Sometimes, you just need a great pizza. This is what we were in search of when we stumbled into Merlin’s Pizza, in Destin, Florida. This well-established, unfussy pizza eatery has been a staple in the Destin community since 1999, and it’s not hard to see why. With its large, customizable menu, friendly staff, and inviting atmosphere, this is the way pizza is meant to be served.
Merlin’s Pizza is located on Airport Road. Sitting just across US Highway 98 from the ocean, it’s conveniently located for those looking for a bite after a long day at the beach. It is situated on the corner of a strip mall, its exterior is unassuming and indicated by a neon sign.
Inside Merlin’s Pizza, there’s more space and seating than you might expect. Worn but cozy booths line the walls, and wooden tables and chairs fill the center of the space. Large tv screens mounted over the ordering counter display the extensive menu, and one wall is decorated with a large mural of a beach sunset. The place projects a casual, family vibe. It’s the kind of place where nobody has to dress up – the objective is simply to enjoy some good, handcrafted family favorites.
The menu boasts apps ranging from breadsticks to cheese bread to chicken parmesan poppers to a gigantic, half-pound meatball. There are close to a half-dozen salads available, as well as 10 flavors of wings that can be purchased in two different sizes. Soft drinks are available, as well as a small assortment of beers. The star here, though, is the pizza. In addition to a half dozen classic pizza choices and more than 15 house specialties, there’s also a fully customizable “Build Your Own Pizza” option that allows you to create your dream pizza, choosing from four sizes, three types of crust, eight kinds of cheese, ten types of meat, nine different sauces, and a dozen varieties of veggies. If you can’t create something you love from all of those choices, well, we don’t know what to tell you!
Since its opening more than 20 years ago, Merlin’s Pizza has committed to offering quality ingredients. Their produce is locally sourced, and hand-cut daily, and they make their own sauce and dough every day. This is evident in the freshness of their veggies, the crispness of their crust, and the tastiness of their various sauces.
While we could have spent the better part of a year sampling everything this massive menu has to offer, we homed in on a few particularly promising menu items and weren’t disappointed with any of them. Here are our favorites so far (until we go back and try some more!)
Cajun Blackened Wings
With so many wing options to choose from, we nearly became victims to choice paralysis, but finally went with the blackened Cajun wings, and we’ve got to say, we think we chose wisely. These had just the right amount of spice. The wings were juicy and moist, and the small order was just the right amount for two people to share.
Pepperoni Explosion Pizza
The gold standard for a pizza place is how they handle the most classic of classics – the pepperoni pizza. This iteration featured flavorful sauce, warm, melty cheese, and (they weren’t lying) a literal explosion of thinly sliced pepperoni. We opted to have it on Merlin’s thin crust, and for us, it was just the right ratio of crust to toppings. This definitely passed our test.
One of their house specialties, Greek pizza is a favorite at Merlin’s Pizza. We saw several of them being served to tables around us and decided we just had to give it a try. A classic cheese pizza is transformed when it’s topped with savory Greek ingredients like sliced tomatoes, feta cheese, tart banana peppers, fresh spinach, black olives, red onions, and roasted garlic. A smattering of Italian herbs and seasoning completed the masterpiece. Chef’s kiss for this one.
7 Cheese White Pizza
Vegetarians and cheese lovers, this one’s for you. Rather than pizza sauce, olive oil, and roasted garlic serve as the base for this non-traditional signature pizza. It’s then topped with (you guessed it) seven kinds of cheese, including mozzarella, cheddar, provolone, romano, parmesan, feta, and ricotta. We had this on the traditional hand-tossed crust, and it was delicious.
Did you order from the menu, or create your own pizza masterpiece? Let us know what you loved the most!
-One thing that sets Merlin’s Pizza apart is that they offer gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan options. In addition to gluten-free pizza crusts, they also offer gluten-free breadsticks and Daiya vegan cheese.
-This place is very family-friendly. From the casual vibe to the TV screens at every booth, to the kids’ menus and crayons given out. Merlin’s Pizza not only allows but welcomes children. This is a great place to come with your family.
-Merlin’s Pizza offers delivery and takeout. If you’re in a hurry or don’t feel like spending an hour eating dinner in the restaurant, you can always call for delivery or pickup and enjoy the same menu items in the comfort of your own home or hotel room.