab Dip with Pita Chips

We started with what was called by our waitress “the most popular appetizer.” It was the hot crab dip. Let me save you a trip to Destin here. Just go to your local grocery store. In the deli, there will be a plastic tub of crab dip. Buy it along with a bag of pita chips. There you go. Whatever you can buy wherever you are is just as good as what The Crab Trap serves. It wasn’t even warm. The crab in said crab dip? I think they meant crab in a figurative way, cause there wasn’t much literal crab there.

Harsh. True.

My husband wanted one last grouper sandwich. It is his favorite sandwich in all of the Gulf Coast. He has fond memories of some grouper sandwiches that were great. This was not one of them.

The Grouper

In his own words, “It was average. I’ve had better, and I’ve had worse.”

I ordered the soft shell crab platter. I hadn’t had soft shell crab all week. This was my last chance to have some.

I love soft shell crab. Once, I had a delightful soft shell crab at a restaurant in Memphis. It was my first encounter with soft shell crab outside of watching the Food Network. I have had many soft shell crabs since. Ah, the memories.

Another time, at a local Chinese restaurant where we were eating off the buffet, I found some sort of crab concoction unfamiliar to me. At this restaurant and for the first time ever, I took a bite of the crab whatever-it-was, and I ended up spitting it out in my napkin. Understandable-I should have never tried unfamiliar seafood in Tennessee.

The soft shell crabs at The Crab Trap? The second time I spit something into my napkin. Not understandable at a restaurant on the beach.

Soft Shell Crab Platter

First, I ate the legs off one of the crabs. So far, so good. Then, I bit in to the body of the crab. Out went that bite as fast as possible. It was gross. It tasted like sick fish. I mean gross.

The corn on my plate? I got it instead of fries. Not an even swap. It was mushy and flavorless.

The slaw? Dry.

I left The Crab Trap in the worst possible way-tired, $75 poorer, and hungry.

It was not the way to end a great trip.

Harsh but true.

Destin on Dwellable

The Acme Oyster House-Destin, Florida

Charbroiled Oysters

The Peacemaker

In my opinion, restaurants like Applebee’s, Red Lobster, McDonald’s, and such are fine. I eat at places like these all the time. They will do.

However, I do believe that they have no place at all anywhere around vacation spots. Congress should regulate it.  No Pizza Hut within one mile of any condo in the US.  The idea of eating at O’Charley’s on vacation? Good grief.

People have to be protected from themselves, I believe. Friends don’t let friends eat at Olive Garden while on vacation. It’s like kissing your sister on the mouth. You just don’t do it.

Instead, you go off the beaten path.  You go out of your comfort zone.  You make memories in special places.  You spend a little more to eat than usual.  You save for a year to get out of dodge.  Make it worth it. 

Go to a place like the Acme Oyster House.  It is legendary.  Famous for its fresh oysters and best known as a spot in New Orleans, it is where you go on vacation. 

We did.  We found an Acme Oyster House in Sandestin, Florida.  It was loud.  It was crowded.  It was busy.  It was awesome.

We started with the charbroiled oysters since my husband didn’t feel brave enough for the raw type.  This is how oysters are done, my friends.  I mean, it was the definition of fresh.  I could see the guy shucking the oysters from where I was sitting.  They were perfection, and you could see the oysters (unlike another Destin restaurant reviewed here).  The only problem was that we only ordered a half dozen.  I could have eaten another dozen by myself. 

My husband’s main course was a pound of steamed crawfish.  It couldn’t have been better, but again, he could have eaten another pound or two.

I had the Peacemaker, a sandwich with fried shrimp, oysters, and a tabasco mayo.  I ate every drop.  My mouth was on fire, but I ate it all. 

Steamed Crawfish

My only regret? We didn’t order enough of the oysters and the crawfish.  However, I can live with that since we all left full and happy. 

We got to eat at a place that otherwise is way off our radar.  I hope it’s not, but it could have been a once in a lifetime chance.  It was a wonderful eating experience.  And that is what vacation is supposed to be.

Destin Towers on Dwellable

Acme Oyster House on Urbanspoon

The Back Porch-Destin, Florida

Crab Legs

I looked forward to eating at The Back Porch.  It sounded to me like a place my parents would like, and I mean that it a good way.  I pictured old seafood restaurant style with boat furniture, old menus stained with butter, and nets everywhere.  I anticipated an old-fashioned seafood place.

It wasn’t exactly old-school seafood like that, but that was fine with me.  It was a bright place outside featuring a large Adirondack chair for the kids to sit in for a quick picture.  It also had cats in the yard and a slightly weird smell not related to the cats.  After the chair pics and cat hunting, we were in.  We had no wait even though we were told to expect up to a ninety minute wait.  Once inside, The Smell continued, and  it was a little dark in the middle of the afternoon.  We ate at an open window overlooking a beach full of people sunning and playing in the sand.  Several people walked right up and walked right in dressed in bikinis.  I am nowhere near that brave.  I eat too much butter for that.

We started off with the Back Porch Oysters, an appetizer of oysters covered with a creamy sauce and cheese.  The cheese and sauce together were delicious, but the oysters were hidden in the mix.  They were so small and smothered by the sauce and cheese that they could have been left out and the dish would not have been affected that much.  Not that I am complaining, I liked the dish a lot.  I think the oysters on the half shell would have been a better choice. 

The Back Porch Oysters

 My husband ordered the crab legs.  I don’t get why crab legs are so popular in the South when they are from Alaska.  They were good, but run of the mill.  You can get crab legs of equal quality on any seafood bar anywhere.  He liked them.

I ordered the lobster stuffed mahi-mahi.  Why did I order lobster in the South when they are from Maine?  Because I could. 

Broiled Mahi Mahi Stuffed with Lobster

It was devine.  The fish was fresh, and the lobster was plentiful.  The sauce-my word, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.  It was creamy and buttery and smooth.  The corn on both of our dishes was unreal. 
The weird thing on my plate is a twice-baked potato.  I took a few bites and then ignored it.  At first, I thought it was a weird loaf of bread.  Luckily, I wasn’t there to eat potatoes. 
The Back Porch was good.  I would only change a few things for my next visit. I may even bring my parents along. 

Destin Pointe on Dwellable

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