Two of the hottest hangouts in Panama City Beach are just steps from one another and under the same ownership. Paul “Buster” Busuttil runs both Buster’s Beer & Bait as well as the more recently opened Buster’s Hangar 67, and both are fine places to wet your whistle, get to know some locals, and—often enough—catch some great live music a stone’s throw from the waterfront.
Buster’s Beer & Bait is a combination bait shop (in the back) and a full-service bar (up front). While you can come here for tackle and bait, it’s the bar that’s the prime attraction: More often than not, there’s a crowd of regulars—as well as out-of-towners probably destined to become regulars In short order—spilling out into the parking lot.
That’s where live bands often play, and where you’re very likely to be welcomed as warmly as if you were a PCB local and a longtime Buster’s patron. There’s cornhole on hand for some friendly competition.
The place can be boisterous, for sure, but on the whole, it’s a friendly joint where new faces are given a sociable reception. Indeed, plenty of tourists find out about Buster’s Beer & Bait, so don’t feel as if you’re crashing any sort of party. Most of the bartenders are skillful mixologists and highly personable folks.
At sunset, the crowd at Buster’s comes to attention as the National Anthem’s played. Busuttil is an Air Force veteran—that’s where his “Buster” nickname comes from—and both of his watering holes have a patriotic vibe.
Creative cocktails and an impressive selection of craft beer as well as domestic brews, plus wine, ensure you’ll find just the beverage to match the moment at Buster’s Beer & Bait. While the only food the place provides is free (and tasty) jalapeño popcorn, it adjoins the hot-dog joint Shore Dogs, so you’ll find a ready answer for your appetite on the general premises.
Then there’s Buster’s Hangar 67 on the other side of Shore Dogs. As the name suggests, there’s an aviation theme going on here, and it’s pretty awesome: Inside you’ll find a 707 fuselage, a P-51 Mustang wing jutting from the wall, and other aircraft accouterments. Buster’s Hangar 67 has a more spacious interior than Buster’s Beer & Bait, hosting a well-used stage and dance floor. Both live music and DJ performances go down here, and Friday nights see some enthusiastic karaoke going on.
Now let’s call out a couple of recommended menu items (drinks, mainly) at Buster’s:
Many of Buster’s regulars absolutely swear by the house Bloody Mary. It’s worth trying whatever the hour you find yourself at the “bait shop.”
This is an especially zesty cocktail that’ll make any night at Buster’s feel like a celebration. If the atmosphere alone doesn’t draw you back, this drink just might…
What goes well with your Jalapeño Margarita? A few handfuls of that aforementioned free-of-charge Buster’s Beer & Bait jalapeño popcorn! It’s lean pickings in the food department at the bar, but thankfully this is a pretty darn satisfying snack.
Whether you’re rocking out to a talented local band or just grabbing a late-afternoon beer (and maybe some fishing bait), Buster’s is well worth experiencing on a trip to Panama City Beach, especially if you love yourself a good beachfront dive bar!
– There’s a military discount offered at Buster’s Beer & Bait as well as Buster’s Hangar 67, so be sure to let your bartender know if you’re a service member.