Looking for the Best Restaurants in Panama City, FL?
With gorgeous white sand beaches, and stunning aqua to emerald-green crystal clear water, Panama City is one of two historic gems located on a 100 mile stretch of Florida Panhandle beaches, known as the Emerald Coast. On the east end of the Emerald Coast, directly on the mainland, lies Panama City, Florida, with a sister city, Panama City Beach, Florida, on its accompanying barrier island.
Though technically these are two distinct towns (Panama City is the former St. Andrews port village, and Panama City Beach is the newer resort town that merged after a bridge was built over the bay), together, they make up what is widely considered Panama City. They are alive with salty-air fun and culinary adventure for tourists and locals, alike
From long-established favorite eateries still pleasing fans, to new-to-the-neighborhood faces on the food scene, Panama City, or “PC” as its locals love to call it, has something to draw everyone to the table at one of the worlds most beautiful beaches. The best places to eat in Panama City FL here:
19 Best Restaurants in Panama City, FL
Mainland On the Bay, Saint Andrew’s Historic District
Uncle Ernie’s Bayfront Bar and Grill
In this historic house with two full floors of outdoor eating at its Florida best, you will find what is called the Uncle Ernie’s experience.
This St. Andrew’s historic district home was once the 1800s home of Ernie and Jessie Morris, now converted into a lively restaurant, greeting guests with appetizers, famous cocktails, and enticing entrees like fresh-from-the-Gulf grilled Grouper Imperial, fabulous grouper filets, or fun presentations of fried soft-shelled crabs.
Those pining for a little family tradition will find that Uncle Ernie’s Famous pasta Spiniachi is a must-try, for a fresh spinach pesto and Romano cream sauce on penne pasta. Uncle Ernie’s may really be famous for its cocktails, best enjoyed outdoors in seating on the porches, with live music and bay views at every corner.
Finns Island Style Grub
Finns Island Style Grub is mission-oriented to “keep it small, fresh and simple”. Here you will find a very casual, vegetarian friendly, relaxed restaurant serving amazing, beautiful, delicious, and healthy dishes to guests in easy-going indoor/outdoor seating.
Island style can sum this great place up, for breakfast or lunch only, which translates to some as Mexican-street-fare-meets-island in a way that only Finns Island Style Grub can. This place boasts appetizers of chips and salsa, guac and queso, tuna dip and ceviche – as fresh as fresh can get.
Entrees like quesadillas or loaded “Epic Quesadillas” with options like jerk chicken and toppings like pineapple or avocado line the menu. Finns Island Style Grub is made to order however you please. Fish, Ahi or Shrimp tacos are offered with cabbage, cilantro, valentina and white sauce. Breakfast may be even better here, with Pancake Tacos and Pancake Burritos, and the coffee options are endless. Opens at 7:30 AM.
Alice’s on Bayview
Cozy and quaint casual dining awaits at Alice’s on Bayview, located in the heart of the St. Andrews Historic District.
Alice’s on Bayview serves classic southern fare favorites for brunch, lunch or dinner. Authentic traditional southern options jump out from the menu, such as devilled eggs, shrimp and grits, or even a classic grilled cheese and tomato sandwich.
Surprises peak in, too, like the refreshing watermelon beet salad, a mint, feta, toasted pecans garnished salad of mixed greens and roasted gold and yellow beets. Desserts steal the show, though, at Alice’s.
Tart and sweet Key Lime Pie competes against two types of crème brulee (original or chocolate!), followed by more conventional brownie, cheesecake or ice cream offerings. Try wrapping up a meal with the warm bread pudding with whiskey sauce!
Hunt’s Oyster Bar and Seafood
You cannot miss the bright yellow historic St. Andrews restaurant called Hunt’s Oyster Bar and Seafood. It has been a Bay County favorite since 1966. The casual and laid back indoor or outdoor eatery features two bars, live music, cold beer, a fun and friendly staff, (including an oyster shucking contest winner!) and possibly the best fresh seafood and oyster offerings in town.
Starters include crab cakes, crab legs and gator tails. Po’boys are popular here (a traditional Louisiana crispy crust French bread fish sandwich) but crowds come for the seafood dinners, such as snow crab, fried oysters, grouper (throats and cheeks), American red snapper, mahi-mahi, yellowfin tuna steak, (they suggest it cooked medium rare) plus shrimp, scallops, flounder, and clams.
However, an oyster bar is famous for its oysters, and Hunt’s serves them in every possible way in beautiful platters of raw, steamed or baked oysters. Hunt’s Oyster Bar and Seafood staff also offer a ”hook and cook” for your catch fresh from the Gulf waters. This place packs out, so get in line early.
For great Mexican food in St. Andrews, Los Antojitos is the place to be, since 1976. Live music entertains everyone on the back deck on Wednesdays through Saturdays every night, and the nontraditional cantina offer two full bars, one overlooking the water.
Excellent location and great atmosphere aside, there is a reason Los Antojitos claims they are not your typical Mexican restaurant. Fresh local seafood is heavily incorporated into delightful dishes here, creating delicious, unique variety on the menu.
Days of the week bring their own fun, too! Margarita Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Wine Down Wednesdays, and Steak Thursdays are mark down days for up to half off on food or beverage options. Trust us, and order the steak!
In the St. Andrews Historic District, Thai Basil is a peacefully soothing, colorful Asian, Thai and sushi bar with exhibition kitchen, and stunningly thoughtful culinary presentations.
Thai Basil is known for authentic, true-to-flavors Thai food just blocks from the marina at the Harbor in Panama City.
There is even an indoor papaya tree! Go with the Duck Curry and Thai Tea, or if more in the mood for sushi, the caterpillar roll is delicious and cleverly arranged. Some consider the drunken noodles the best kept secret in town!
Mainland, Panama City North
Considered premiere among the best upscale places to dine for casual fine dining is G. Foley’s in North Panama City. Plating presentations are truly beautiful, elegant even, and each is equally as dazzling here, whether an order for a loaded Foley’s Classic Burger (signature BBQ, bacon and cheddar) with waffle fries at lunch, or the hand cut 8 ounce filet mignon, grilled to perfection for dinner.
Seafood is the freshest so close to the Gulf, and the seafood at G. Foley’s is mouthwatering. People love the grouper! Go for the shrimp and grits. Wednesdays are loved for $5 martinis. And it is a martini kind of place, frequently referred to as ‘sophisticated.
The ambiance may indeed be sophisticated, but the food is why they come. They also serve charcuterie and cheese boards! Don’t miss the extensive wine and spirits list for the best drink pairing with dinner. Afterwards, there are sweet things to consider, including a phenomenal bread pudding. G. Foley’s is not open on Sundays.
Mainland, Panama City South
Big Mama’s on the Bayou
This local favorite is an experience for truly Southern-style food, the cultural tradition of the American South. Considered no-frills, with a fixed menu and only open from 6:30 to 2:30, Monday through Friday, you cannot get closer to comfort food than Big Mama’s on the Bayou.
Depending on the day, southern staples include chicken and dumplings (a hearty stew), chicken fried steak (a fried flour coated seasoned beefsteak), or sides like mac and cheese and field peas, coupled with traditional cornbread and sweetened iced tea.
Fried chicken or pork chops are hard to beat. Save room for dessert. Big Mama’s on the Bayou serves up authentic southern sweets. Sit down with the locals and consider yourself lucky if you score a piece of pecan pie.
Every small town has a throwback, and this place is it in Panama City! Welcome to the Tally-Ho Drive In, still serving Panama City residents and tourists alike, since 1949! Tally-Ho has old-fashioned carhops, staff who are famous for great service and friendliness, who take orders straight from guests in their cars to cooks in the kitchen.
The fast food that comes out of their kitchen has a loyal fan following who rave about fresh burgers and fries. Many people say Tally-Ho has the best burgers and milkshakes in town. Sour cream coated potato logs are also highly recommended.
The Panama City News Herald listed Tally-Ho’s Cuban sandwich in an article just on Cubans – a delicious pork, ham, swiss, pickles and mustard sandwich on Cuban bread – stating that “Some residents swear by the Cuban at Tally-Ho.” The fresh fun has been working for Tally-Ho for over 70 years! Outside seating is also available, a great place to watch pelicans.
Beach front, Panama City Beach
The Grand Marlin
Over on the beach, is the second location of the Grand Marlin, with the original Grand Marlin located at the other end of the Emerald Coast, in Pensacola Beach, Florida. This beach front, Caribbean vibe, relaxed establishment boasts upscale, almost trendy surroundings that some might describe as elegant or clubby, suitable both for a date night, and a relaxed Friday night dinner with the family.
The vibe, added to excellent seafood, and a famous chef, push the Grand Marlin to top of the list as a best restaurant in town. Owner Bryan Housley wanted a casual, comfortable, top-notch place, and hit the mark on all three.
We recommend the Ahi Poke tower starter. From there you cannot go wrong with any choice from this menu. Grouper Piccata is a favorite or try the Loved & Rubbed Salmon with a carmelized house rub and sweet potato hash, smoked bacon and lemon butter. It is worth it to the last bite. Make a trip to the ship store before you leave for branded Grand Marlin t-shirts and other gear that even Panama City residents wear.
Pineapple Willy’s has a fantastic history that follows the history of Panama City Beach itself, beginning over 80 years ago in 1936, and the creation of a 1,000 pier straight into the Gulf of Mexico. The pier was named after the town at the time and was used by travelers and fisherman.
Eventually the owner of Pineapple Willy’s acquired the pier, which has been battered and rebuilt over time. Now it is not used for the public, but is a shortened version and entirely used as outdoor restaurant seating for Pineapple Willy’s, with the phenomenal view of the Gulf and it’s amazing aqua blue ocean at Panama City Beach. Pineapple Willy’s has changed too.
What started as Pier 99 took on the name of its most famous cocktail, called Pineapple Willy. Pineapple Willy’s has great starters, sandwiches and Po’Boys. An Al E. Gator makes the menu. You can order jumbo peel and eat shrimp, or world famous ribs. Menu items can come with pineapple coleslaw. Pineapple Willy’s does not take reservations.
Newest on the restaurant scene is Longboards, established in 2019, which offers tacos, pizza, burgers, sandwiches and sides. The Longboards party is the draw, after 9 is the start, and “there’s always something going down at Longboards”. But, back to the food.
This is not just a party place with late night bites. Think perfect, thin crust pizza, “epic” smash burgers and gourmet tacos like you’ve never eaten. The concept is brilliant – night life fun and awesomely amazing options for better pizza, burgers, and taco beach fare.
Take a traditional Hawaiian pizza as an example. At Longboards, this is a Pipeline, with fresh hand cut pineapple and cherry wood smoked ham. The Emerald Wave is the veggie pizza with spinach, vine ripened tomato, artichoke hearts, red and yellow bell peppers, mushroom and a perfectly even, eye pleasing balsamic glaze drizzle.
The Longboard burger is a double patty seared pork belly…with an egg! Tacos include a Later Gator Taco, a Baja Taco and a Brisket Bomb Taco, cuts of Texas brisket with a mango habanero sauce! Forget waiting until 9pm, you’ll want to get there ASAP for the food.
Schooner’s tagline is the Last Local Beach Club, and say it is “the best place on the planet”. Another dance option on Panama City Beach, Schooners kicks of the night early, sunset in fact, with a countdown as the sun departs and the blast of a cannon at last light.
The band starts, and the dancing begins. This huge restaurant is mostly deck porches with the best views! The friendly staff serve casual beach food that isn’t extra fancy, but it is the best for the fun atmosphere, family entertainment with hours and hours of fun.
You can wear the swimsuits to the this one and it is open year ‘round for lunch and dinner. Gumbo is on the menu, that classic Gulf Coast Florida favorite. Try also the crab cakes, and crab claws are market rate and top rate. The Drunken Shrimp Bowl is seared shrimp drizzled with Tequila lime sauce served over yellow rice and black beans, topped with pico de gallo and cotija cheese, and is perfect for a meal enjoyed with a drink at the beach.
Senor Frogs does make the list, though it may be more known as a Mexican spring break party place, this chain has four locations in the United States with one location in Panama City Beach (and others in Vegas, Myrtle Beach, and Orlando).
What’s the hype all about? The food, of course. Appetizers at Senor frogs include Mexican street corn, Mexican shrimp cocktail, shrimp in traditional tomato sauce, and fresh avocado and lime. Simple, but so, so tasty. The shrimp ceviche trio comes in a house version, a tropical version, and an aguachile version, each a little spicier than the next.
Senor Frog’s classic tortilla soup is beautiful and delicious, made with pulled chicken and a three-cheese blend. Go for burgers, or tortas, or for a main, try the cochinita, the Senor Frog’s version of pulled pork.
Sisters of the Sea Waterfront Bar and Grill
For a slightly different dining adventure, try Sisters of the Sea & Dive Bar. Sisters of the Sea is a casual waterfront restaurant with a pool overlooking the Grand Lagoon.
It is boat accessible, dock slips are first come, first serve. Sisters of the Sea offers appetizers called Socials, as well as serious soups and salads and what they call handhelds, or sandwiches. Sisters Specials include Creole Shrimp and Grits and Key West Mahi Mahi, a grilled filet of Mahi topped with shrimp and key lime butter.
The southern fried menu is a shortlist of excellent fish cuts with southern sides to order, and the southern sweets desserts feature a 7-layer cake. Children are welcomed here, with their own Li’l Urchins Menu. They might also be quite as taken with the Mermaid Meet and Greet at the pool. Mermaid encounters are every Wednesday through Sunday, 5 pm – 8 pm.
A lovely setting and huge aquarium are the best features of this stunning steak and seafood restaurant at Panama City Beach.
They claim they operate on “beach time” and do not accept reservations. They are open for dinner, drinks, and happy hour, but sorry, no breakfast or lunch here. Lobster spring rolls and firecracker shrimp top the appetizers list.
Entrees are sure to please, spanning from crab cakes and shrimp and grits to buttery filet mignon. Caribbean Jerk Mahi is a standout, with coconut rice, fried plantains, pineapple salsa, and a molasses ginger glaze. Ask for the chef’s special, and be sure to check out the bourbons menu.
Not Quite Restaurants on the Beach
Dat Cajun Place
A little off the beaten path on the barrier island at Panama City Beach, you’ll find Dat Cajun Place – a tidy, sports-friendly bar and Cajun restaurant with respectable flavors true to Louisiana Creole. If you didn’t know you were in Florida, you truly might think you were in New Orleans from the food itself.
This is an authentic Cajun food restaurant with additional southern favorites, like fried green tomatoes. For entrees, try the blackened redfish, a bay fish favorite.
There is something for everyone on this menu, with crawfish etouffee side by side with a “hurricane” burger and Mardi Gras Roast Beef. Try funnel cake fries for dessert. This one is kid-friendly and fun enough for a football game on a weekend. Bring the family.
Captain Anderson’s Restaurant and Market
For many, it would not be a trip to the coast for fun in the sun and sand without a visit to a local fish market for fresh seafood to make back in the kitchen at the beach.
For locals, this is simply the market for stocking up for the week’s supplies. A trip to the fish market is a must. Captain Anderson’s is both a restaurant and a market, and meets both the needs, two in one, since 1953. It’s a great place to eat, then watch the fishing boats unload their catch, only in season, 8 months a year.
The restaurant is huge, now up to over 700 seats! It has been inducted into the Restaurant Hall of Fame. Go with the Captain’s Classics, either “Famous” Grilled Bay Shrimp or Grouper Imperial with Lump Blue Crab Meat. Don’t miss the market, for the freshest seafood, seasonings, and even Captain Anderson’s cookbook.
Pier 77 and Shrimp City Seafood Market
Fresh seafood is a luxury. The Shrimp City Seafood Market and Pier 77 restaurant are unassuming and dynamite locations for fabulous fresh seafood dinners. Try Pier 77 at the Pier 77.
Family-owned, this one is also off the beaten path and four generations of the Dybals family has been serving famous family recipes at affordable prices in a casual and friendly atmosphere since the late 1970s. The market is a standalone next door, perfect for stocking up your fridge.
Try the She-Crab Soup or the Greek Salad and add your choice of seafood protein. Shrimp City is open now 7 days a week from 10AM to 6PM. They sell shrimp, and lots of other fresh seafood ready for you to take home and cook yourself.
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Wednesday 7th of September 2022
Pier 77 was great but has been closed for remodeling since before Senior Frog even opened. bayou on the Beach is slso a great restaurant as well as the Sandbar
Wednesday 16th of November 2022
Thanks for the tips Tom! :)