Tacos have long been popular for their portability, their play of textures, and, well, their fun factor. After all, who can look serious eating a taco? Tacos are the ultimate street fare, but when you’re in a beach town, they’re also the ultimate beach fare, with their cool, crisp veggies, spicy sauces, salsas, guacamole and sour cream. But to fully beach-ify them, the best restaurants in Panama City Beach have taken the sensationally shell-driven concept and added the best Gulf seafood, using tender, freshly caught fish or shrimp to add the Emerald Coast flavor that really gets their guests hooked.
THE CRAFT BAR
Grilling up fresh mahi-mahi spiced with their own in-house taco seasoning, the chefs at The Craft Bar craft their fish tacos using only the freshest ingredients, warming their flour tortillas on the grill to add some charred flavor and topping the fish with freshly made guacamole, taco slaw, zesty salsa verde and a lime wedge. If fish isn’t your favorite catch, The Craft Bar also offers shrimp tacos loaded with plump Gulf shrimp prepared fried, grilled or blackened; and guests craving some smoky meats will love the pulled pork tacos. Serving satisfied diners since 2014, The Craft Bar might have made a name for themselves with their low country shrimp and grits and their blackened redfish over cajun jambalaya, but their fish tacos are a tidal wave of flavor that’ll reel you in.
SHUCKUMS OYSTER PUB & SEAFOOD GRILL
If you love a good hole-in-the-wall seafood shack, set your course for Shuckums Oyster Pub & Seafood Grill, where their claim to fame might be their oysters, but their fish tacos are also quite a catch. They serve up a pair of soft tacos made with your choice of tender, grilled grouper or flaky catfish seasoned in Shuckums’ signature seafood seasoning and topped with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, green onions and cilantro drizzled with a delicious homemade chipotle ranch. For a pop of juicy coastal fun, order the tacos with fresh Gulf shrimp loaded with all the toppings, or be a landlubber with chicken and beef.
DIEGO’S BURRITO FACTORY
Traditional meats such as chicken and beef aren’t the only lures you’ll find in the tackle box at Diego’s Burrito Factory. Offering fish tacos made with grilled mahi-mahi in your choice of corn or flour tortillas lightly warmed on the grill, Diego’s has a wide variety of toppings to make your taco all the more craveable. Take your pick from fresh garnishes, including house-made mango pico de gallo, crunchy veggies, hearty beans, cheeses, sauces, fresh guacamole, creamy cheese dip and even their own signature Southwest coleslaw. Suckers for shrimp will love their shrimp tacos, but if your appetite is shark-sized, order a fully loaded mahi-mahi burrito or their ever-popular spinach tortilla shrimp quesadillas. Whether you’re craving the street food classic in its more traditional form or are hooked on the cooler coastal version, Diego’s casts a wide net on a tide of flavor.
FINNS ISLAND STYLE GRUB
Anyone who has tried the fish tacos at Finns Island Style Grub is sure to get hooked. Using seasonally available freshly caught mahi-mahi or cobia, the white corn tortilla taco shells are lightly toasted to enhance their flavor and loaded with juicy chunks of grilled fish seasoned in their signature “Finns Crack” blend of spices and topped with fresh veggies, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, shredded cheeses and a drizzle of mild taco sauce. That’s all topped off with a dollop of Finn’s house-made yogurt sauce and a lime wedge. Other featured faves on the taco menu include special catches like grilled red snapper, ahi tuna, grouper and even swordfish.
Offering the freshest seafood with a local flair on each unique menu item, Runaway Island Beach Bar & Grill has something to please every palate, especially when it comes to their tacos. Full of flavor and almost too pretty to eat, their taco offerings are sure to not disappoint. Dive into their Blackened Mahi Tacos with a spritz of pico de gallo for a spicy twist or enjoy their Asian Tacos, filled with sashimi tuna and served with sriracha coleslaw and wasabi lime cream. With two floors of savory specialties, live entertainment and frosty drinks providing a breathtaking view of Panama City Beach like no other location on the Coast, Runaway Island will have you coming back for more and giving you much to "taco" about.