National Margarita Day in Pensacola

I’ll be the first to tell you I am not a margarita connoisseur. Are they tasty? Sure, but my happy hours are usually spent with kids tossing back juice boxes between sports practices. Top shelf is where I hide the Girl Scout cookies.

So it was a little curious when I got an assignment to write about 5 Places to Celebrate National Margarita Day in Pensacola. Never one to turn down a visit to a Mexican restaurant, I did some investigating. All in the name of journalism, or at least tourism blogging, right?! The things I do for you people.

So cheers! Happy National Margarita Day, and always drink responsibly.

margaritas

 

I have not been compensated for this blog post. I occasionally share links to articles I’ve been paid to write. Thanks for reading! 

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Gator Bait in Destin

the-swampThis crimson-blooded Alabama native has seen enough Gators after a football weekend trip to The Swamp, in Gainesville, Fla. The raucousness of the University of Florida crowd after a triple overtime win over the University of Kentucky Wildcats looked much like the scene at another reptilian retreat I visited a few weeks ago.

The scene: Destin’s Fudpucker’s restaurant at alligator feeding time.

alligator-crossing

Just like the diners at this popular eatery, real, live alligators come hungry. Trained staff and regular restaurant-goers alike have a chance to feed these gators, which reside in a manmade swamp just outside the front door at Fudpucker’s.

fudpuckers-destin-fl

Fudpuckers-walls

I ate at this restaurant years ago, but I don’t think they had alligators on the premises back then. (Fudpucker’s opened in 1982.) Just as I remembered, guests can (and do) leave their autographs on the walls, tables and just about any other writeable surface inside this colorful establishment.

Fudpucker’s hadn’t been on my short list of places to go in Destin for quite a while, but it’s funny how having children leads you to all sorts of places you might not otherwise go. Surprisingly, some of them are not so bad. Fudpucker’s, in fact, may be brilliant because what I remember as an area to wait for a table is now a semi-educational attraction, thanks to the alligators.

gator-bait-shack

For $3, you can purchase a bag of alligator food. Your four pellets of food are presented to you with a fishing pole-like contraption that you use to lower the bait down to the surface of the water below. Then, watch the gators swarm and CHOMP!

feed-the-alligators

The pellet snacks are an appetizer to the raw chicken pieces a staff member feeds them during a narrated demonstration. “The alligators here are young gators,” he explains. “Once they reach five or six feet in length, they are moved to other habitats as they’d become too aggressive for this environment.”

gator-meal-time

A rare albino alligator named Pearl also resides at Fudpucker’s. She is older and has her own tank that is shielded from the sun to protect her skin.

pearl-albino-alligator

My children loved seeing Pearl, feeding the other alligators and asking questions about them. It was certainly a unique experience, and it would be an easy way to pass the time with young children if you in fact were waiting for a table.

On this visit, we didn’t have to wait. We were having a late lunch on Labor Day, when most of the summer vacationers had packed up and gone home. Service was good and the food was better than I expected at a big, popular tourist stop.

fudpuckers-fish-sandwich

Our entrees were around $10-12 each. The fish sandwich I ordered was seasoned well. My mom enjoyed a fresh salad with chicken, fruit and nuts. The kids’ menu included the usual fare and portions were good.

If you don’t go to Fudpucker’s for the food, go for the gators (even if, like me, you don’t usually “go for” Gators).

 

Fudpucker’s has locations in Destin and Ft. Walton Beach. Somewhere on the restaraunt’s walls is written “Roll Tide Roll!”

Gainesville: 43rd Street Deli

I know what you are thinking… Gainesville, Florida is not on the Gulf Coast.

Occasionally the Minivan veers away from our usual stomping grounds to explore other nearby locales. Last week, we made a stop in Gainesville on our way to Orlando.

Gainesville is the home of the University of Florida. This college town is one of the hottest places I’ve ever been, especially within the confines of The Swamp, the nickname for the Florida Gators football stadium. Gainesville is also one of the prettiest inland cities in the state. Its lush green trees and plants made for pleasant scenery as I drove through the area.

On Sunday, we enjoyed brunch at a family favorite in Northwest Gainesville, the 43rd Street Deli. This popular breakfast spot draws a crowd so plan to arrive early or be prepared to wait if necessary. The wait is always worth it. The all-breakfast Sunday menu offers several good options, including seven-grain vegan pancakes, sweet potato pancakes and this beautiful strawberry, coconut and cream cheese-topped waffle. The waffle is typically served with eggs, but I opted for the home fries, and I chose bacon instead of sausage.

43rd-street-deli-waffle

If you like eggs, there are omelets. (I don’t, so there is not much I can say about them but I’ve never heard any complaints). The 43rd Street Deli menu also lists several scrambles, which are combinations of ingredients scrambled together and served in a small skillet. Scrambles include such ingredients as spinach and mushrooms. The one I hope to try on our next visit features black beans and veggies.

43rd-street-deli-kids-menu

mickey-mouse-pancake

The kids menu is fairly simple. Mickey Mouse Pancakes are the only dish my kids have tried. Served with a sprinkling of chocolate chips and whipped cream on the side, Mickey never disappoints. In our experience, neither does the 43rd Street Deli.

 

 

An Old Destin Favorite: Harry T’s

One of Destin’s oldest restaurants, Harry T’s relocated to HarborWalk Village a few years ago. I was happy to see this colorful restaurant back on the scene after it closed its doors at the Destin Yacht Club. The old Harry T’s was a favorite of mine as a child. The food was pretty good and the T-shirts sold there were a coveted souvenir.

My Harry T’s T-shirt was yellow with a giraffe on water skis (or something similarly imaginative; it’s been a few years!). When I wasn’t wearing it, it shared drawer space with my A.J.’s and Back Porch T-shirts. (Did I mention I spent a lot of time in Destin?) As I got older, I remembered Harry T’s for its festive atmosphere and live music.

harry-ts-destin

It seems that not a much has changed since those glory days. I’ve been back to Harry T’s a couple of times since its reopening. Now occupying prime real estate overlooking Destin Harbor and East Pass, it has one of the best views in Destin. You can choose outdoor seating directly adjacent to the marina to take in the emerald waters and passing boats. If you dine inside, you’ll eat amongst the circus-themed memorabilia the restaurant has long been known for displaying. You’ll find TVs, too, if there is a big game you want to see during your visit.

harry-ts-outdoor-menu

Harry T’s menu offers a variety of seafood dishes, sandwiches, burgers and other American fare. Our most recent visit was for a weekday lunch. We walked into Harry T’s after an unwelcoming experience at another popular restaurant we’d planned to try just down the boardwalk. The greeting and service we received at Harry T’s was outstanding. Our waitress was attentive and even brought stickers to our daughters at the end of the meal.

fish-poboys-harry-ts

The food was good. It’s not fine dining, but the kind of food you expect at a large restaurant in a resort town, and Harry T’s does it well. Our party enjoyed a variety of dishes, including a fish po’boy, fish tacos, a quesadilla and the Lighthouse Seafood Salad. The portions were substantial. Children’s menu items are served in a Harry T’s frisbee the kids can take home with them.

lighthouse-seafood-salad

 

We did not pick up any additional souvenirs during our visit, but the restaurant’s gift shop still offers the famous T-shirts in abundance alongside caps, keychains and koozies bearing the Harry T’s name. Maybe next time!

harry-ts-tshirts

What are your favorite Gulf Coast restaurants? Have you taken your family to any of the restaurants you enjoyed as a child? Leave a reply with your comments.