In 2018, Hurricane Michael left Panama City residents’ lives torn, but local restaurants became beacons of hope that helped repair the social fabric of the community by serving up human connection, much-needed comfort, and some remarkable local meals. Now, nearly two years later, the city’s booming food scene is confirmation that Panama City is not only recovering but in the midst of a restaurant renaissance—one you don’t want to miss.
Bayou Joe’s Marina & Grill
To find one of Panama City’s best-kept secrets, you’ll have to head out to the bayou… literally. Located at the end of a dock on beautiful Massalina Bayou, Joe’s offers panoramic views of the water, stunning sunsets, and Old Florida-style food. And don’t miss Joe’s Glow: a one-of-a-kind dining experience where submerged lights illuminate the waters after dark and attract all sorts of underwater life for you to view.
FINNS Island Style Grub at Little Village
If you look up “chill vibe” in the dictionary, there’s a picture of Matthew McConaughey… holding up a picture of FINNS Island Style Grub. Located inside Little Village, a trendy St. Andrews waterfront shopping and entertainment venue, the location is one part art gallery, one part taco stand, and one part lakeside garden retreat. Laid back, eclectic, and always fresh, it’s an incredible spot to enjoy the best fish tacos in town.
Unbelievably good and authentic Thai food probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Panama City, and that’s part of Thai Basil’s charm. This funky St. Andrews gem combines fresh, flavorful Thai cuisine with the perfect amount of spice, quirkiness, and tropical kitsch.
History Class Brewing Co.
They say to love a place, you need to know a few really good stories about it first. The best place to hear Panama City stories while enjoying a local brew and some Southern bites is History Class Brewing Company, which opened in June. This downtown brewpub is unlike any you’ve seen before, with almost every aspect of it made from local or historic memorabilia: tables made from the old high school gym floor, retrofitted TVs from the furniture store that owned the building in the 1950s, the city’s old bank vault greeting you at the bathroom hallway. Even the blades on the air vents are made from old school rulers. And a historic story or local saying is always served with every beer.
Hunt’s Oyster Bar
Oysters are a way of life in Panama City. So much so that there’s a notoriously delicious oyster trail (#PCOysterTrail). Grab a trail guide at the Destination Panama City Visitor’s Center or just follow the discarded shells you’ll see all over St. Andrews and you’ll eventually arrive at Hunt’s Oyster Bar & Seafood Restaurant. Not sure if you want your oysters raw? Hunt’s serves them every way imaginable, from Cajun baked to 3 cheese jalapeño.
- by Isabelle Adler
- by Erin Byers Murray
- by Jennifer Stewart Kornegay
- by Emily Havener
- by Hannah Lee Leidy