If it’s white-tablecloth dining you’re after in Destin, Marina Café’s should be among your leading contenders. The old-school upscale ambience and the generous windows overlooking the harbor complement the refined menu, richly stocked with seafood, steaks, and a topnotch bar selection.
The tables at Marina Café pretty much all have at least some view of the big windows; there’s also a porch worth stepping out on to soak up the harborfront atmosphere. For maximal romantic effect, make a reservation for sunset, if you can swing it.
The appetizers here are some of the most consistently tasty things on the menu, from the Crispy Fried Calamari and Blackened Grouper Cheeks (served with ginger-soy butter and pineapple slaw) to the Wagyu beef carpaccio and the Fried Green Tomatoes with Gulf shrimp and remoulade.
For main courses, you’ve got all kinds of options to suit an array of palates. There’s hand-tossed, wood-fired pizza, for example, plus a few luxurious pasta dishes.
The heart of the Marina Café kitchen, though, are the house specialties, which range from a selection of fresh, wild-caught fish to such offerings as the Creole Barbecued Jumbo Shrimp served alongside Southern-style grits and sautéed vegetables and the Veggie Plate: grilled asparagus, white-wine-glazed artichokes, wood-oven-roasted wild mushrooms, and more atop coconut brown rice.
Carnivorous traditionalists will appreciate the extensive steaks and chops on offer, any of which can be “surf-and-turf” upgraded with jumbo lump crabmeat, jumbo scallops, or grilled Maine lobster tail.
The sides—from Braised Garlic Spinach to Lyonnaise Potatoes—are nicely done to boot.
Then there’s the bar menu, boasting quite the selection of fine wines as well as a great lineup of cocktails (the Marina Margarita, the Margarita Mule Mania, the Island Girl, etc.), spirits (including a fine spread of bourbon), and various bottled and draft beers (among them local Panhandle craft brews). Any of the above pair nicely with Marina Café’s happy-hour snacks, including Tempura Redfish, Thai Barbecued Chicken, and a house Angus burger.
The libations also encompass quite the digestif options, which go along with desserts such as the Key Lime Pie Tart and the White Chocolate Bread Pudding, not to mention ice cream, gelato, and sorbet.
The service at Marina Café is often impeccable; it can also, occasionally, be on the slow side of things.
Now for a closer look at a few Marina Café menu standouts!
Crispy Fried Calamari
There are quite a lot of great choices likely calling out your name from the list of Marina Café starters, and the fried calamari is an all-out winner among them. It comes served with Parmesan, pepperoncini, kalamata olives, and a sherry-based aioli.
Grilled Gulf Swordfish
Marina Café does right by its meaty swordfish, presented with a citrus-caper beurre blanc butter sauce, seasonal veggies, and roasted rosemary parsley potatoes.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
With all the more complex, more dressed-up stuff on the Marina Café menu, are we really spotlighting Brussels sprouts? You bet we are: These puppies are that tasty.
Coconut Cream Pie
It would be a real shame to stuff yourself at dinner and forget to leave room for Marina Café’s Coconut Cream Pie with its toasted coconut and caramel crème anglaise—just so you know.
Every night’s not likely a Marina Café night—unless you’re really deep-pocketed—but when a Destin occasion calls for a higher-end kind of gourmet feast, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
On weekdays from 5 to 6 PM, Marine Café offers a two-for-one Early Bird Special: a pretty darn good deal, if you ask us.