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. And while they certainly warrant luxury when it comes to plating and pairings, these fine fish are best when caught between two buns.
There’s a casual, relaxed feel at Barefoot Hide A Way Grill 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.
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 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.
Sitting at the end of the Shoppes at Edgewater, Montego Bay has been a local favorite since 1982. The Caribbean-themed surf-and-turf eatery has a spicy selection of Jamaican-inspired recipes — but it doesn’t shy away from a classic grouper sandwich. Served on toasted ciabatta bun with lettuce and fresh tomato, you can go with the traditional flame-grilled, fried or blackened options. But for those seeking a different twist, you can also order it with lemon-pepper or a Jamaican jerk rub.
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 popular 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.
We’re not sure if all seafood tastes better under a tiki hut, but the anecdotal evidence certainly seems to suggest there’s some grain of sandy truth in this hypothesis. Located just a couple beach volleyball spikes from the Gulf itself, you can be sure the grouper is as fresh as the springtime sea air. Sharky’s, perhaps as well known for its beach parties as its dinner platters, has the classic grouper sandwich down pat. Available as requested — grilled, fried or blackened — their grouper sandwich is a delectable entry available with tartar sauce on the side plus a mix of lettuce, tomato, red onions and pickles. Experience full immersion by grabbing a seat outdoors under your own private umbrella as the waves crash and the cool sea breeze blows in.
One of the newest entries into the PCB market has started to make waves in beachfront dining. The beach-side restaurant hosts a solid stable of appetizing bites and entrées, perfect for sitting inside among the wood-cabin-meets-surf-shop décor. If the weather is nice, sit just inside the giant windowed garage doors for a taste of the Gulf life or on the deck for the total experience. The entrées include a fresh fish sandwich available in either mahi-mahi or grouper. Reel in the grouper — topped with a tomato, shredded lettuce and onions — for a juicy and well-spiced Gulf surprise that will not disappoint.