If you’ve never visited The Wicked Wheel Bar & Grill in Panama City Beach it may take you a few minutes to take in the eclectic décor. There’s a real hotrod leaning against a wall with a skeleton at the wheel, an old fuel pump in the middle of the floor, a stunning red custom chopper on a low base, and cut-down motorcycles as bar stools. To top it all off, there are televisions scattered around the restaurant for those hoping to catch their favorite team play.
The one complaint we have about The Wicked Wheel is the inconsistency. There were dishes that we expected to be amazing that were just so-so, and others that surprised us by being so flavorful. For example, there are those who rave about The Wicked Wheel’s fried chicken, but half our party found it bland and unremarkable. Still, there is plenty to like.
Here were some of our favorites:
Fried Green Tomatoes
It was tough to choose between appetizers because frankly, they all looked pretty great. The Fried Green Tomatoes were particularly good, with ripe green tomatoes that are battered and fried, then topped with a savory shrimp creole sauce.
There are two dips that we really must mention. The first is the Buffalo Chicken Dip, a cheesy, creamy, spicy buffalo chicken dip served with homemade tortilla chips, Next is the Smoked Tuna Dip, a creamy smoked tuna dip, also served with homemade chips. Both were delightfully flavorful and the perfect nosh while waiting for our entrees to arrive.
Everything about this dish reminded us of why we like seafood (and enjoy Italian food). Layers of pasta are loaded with shrimp, scallops, and flounder and topped with Alfredo sauce and a delicious blend of Italian cheeses. Served with a side salad, we loved that this meal left us full but not uncomfortable.
New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp
If you have a shrimp lover in your party (and what party doesn’t?), they will be over the moon about this half pound of Gulf shrimp, sautéed in herb butter sauce and served with French bread, perfect for dipping. Just as hotdogs tastes better at a picnic or ballpark, shrimp tastes better when you’re practically sitting in the Gulf of Mexico.
Red Beans & Rice w/Crawfish Cornbread
It’s tough to visit Florida and not indulge in good Southern cooking. These slow cooked red beans and andouille sausage are served on a bed of rice and paired with a fabulous slice of crawfish cornbread. They did not disappoint.
Al E. Gater Sausage Po Boy
Every party has at least one adventurous diner, and ours was no exception. We’re told that the smoked Louisiana alligator sausage served on an 8-inch French Roll was to die for. We’ll take his word for it and allow you to decide for yourself.
Mandarin Walnut Salad
The perfect meal for the vegetarian(s) in your group, or anyone who simply loves a great salad. The Mandarin Walnut Salad consists of fresh, cool Romaine lettuce, served with Mandarin oranges, walnuts, red onions, tomatoes, bleu cheese crumbles, and craisins (a blend of cranberries and raisins) with raspberry walnut vinaigrette on the side.
We are happy to suggest this stew to anyone who feels overwhelmed and simply needs a warm taste of comfort food. Each batch of this stew is slow cooked using applewood smoked pork, chicken, beef, chunks of tomato chunks, corn, okra, and lima beans. We’d like to think that The Wicked Wheel borrowed this recipe from someone’s Southern grandmother.
Everything about The Wicked Wheel — from the cool decor to the fact that children’s meals are served in a replica of a ’57 Chevy — makes it worth a visit. The large menu makes it easy to find a meal you will enjoy.
-Lines are long, particularly during peak tourist season. Arrive early if you want to avoid the wait.
-Take out service can be iffy, likely due to the volume of business the restaurant does. If you have the time, you’ll probably be happier eating in-house.
-We heard someone say that their server at Pineapple Willy’s, another Panama City Beach restaurant, recommended they eat at The Wicked Wheel. Both restaurants are owned by the same company, so take anything you hear about one while visiting the other with a grain of salt.