When you live on the coast, there’s an endless array of beautiful seafood at your fingertips, and best-loved examples of the gilled glories of the Gulf include the grouper that swim offshore. One bite of these flaky, tender fish and you’ll be hooked, and the restaurants on Panama City Beach showcase grouper in every way imaginable — grilling, frying and blackening these beauties to be at their best. And while they certainly warrant luxury when it comes to plating and pairings, these fine, fine fish are a major lure when they’re caught between two buns.
Barefoot Hide A Way Grill
Because it is part of a resort property, one might expect the Barefoot Hide A Way Grill to be a bit stuffy, but there’s a casual, relaxed feel at this Gulf-side grill and bar that makes it welcoming to visitors and locals alike. There’s nothing fancified on the menu — it’s all straight-up flavor in everything from their juicy burgers to their crispy fish and chips. Riding high on the tide of guest fave raves is their Grouper Po’Boy, and whether you want it fried, grilled or blackened, Barefoot’s grouper is a glorious taste of the Gulf that’ll make your hunger come out of hiding.
Dusty’s Oyster Bar
Named for its original owner and founder, Dusty’s Oyster Bar has been a Panama City Beach landmark for more than three decades, known for a casual laid-back atmosphere where music is practically part of the menu. And aside from the fresh oysters, one of the things that keeps people biting is Dusty’s grouper sandwich. Since having taken the helm more than 25 years ago, owners John and Callie Hicks have made it their goal to offer a fantastic sandwich at a fantastic price. They do just that by using fresh-caught fillets reeled in by local fishermen and serving them fried, grilled or blackened in a po’boy roll to make sure you don’t leave hungry. They may be known for their shucking skills, but this place might also make you a grouper groupie.
Offering a menu teeming with tasty Creole/Southern-style cuisine including seafood gumbo, plump shrimp sautéed in garlic butter, and spicy red beans and rice that could well be considered its original claim to fame, J. Michael’s has been a beloved part of the Panama City Beach cuisine scene since 1976. Owner J. Michael Stewart delights in serving up fresh seafood, “Surfer” sandwiches and a whole tackle box full of other tasty dishes that keep reeling diners in. Riding the rip curl when it comes to their handcrafted “Surfers” is the Fisherman’s Favorite, a grilled fillet of grouper served on a toasted onion roll with a slather of housemade tartar sauce that adds just the right amount of creaminess, crunch and acidity to make this one handheld that’s truly worth getting hooked on.
Offering a wide variety of items from cheese curds to jerked chicken, Schooners lets the wind take them where it may when it comes to the style of their cuisine. But whatever dish is on course for your own ride on the tides, one thing clearly keeping this open-air beach shack a popular place to dine is their dedication to using fresh ingredients that don’t need a whole lot of dressing up. Among their biggest catches is the Gulf Fresh Grouper Sandwich, a locally-caught fillet perfectly fried, grilled or blackened to be tender and juicy and served on a fresh bun with crisp lettuce and tomato. And while some restaurants might give all the glory to the hands at work in their kitchen, the owners at Schooners give major cred to the fishermen who harvest these fine specimens of the sea.
Sisters of the Sea & Dive Bar
Serving up Southern comfort classics, juicy burgers and Gulf seafood while placing a premium on freshness, Sisters of the Sea offers guests a dining experience that’s truly unique — both in their cuisine as well as in everything to see and do in the full entertainment area at their new location just off Grand Lagoon. Since opening in 2015, owner Kay Parker Shafer and managing partner Willie Robert have been bringing their hometown flavor out to play, and it’s obvious they delight in making their menu deliciously lively. Baiting the line with great sandwiches and entrées served with fresh-made sides like fried okra, coleslaw and housemade potato salad, they give it their all in keeping diners hooked with top sellers like the Giggling Grouper Sandwich. And while its name might be a little silly, the balance of sweetness and acidity from pickled red onion paired with Florida citrus marmalade piled high atop a moist filet of grilled grouper goodness nestled into a toasted brioche bun proves that this is one fun joint that takes their food seriously.