The interior of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge is a bit misleading. There’s nothing (other than photos on the wall) that would make us believe that it’s one of the South’s top country music venues. In fact, Tootsies Bar looks pretty much like any of the other dive bars you’ll visit over the years. After all, where but a dive bar do you see a sign reading, “No dancing on the bar”? Perhaps the aesthetic simplicity of Tootsies is part of its charm. It’s all performance and no flash.
The original Tootsies was opened in Nashville in 1960 and has been around long enough to enjoy a storied history. Rumor has it, country singer Charlie Pride gifted the original owner with a jeweled hatpin to use as a weapon on unruly patrons. Early customers at the Nashville location included Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Mel Tillis, Roger Miller, Waylon Jennings, and Patsy Cline. In short, it became a favorite venue for budding country music stars.
As Tootsies Orchid Lounge became more established, Hollywood came calling. Popular movies like The Nashville Rebel, Coal Miner’s Daughter, and W.W. & the Dixie Dance Kings were all filmed at Tootsies.
It appears that today’s country music stars feel the same affinity for the Panama City Beach location, which is good news for Panama City Beach tourists and locals alike. Tootsies promises live entertainment from Nashville weekly, and that promise is the big draw.
We didn’t notice anything on Tootsies’ menu that was new to us, but there were plenty of things to try. Here are some of the menu options we especially enjoyed:
If you’ve ordered as many loaded nachos as we have, you know that some are simply better than others. Whether you base the quality of your nachos on how fresh the chips are or a specific combination of ingredients, it’s easy to tell good nachos from not-so-good. Suffice it to say, these were some really good nachos. Tootsies Bar begins with fresh, crispy tostada chips and serves them with queso dip, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapenos, salsa, sour cream, and smoked chicken or smoked pork.
Hawaiian Coconut Shrimp Basket
There is absolutely nothing low-cal about this meal but is it ever delicious. It begins with fried Hawaiian-style coconut shrimp served in sweet and sour sauce. Next to this delectable treat is a serving of French fries and your choice of baked beans, potato salad, or coleslaw (all decent options).
Crab Cake Basket
If you’re a crab lover (and who isn’t?), this fresh lump crab meat, seasoned, breaded, and pan-fried will be right up your alley. Served with a spicy roumalade sauce, it’s darn near irresistible.
Tootsies BBQ Specialties
Tootsies Orchid Lounge is famous for its ½ Smoked Chicken and Rack of Ribs. Both are hickory smoked and slow-cooked to perfection. They’re served with French fries, and your choice of baked beans, potato salad, or coleslaw. The thing about house specialties is how dependably good they are, perfected by years of serving the same dish.
Fresh Chocolate Brownies
It would be a shame to miss these chocolate brownies covered with walnuts, chocolate and caramel sauce, and whipped cream. By the end of a meal at Tootsies Bar it might be a good idea to ask for two forks and share this brownie. It’s just as rich as you might imagine.
Even if you’re not into country music, Tootsies Orchid Lounge is worth a visit. There’s no cover charge and you’ll have the opportunity to see some of the biggest names in country music. You’ll also be surrounded by one of the liveliest, rowdiest crowds in Panama City Beach.
-All patrons must be over the age of 21 to enter Tootsies after 8:00 PM From 6:00PM -8:00 PM anyone under 21 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Lest you think you might be able to sneak your child in, management adheres strictly to this rule.
-Tables fill up early (very, very early) on show nights. Arrive early if you want a seat. While there’s plenty of standing room at Tootsies, it’s tricky to eat a meal that way.
-Check out nightly specials. For example, one night currently offers BOGO beer options, while another offers discounted oysters. Specials rotate on a semi-regular basis.