I’d heard a lot about Graffiti & The Funky Blues Shack in Destin over the years, but I never had the chance to actually visit the restaurant and music venue until this past weekend. I'm now kicking myself for waiting so long to discover this unexpected culinary and musically saturated oasis.

 

THE FOOD

In sticking with the theme of a music hall, Graffiti & The Funky Blues Shack has its menu split into sections with titles such as Chicago Blues (shareables), Memphis Blues (soups & salads), Gospel Blues (pastas), New Orleans Blues (entrees), Down Home Blues and Rhythm & Blues (pizzas). The cuisine is Italian/American but in the freshest sense, made with fresh ingredients and to-order with options for those sensitive to food allergies.

From the appetizer menu, Chicago Blues, my guest and I chose to share the Mango Tango Shrimp described as panko-crusted shrimp tossed with mango and Serrano pepper and a sweet smoky glaze. When the plate came out with six steaming hot large shrimp-nuggets, we both got excited. I was expecting something akin to a mango salsa, but the glaze was more the consistency of a Thanksgiving gravy.

Although it wasn’t my favorite appetizer, the main course and dessert more than made up for it.

For her entree, my guest chose from the Gospel Blues (pastas) section. She ordered the angel hair olive oil & garlic with an add-on of grilled chicken, and due to an allergy, she requested to substitute the pasta for gluten-free fettuccine. When her pasta arrived, it came sans chicken, but our server quickly remedied that with a full breast of chicken on the side. My guest said her meal was delicious and a nice surprise for a gluten-free meal.

I decided to spring for a pizza, but I had the hardest time choosing one because the pizzas were each named after a famous musician. It seemed wrong to choose one musician over another as the list was Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin. I finally settled on the King of Pop because our server sold me on the veggie pizza, which he promised would bring the flavor – not unlike the king himself.

One bite into my pizza and I was humming, "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," as I devoured every bite. The Michael Jackson came with white sauce, artichokes, onions, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, oregano, fresh basil, feta cheese and, of course, mozzarella.

I opted to have the black olives left off because I don’t particularly like them. The 17-inch pizza was more than enough for even two people to share, so I took home half to munch on for lunch the next day.

As for dessert, our server said the four specials of the day were Key lime pie, bread pudding, chocolate lava cake and chocolate crème brulee. We ordered the two chocolate desserts, and gobbled them both down.

The crème brulee was an interesting take on the traditionally caramelized vanilla custard French dessert. It reminded my guest and me of chocolate pudding with a nice caramelized crust.

But the real star was the lava cake. It was the perfect mixture of moist rich chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream, and the center was piping hot. We licked the plate clean.

 

THE ATMOSPHERE

Funky is the correct way to describe Graffiti & The Funky Blues Shack. The interior of the restaurant is dimly lit with neon signs reading Funky Blues Shack and red lighting setting a night-club like mood.

However, the dining tables are set with cloth napkins and glass goblets, making it an eclectic mixture of fine dining and New Orleans jazz bar that happens to work at Graffiti & The Funky Blues Shack.

While we waited for our food to be prepared, we discovered blank sheets of paper, crayons and cards from a question game. My first reaction was these were there to entertain children, but my guest proudly proclaimed, "Or adults," so we indulged in doodling and playing fact or fiction for the next 10 minutes.

I would be remiss to leave out the musical side of the Funky Blues Shack experience. Every night, Funky’s has a live band on stage beginning at 7 p.m. The night we visited, the performing act was Matt’s Jazz Jam. The four-piece band included a keyboardist, a stand-up bass player, a drummer and a front-man on the trumpet blasting out jazz.

 

THE SERVICE

When we first walked in, we were greeted by the owner and a hostess. We were immediately asked what side of the restaurant we wanted to dine on, which took me by surprise. I answered, "the side with the band," and was told I had made a good decision. Once seated in a booth facing the band, our server, Adam, came by. Throughout the meal, Adam was personable and helpful. He made jokes and conversation and described the food options accurately.

 

A FINAL TASTE

As I said in the introduction, I am still kicking myself for not venturing to Graffiti & The Funky Blues Shack earlier. For a fun, flavorful, funky time, you won’t go wrong choosing it for your next dinner date.