Panama City has a history, flavor, and vibe that’s distinct from other Northwest Florida destinations, as well as its neighboring beaches. Throughout the downtown area and historic St. Andrews community, you see signs of an entrepreneurial spirit and creative flair that has blurred the lines between art, history, and dining in a truly unique and exciting way.
The city’s beautiful murals are one of the first things you notice when visiting and, increasingly, local businesses are joining the movement. At the quirky locally-owned taco restaurant, El Weirdo, every available wall is covered with the works of local artists, inspiring enough Instagram-worthy opportunities to make all of your online followers jealous. A popular dog park, Dogs & Drinks, serves beer and cocktails and also offers movie nights and yoga meetups. And at History Class Brewing, photos, stories, and artifacts related to Panama City’s history give the brewpub an almost museum-like feel.
Wherever you go in Panama City, you’re never far from the water. The city is bordered by two bays, North Bay and St. Andrews Bay, and it’s less than five miles from Gulf Coast beaches.
Not surprisingly, Panama City is known for seafood, in particular its oysters. True aficionados are invited to experience more than a dozen restaurants highlighted on the city’s Oyster Trail, where you can enjoy the delectable shellfish served raw, baked, or fried in endless variations. By the way, you can forget what you may have learned about avoiding oysters in months that don’t have an “r” in their name. That advice predates refrigeration, so feel free to indulge year-round.
The historic St. Andrews community is known for its concentration of excellent restaurants and the scenic Oaks by the Bay Park. During the 1800s, St. Andrews was one of the South’s leading producers of salt. Today, the community is known for its laid-back, free-spirited personality, which is reflected in their unofficial motto, “Keep St. Andrews Salty.” Be sure to check out Little Village, a waterfront shopping and entertainment venue, where funky thatch-roof huts are home to boutiques selling local art and fair-trade imports from around the world. Dining options include Finns Island Style Grub, where you can order delightful bowls, wraps, tacos, and smoothies from a walk-up window.
With so many places to explore in Panama City, it truly is a perfect destination for any traveler seeking a more authentic, and less touristy, travel adventure.
Chef Profile: Dan Magner
Dan Magner serves as the manager and chef for two of Panama City’s most innovative and popular restaurants. The Panama City native has more than 30 years of restaurant experience.
In 2020, Manger teamed up with Allan Branch and Tim Whaler to open History Class Brewing, a brew pub that pays tribute to the city’s past. Photos, stories, and memorabilia line the walls, and the transom of a fishing boat donated by a local resident serves as a centerpiece of their bar.
The second restaurant, El Weirdo, is just a short walk away. True to its name, El Weirdo is a taco shop that defies every Tex-Mex cliché imaginable. Their walls, inside and out, are covered with eye-popping murals created by thirteen different artists, and they brew their own beer, too. As you would expect, the food is just as colorful and imaginative as the art on their walls. Lest you forget the restaurant’s affinity for all things weird, even the beer glasses are engraved with the words “Weird is good!”
Dan is perhaps the perfect person to manage the sister restaurants due to his larger-than-life personality, passion for food, and high standards. But most of all, he truly loves Panama City and, through his restaurants, is working to engage and energize the community to benefi t residents and visitors alike.
Pulled Pork Sammies
Serves around 30
- Season pork shoulder generously with salt and pepper mixture.
- Cook in a smoker for six to eight hours at 265° (more or less depending on the size of the shoulder). Once the pork is fall-off-the bone tender, pile it high on a warm buttered and toasted potato roll.
- Add two ounces of barbecue sauce, three ounces of cole slaw and four dill pickle chips. Now you’re ready to crush this thing!
Visit Destination Panama City Florida, Where Life Sets Sail
- by Amber Chase
- by TLP Editors
- by Hannah Lee Leidy